Sen. John McCain on 'This Week'

Sen. McCain discusses immigration reform and foreign policy challenges.
3:00 | 01/27/13

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Transcript for Sen. John McCain on 'This Week'
Good morning. Welcome to "this week." So help you god. So help me god. The president takes a stand. We are made for this moment, and we will seize it. How far will he push in his new term? The secretary of state takes on her critics. What difference at this point does it make? And tough words as republicans regroup. We've got to stop being the stupid party. Plus, senators crossing the aisle to work on immigration reform. What's in their plan? We'll ask our headliners, arizona republican senator john McCAIN AND NEW JERSEY DEMOCRATIC Senator bob menendez. Then our powerhouse roundtable takes on all the week's politics, and is there really a controversy over this? ♪ And the home of the brave ♪ you know who caught her, lance armstrong. Yeah, he is such a stickler for the truth now. Joining us, george will, democratic strategist donna brazile, republican congressman dave schweikert, new republic publisher and facebook co-founder chris hughes and the host of npr's "morning edition," steve inskeep. Hello. Great to have you with us. George is off this weekend. So much to get to this morning including that controversy over the oscar-film "zero dark thirty" and so-called enhanced interrogation. Mark boal, the producer and screenwriter is here to answer critics. But first front and center this morning, washington is set to tackle an immigration overhaul. The president is planning to speak about it on tuesday, and our two headlining senators are working on a plan as well. Let's start with ranking of the armed services committee, john McCAIN. WELCOME, senator McCain. You have spent a great deal of time in your career working on immigration issues. When do you think you can get this bipartisan plan out, and how much can you tell us about what's in it? Well, we're going to be announcing the principles that will be guiding our translation of it into legislation. We've still got a lot of hard work ahead, but I'm very pleased with the progress. Frankly -- you're announcing this week? Yeah, we'll be -- senator menendez and I and senator schumer, senator graham, senator durbin and some -- we are -- we've been working together for some weeks now. We'll be coming forward. It's not that much different from what we tried to do in 2007. Martha, what's changed is honestly is that there is a new I think appreciation on both sides of the aisle, including maybe more importantly on the republican side of the aisle, that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill. We've been -- so this is comprehense. It piecemeal. Yeah, this piecemeal stuff, the way the senate works, very briefly, is that you bring up one section of it, someone has an amendment that brings up another part of it. We've seen a lot of that lately. We've definitely seen a lot of that lately. But what about a path to citizenship? That has to be also part of it, but from my perspective also, and I'm sure senator menendez understands as senator schumer and durbin do that my state, most of the drugs now coming across the mexican border into the united states comes through across the arizona/sonora border, so border enforcement is very important. We have made progress on border enforcement. There's been significant improvements but still have a ways to go, but I'm confident, guardedly optimistic, that this time we can get it done. Citizenship is obviously the most controversial aspect for some of your republican colleagues, and you've gone back and forth. In 2005 you were for it. By 2010 you wanted border security first and, quote, certainly no amnesty, so you're solidly behind a pathway to citizenship. How do you convince some of those republicans who are not behind it? Well, first of all, I've always been for border security. I mean, there are citizens in my state who do not live in a secure environment. We live in a pretty secure environment here, certainly in the senate, we've got guards and there's people every night in the part -- the southern part of my state that have drug traffickers and people going across, the guns. So how do you convince republicans about the path to citizenship? Well, look, I'll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we've got to understand that. Second of all, this -- we can't go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status. We cannot forever have children who were born here -- who were brought here by their parents when they were small children to live in the shadows, as well. So I think the time is right. By the way, we just acted to avert a nuclear option in the senate. Believe it or not, I see some glimmer of bipartisanship out there. How about we've got president obama out this week also pushing a plan. Yes. Does that help, hurt? I think it helps. I think it's important that we all work together on this. I think it can be helpful, and i look forward to sitting down. I'm sure we will, the group of us who are working on this legislation with the president and the white house and our colleagues on the other side of the capitol. I want to move to benghazi. Obviously the hearings this week. Some very contentious part of those hearings. Uh-huh. What were you really trying to accomplish in that? You knew a lot of the answers. All the senators knew a lot of the answers because of the accountability review board. So what were you looking for there? Well, first of all, we don't know a lot of the answers. We don't know why the president and the secretary of state ignored the warnings. Why didn't the secretary of state who said she was, quote, clear-eyed about it, not see the cable that came on august 15th that said, the consulate cannot stand a sustained attack on the consulate. Why wasn't the department of defense assets there? Seven hours that went on. Some of those questions were answered -- what's that? Some of the questions have come out of pentagon and have been answered about why it took so long. Actually not satisfactory. HOW ON SEPTEMBER 11th, OF ALL Days, with all these warnings didn't we have assets there for seven hours to -- there's so many questions that -- so this is not over in your mind at all, not over. What did the president do during this period of time? There's two movies been made about getting bin laden with every ticktock of heavy minute. We still don't know what the president was doing, but more importantly, martha, more importantly than that, very quickly, is what's happening all over north africa? What's happening in the middle east? Things are deteriorating in a rapid fashion, and it's because of a lack of american leadership. Deteriorating certainly in north africa. A lot of presence of al qaeda. Iraq, syria. Let's go to syria and talk about syria. I actually spoke to secretary of defense leon panetta last week about syria, and he had some pretty alarming things to say. He basically said those shells that the u.S. Knew they were loading, artillery shells are still sitting there loaded with chemical weapons. Take a listen to this. Well, they'd have to obviously decide whether they're going to put them on planes or try to load them into artillery, you know, weapons of one kind or another. There are different ways to deploy this stuff. Are you talking about minutes, hours? I think it -- you know, it's the kind of thing that would still take a matter of hours to be able to do it. That, the red line for the obama administration. Yeah. But you have really backed arming the rebels and a no-fly zone. Yes, the rebels are -- i mean, bashar assad is being supplied by the russians and the iranians with iranian revolutionary guard on the ground with weapons. Everything that the opponents of intervening in syria said would happen if we did have now happened because we haven't. The president said it's a red line, the use of chemical weapons. Bashar will use that as a green light for everything less than that. 60,000 have been killed. How do you know who the rebels are? How do you know -- I met them. You met them all. No, but I've certainly met enough to know who they are, but the sad news is that as every day goes by, more and more jihadists gain more influence and there's more and more of their presence which is going to make the post-bashar assad situation even more and more complicated. The jihadists are pouring in there, so, of course, I know who they are. Just quickly, tell me quickly, chuck hagel, does he have your backing now? You met with him this week. No, but I want to see what happens in the hearing, and i think it would be important to make a judgment after that. Are you closer than you were before? You had specific concerns. Did he answer those concerns? Not really. We had a very, I think, a good conversation. We've been friends for many years. So we'll see what happens in the hearings here. Big news this week on lifting the bafor women in combat. Uh-huh. Are you a supporter of that, or are you a little worried -- no, no, I support it. I think women are obviously are prepared to serve side by side with men in combat. I just want to emphasize, though, there should be the same physical and mental standards for anyone to perform certain roles and functions in the military. And they say there will be. How about selective service? Women? I was just going to say, i think we ought to grapple with that one. Maybe -- maybe we'll draft you first, martha. Okay. I'll volunteer before that. Thank you so much for joining US, senator McCain.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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