TRANSCRIPT: Interview with Sen. McCain

Read the full transcript of Charles Gibson's interview with John McCain

ByABC News
June 5, 2008, 11:00 AM

June 5, 2008 — -- The following is the transcript of Charles Gibson's June 5 interview with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

GIBSON: Senator, are you relieved to know finally who you're going to run against?

MCCAIN: I guess, in a way. It was, I think, pretty apparent there for a while that it was going to be Senator Obama. And I called and congratulated Senator Clinton on the great race that she ran and the ability to inspire millions of women all over America and the world and congratulated her on her campaign.

And I also called Senator Obama yesterday and congratulated him, as well.

GIBSON: When this thing was more in doubt, did you have a preference?

MCCAIN: No. I really didn't. I don't know enough about what the outcome is -- what the effect's going to be. So I think both of them are -- either one would have been very challenging. And Senator Obama will -- I'm sure that we'll have a very close race.

GIBSON: Do you in any way run a different campaign against Obama than you would have run against Clinton?

MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think -- maybe some of the states change a little bit, but, overall, I think it's going to be fundamentally differences in positions, principles, views, policies, and both foreign and domestic.

And so I think it was -- because they're very similar, I don't think that the debate would have been significantly different.

GIBSON: In my lifetime, I don't think I'd ever seen a primary and caucus race like the Democrats had. Did you feel at times in the past few months like the forgotten candidate?

MCCAIN: Yes, occasionally I thought -- it was a little hard for us to break through with the message, but I also understand it. There was a lot of excitement there. I mean, Senator Clinton just won South Dakota. I mean, obviously, it went right up to the end.

So I understand. And now, obviously, the focus is going to be on both of us. And the good news is that it's five months, and the bad news is it's five months.

GIBSON: Do you feel in any way as if you're running against history?

MCCAIN: No, I think that it's very clear that Americans want change. It doesn't -- you don't have to be in politics to know that. They want change. The question is, is what kind of change, the right change or the wrong change?

I have a record of fighting against the special interests, of investigating corruption, of fighting for reform, whether it be campaign finance reform, or ethics and lobbying, one of the reasons why I was never elected Miss Congeniality in the United States Senate.

So I do have a record of change and reform and fighting for it and achieving some -- a lot of it. But there's a lot more that needs to be done.

Senator Obama talks about change, but, clearly, he has no record of it. So we'll be debating what kind of change that America wants, whether it be our effort in which we have to carry out and succeed in, independence of foreign oil, or whether it be the war in Iraq or the overall struggle we're in against radical Islamic extremism. Who is best qualified? Who can best bring about change for America?

GIBSON: But when I ask about running against history, you are of an age, as am I, when segregation was the law of the land in this country.


GIBSON: Did you ever think you'd see a day when there was a black man nominated to represent one of the two major American parties?

MCCAIN: Oh, I did, because -- as I felt that someday there will be a woman who is president of the United States, because I have a great faith in the American people. And I have a great faith in their sense of justice and their judgment of people on their qualities, as Dr. King said, not by the -- by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. I hope I didn't mangle that quote.

So I have great faith that America would select someone and will, either man, woman, no matter who they are, as far as -- more on their qualities and their leadership and the way they can lead the country than any other quality.

But at the same time, Senator Obama has done a remarkable thing. We both started as long shots. And he did, too. And I think, obviously, all Americans give him great credit.

GIBSON: He said on Tuesday night, when he was in Minneapolis, or St. Paul, he said, "John McCain has served this country heroically. I honor that service and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine."

Do you think he's qualified to be president?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think that's a judgment that the American people will make. It's not up to me to say that. It's up to me to point out that I have the experience and the knowledge and the judgment, and the right kind of change and the right kind of record, but most importantly a plan of action for the future.

Look, the Democratic Party has just determined that Senator Obama is qualified. Now it'll be up to the American people, and I'm sure that they judge both of us as qualified. I think that it's going to be a question of who's more qualified or the most qualified.

GIBSON: What kind of a relationship do you go into this election with him, having with him? You had a very testy exchange of letters a couple of years ago.

MCCAIN: Yes, once we had an exchange -- I had a letter to him over an issue. In fact, it had to do with ethics and lobbying reform. But I've always had a cordial relationship with Senator Obama. I didn't know him as well as I know Senator Clinton, and I hadn't worked with him as much as I had Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton and I were both on the Armed Services Committee.