TRANSCRIPT: 'On the Trail' with Sen. John McCain

McCain tells George Stephanopoulos he won't raise taxes.

ByABC News
February 17, 2008, 10:33 PM

Feb. 17, 2008— -- Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain of Arizona sat down with George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" today for a wide-ranging interview.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a superstitious man.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Let me say that I'm the luckiest man. You know, I don't like to use superstitious. I just feel that I'm very lucky, and I like to have things that make me luckier.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So when was the first moment you let yourself believe "I'm going to be the nominee"?

MCCAIN: I haven't yet.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You haven't yet?

MCCAIN: Well, I think we've got to go through it. I think we've got a very good shot at it. I'm optimistic. But I think the time to do that is when [former Arkansas] Governor [Mike] Huckabee and the party decides that I am the nominee. He's still in the race, and he said he's going to stay in, and I respect that. So we'll compete.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in 2005, you said, "I have no doubt that Sen. [Hillary] Clinton would make a good president."

MCCAIN: Well, look, here's -- Sen. Clinton and I are sitting next to each other, and we're asked, "Would she," quote, "be a good president?" She would be a good president in the respect that I think she has integrity, I think she has all of the qualities that are necessary, but she has a very different philosophical view, the liberal Democratic view, than I have, which is conservative Republican.

So when you say "good," she's a good person. But we have strong differences in our views of government. I think she is a very good person. I think that Sen. [Barack] Obama is a good person.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But not good presidents?

MCCAIN: They certainly wouldn't make the kind of president that I would be or I wouldn't be running. You see my point? It's not a, quote, "good." I think they would work hard. I think they would be dedicated to the things that they believe in and stand for. I just have different fundamental philosophical views than they do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it sounds like you wouldn't say the same thing today?

MCCAIN: I would say that they would be good in the respect they're people of good character, honesty, integrity, when you look at that. Would they be good from a governing standpoint? Certainly not what I would do for this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sen. Obama focused on you on Tuesday night.

MCCAIN: I heard.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The first issue he raised was Iraq.

OBAMA: I will offer a clear choice. John McCain won't be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq, because I opposed it from the start ... Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for 1000 years in Iraq... 100 years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He says the wrong war, the wrong time, not worth the cost in the blood and treasure. You obviously have a very different view.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And the country seems to agree, at least right now, with him. Can you win that argument? And can you win the White House if you don't?

MCCAIN: I am confident that I can convince the American people that the consequences of a date for withdrawal are catastrophe and al Qaeda trumpets that they win.

I believe I can convince the American people that after nearly four years of mishandling of the war that we're now doing the right thing and we're succeeding. I think I can convince the American people that, continuing with this strategy, we will be able to withdraw more troops, we will provide a political and economic stability, along with military stability.

Look, you know, let me just remind you that Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama both said the surge wouldn't work, OK? They said it wouldn't work. Most objective observers believe that it is.

Then they said that politically there would never be any progress in Iraq. Well, they just passed a series of laws a little bit better than what we do in Washington. They passed a budget.

But more importantly, they're going to have provincial elections. More importantly, they're going to have -- resolving this issue of Sunni integration into the government and society. And they are making progress. So they're wrong again.

They are wrong about...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if Iraq is meeting those marks, then why not withdraw our troops step by step, as Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton call for?

MCCAIN: Because it has to be dictated by events on the ground, not by an arbitrary date and not an arbitrary date.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if we are making progress?

MCCAIN: We are making significant progress. And General [David] Petraeus [commander of coalition forces in Iraq] will come back the beginning of April and he will testify to that, but he will be, I think, the major determining factor, because he has succeeded, as to when and how we would draw additional troops. It can't be done, plucked out of the air, that we're just going to withdraw.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bush is also negotiating a long-term status of forces agreement with Iraq. Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama say that agreement has to come to the Congress.

MCCAIN: It wouldn't bother me to bring it to the Congress. I don't think that's a huge deal. We have status of forces...

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bush says he doesn't want to, though.

MCCAIN: Well, look, if we succeed in Iraq, which I believe we are, the rest of it takes care of itself. We have status of force agreements with a number of countries that have never been approved by Congress; we have some others that have been approved by Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the big ones, Korea was approved by Congress.

MCCAIN: Yes, but we have some countries -- we're still in Bosnia. We don't have a status of forces agreement there, as I recall. We have -- look...


MCCAIN: I don't have a problem with going to the Congress, because I think the issue takes care of itself when we succeed. I still say setting a date for withdrawal is chaos, genocide, and we'll be back, because al Qaeda will then succeed.