McCain: Economic Crisis Too Important to Consider 'Political Fortunes'

Sept. 30, 2008 -- The following is an ABC News transcript of an interview between Republican presidential candidate John McCain and ABC News' Ron Claiborne on Tuesday, September 30, 2008, in Reno, Nevada.

RON CLAIBORNE: Senator, what happened, what went wrong yesterday, why did the rescue plan not pass do you think?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I'm glad you call it a rescue plan. The people who voted against it called it a bailout plan, and obviously there was a belief that this was on behalf of Wall Street and not Main Street. The fact that...many constituents weighed in very heavily with members against this because of their perception that it was a Wall Street bailout. They're very angry at Washington insiders and Wall Street. We made some progress, we need about twelve or thirteen more votes, I'm confident that we can do that. We have to, I mean, there's too many Main Street enterprises and families who are at risk here.

RC: What do you do now? What does Senator John McCain do now to get the process, to get in the arena as you put it yesterday?

JM: We'll stay in the arena, stay in communication with my friends. I was talking to the president this morning, and I recommended that the treasury exchange stabilization fund be used, that's 250 billion dollars that treasury has authority to use a trillion dollars to buy up mortgages, go ahead with that. And of course the FDIC, a 100 thousand, raise it to 250 thousand. Come up with ideas and thoughts that can make this more palatable. But at the same time, we have to convince our constituents that this is effecting the ability of the small business man or woman to get the line of credit to stay in business. And by the way, could I just mention, if we pass this, it stops the bleeding, but long term we gotta cut spending, we gotta lower taxes, we gotta keep people in their homes, we have to, a long way to go to get this economy rolling. Short term stop, stop the bleeding, long term recovery.

RC: Last week, senator, when we were on the brink of crisis, you suspended your campaign and went back to Washington. It appears the crisis is here now, or even closer, why are you not suspending your campaign and going back this time?

JM: Well as you know the House of Representatives has a religious holiday, and I will take the advice and counsel of leaders Boehner, Mitch McConnell and others as to how I can be most effective. I did go back and I helped get the Republicans, the House Republicans to the table, which they were not at, we did increase the all of us working together. By the way, I'll give everybody else credit. But I did work and we did receive some positive results. I'll do whatever is necessary. I don't know that that necessarily means go back to Washington, but I know it's a top priority

RC: But you judged that it did last week, how is this week different?

JM: Well it depends on where we are and what needs to be done, and again I'm, I'll rely on the advice of some of my colleagues as to how I can be most effective. The last thing I want to do is go in and harm the process. I think I made a contribution, credit goes to everybody else. I'm not seeking credit. I'm doing what I think is best for this country. When I thought, when American public opinion was against it, I said we needed 30 thousand more troops in Iraq. And I will do whatever is necessary and my presidential campaign is second to the crisis that is affecting America today.

RC: Senator, you said that now is not the time to fix blame, but to fix the problem, but you said almost in the same breath that the democrats, including Senator Obama are responsible for the, the rescue plan falling apart.

JM: No, actually I said yesterday very clearly right before the media said it's time not to fix the blame, but to fix the problem. We need to sit down together republican and democrat. We don't have inflame the situation today. History will judge who was to blame, and who wasn't, whether Speaker Pelosi's speech which was totally unnecessary, that should not have been the reason for someone to vote against legislation that's going to help so many millions of Americans. I want to move forward. I want to be a bipartisan debate, have a bipartisan approach to this because it's a national crisis.

RC: Some Republicans in the house said Speaker Pelosi's speech is what inflamed things and led to the plan, rescue plan going down, is that putting country first if that was the case?

JM: Speaker Pelosi's speech was an example of the bitter partisanship that exists on Capitol Hill today that we need to fix if we are to move together for America. But the vote should be decided on not on basis of inflammatory speech but on the basis of what's best for America. Of course it wasn't helpful, but the point is there is so much larger stakes here in this game that we have got to act together

RC: Is you political fate, your fortune, your chances in this election now attached to getting an agreement soon?

JM: If it were, I would be very optimistic. I think we are going to reach some kind of resolution but I don't want to tie my political fortunes to... The important thing is to work together for Americans today. I can't frankly consider what effect this has on my political fortunes. I can't consider that because America, families of America, working men and women of this country deserve our undivided and… support for an effort that is not colored by our political ambitions

RC: You were critical of Sen, Obama for "phoning it in" in your words. What did he not do that you did do you feel?

JM: We can look back on this very soon, the crisis is here, let's work together. I don't feel like trading insults with Sen Obama or anyone else right now. Let's sit down together and work it out.

RC: We have a poll out where 44% of Americans believe this is a serious problem, but not a crisis. Do Americans need to understand that this is a crisis and why haven't they?

JM: I'm not sure how many Americans truly understand the impact of this. But they are beginning to. Second of all they are so angry and justifiably so at the insiders in Washington and the evil and excess and greed on wall street that they don't want to do anything to help those people. We have to do a better job convincing that's not going to…, we are not acting in the interests of Wall Street or Washington insiders. We are acting in their behalf. We've got to do a better job of it. Frankly, yesterday's stock market wiped out 1.2 trillion of retirement funds, of savings, of investments by average citizens, obviously was something that we never wanted to see happen.

RC: Senator, thanks very much.