Transcript: Gibson Interviews John McCain

Read Charlie Gibson's full interview with John McCain.

ByABC News
September 3, 2008, 11:08 AM

Sept. 3, 2008— -- The following is a full transcript of an interview of Sen. John McCain conducted by ABC News' Charlie Gibson for "World News" on Wednesday, Sept. 3, in St. Paul, Minn.

GIBSON: Senator, you're going to be accepting the nomination for president of the United States tomorrow night. You spent 5.5 years in a prison camp and you had a lot of time to think during that time. Did you ever, in your wildest imagination, think of such a thing?

MCCAIN: Never. Never. All I wanted to do was to get back in the Navy and get back in the cockpit of an airplane and do the things that I'd been doing as a Navy pilot, and, of course, getting back to my country and my family and my friends, to the country I grew to love.

GIBSON: As it happens, is it a bit humbling? Is it intimidating? Is it in any way frightening?

MCCAIN: I think it's mostly humbling. Not only did I spend some time away, but I also was not exactly the most stellar graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. I stood fifth from the bottom of my class. So I doubt if my old company officer, a Marine captain, would have predicted.

Look, Charlie, I'm the luckiest guy that you'll ever interview. I've had so many close calls. I've had so much good fortune in my life that it's incredible to come to this stage of a journey that's been full of opportunities to serve.

GIBSON: Your image has always been sort of the outsider, the straight talker, the hell-bent, swashbuckling Navy pilot. Now that you're to be the nominee, is it in any way constraining?

MCCAIN: No. I think your lifestyle is constrained, say, that you have Secret Service around you all the time and that's understandable. I'm not complaining about it. It just changes your lifestyle. But no, overall.

But it's -- to think about people who were my predecessors, like Theodore Roosevelt, my hero, and Ronald Reagan and people who have -- who I competed against, who were all very high quality candidates and good and decent people, it's remarkable and it is humbling. It is incredibly humbling.

GIBSON: What are you going to say tomorrow night to make your case?

MCCAIN: I think we've got to make a case that I'm ready, that I put my country first, and it's time to put aside partisan rancor and differences and work together for the country and that I can create jobs and restore our economy and keep our country safe.

GIBSON: Barack Obama was very direct in his acceptance speech of his criticisms of you. Would you do likewise?

MCCAIN: I think -- I think we will point out some of the differences, but I think the important thing right now is to tell Americans why I can -- why I can restore our economy, get them affordable and available health care, a decent education, get these jobs back and get our economy going again, as well as keeping our nation secure.

And new challenges seem to arise all the time. I see there's stirrings in North Korea. I see that the Russians continue to occupy parts of Georgia that they committed not to and Afghanistan and Pakistan, it's more difficult.

But, first -- first, they want -- they want our economy restored, and that's understandable. They want to see America moving forward with good lives and good families and good jobs. So that's what I think that they want to hear most about.

GIBSON: He said a lot in his speech in criticism of you. It doesn't sound like you're going to spend as much, from what you say, going at him.

MCCAIN: Well, I'm not sure the American people won't get enough of that in the next 62 days. I think it's more important. And also, as you know, we've got a spectacular running mate here that has really captured America and certainly aroused a great deal of interest. So I'm hoping to do as well as she does tonight.

GIBSON: You said a few moments ago to me, "I'm going to say some things about Barack Obama that might surprise you."

MCCAIN: Well, I've tried to say that I admire and respect Sen. Obama. He has accomplished great things and he has motivated people and so -- and he loves his country, just as I do. It's just the differences that we have.

GIBSON: You mentioned your vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin. What does she need to do to make her case tonight?

MCCAIN: Well, I think Americans are going to be very, very, very pleased. This is a very dynamic person. She's been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply. She's been a mayor. She's done a lot of great things and so I think you're going to see that she's really going to have a remarkable impact on the American people.