But we could have avoided all of this if there had been an announcement of the closure of Guantanamo and the process for resolving the cases of people who are detained there, whether you release them, whether you ask other countries to take them, what the process for trial is, what the process of those that you just discussed who are "enemy combatants" but you can't convict.
That is a terrible mistake. Announce the closure, but don't address the underlying problems that a lot of us have been wrestling with for years.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- but how do you fix it now?
MCCAIN: I would say, I'm not going to close Guantanamo until I have a comprehensive approach to every aspect of this problem of the detainees. I have put them on trial, who tries them, what are the rules of evidence? What is the case of interrogation techniques that were used? At which time that that evidence would be admissible.
There's a whole series of subsequent issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're no longer for closing -- you're no longer for closing.
MCCAIN: I'm for closing Guantanamo, and I said I was for closing it. But I'm for a comprehensive solution of all of the issues surrounding Guantanamo, which now obviously are facing serious roadblocks in Congress, because the announcement was made without addressing the underlying problems associated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So relax the deadline, no January deadline?
MCCAIN: I would relax -- I said I wanted to close Guantanamo, but I also said I wanted to address all of the issues. So I never set a deadline. But so, no, I wouldn't set a specific date until I had resolved all of the issues surrounding the detainee question, including a military commission that would be appointed and authorized to address some of these cases.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this issue of "don't ask, don't tell"?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's now been bedeviling the military for 15, 16 years right now. Growing support to reform the policy. More than 100 members of Congress say it should be reformed. Former chairman of the joint chiefs, General Shalikashvili, have said it should be reformed. Where are you on that today and how would you reform the policy if at all?
MCCAIN: Again, I've said for months, I will be glad to have a thorough review of the policy by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their recommendations. You might recall it was General Powell who weighed in back early on in the Clinton administration that said we need to have this policy and it's been successful. We now have the best- trained, best-equipped, most professional military in the history of this country in my view.
So I would rely on a study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as how the impact of changing this policy would have on our ability to carry out our military missions and then I would make judgments from there.
But in all due respect, right now the military is functioning extremely well in very difficult conditions. We have to have an assessment on recruitment, on retention and all the other aspects of the impact on our military if we change the policy.
In my view, and I know that a lot of people don't agree with that, the policy has been working and I think it's been working well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me ask you about your party. Not working ...
MCCAIN: Not working.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not working as well. You've got this "Time Magazine" cover this week saying, "Endangered Species, the Republicans". Is your party an endangered species?