The presidential candidates were quick to react to Iran's missile test Wednesday. Republicansaid action is what's necessary, including what he called "meaningful" sanctions. CBS News anchor Katie Couric asked McCain about a possible attack by Israel against Iran. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.
Couric: Would you discourage Israel if their leadership came to you as president and said, we're going to strike Iran's nuclear sites?
McCain: I can't get into that kind of hypothetical, but the Iranians are testing these missiles not because of reaction because of the Israelis in my view. This is part of a calculated plan, developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. And nations led by all of European friends as well as other countries, we have to impose meaningful, tough, effective sanctions on the Iranians to modify their behavior. We cannot never allow a second holocaust.
Couric: Do you get a sense, Sen. McCain, that an attack by Israel on Iran is imminent?
McCain:I have no idea. I know this: that Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons in violation of various treaties and their own commitments and we need to do everything we can to modify that behavior in the form of very tough economic and other sanctions. Their economy is not strong because of their lousy government.
Couric: What do you think that should be done right now that isn't being done, Senator, in that department?
McCain: Impose tough sanctions. There are European financial institutions that are extending unlimited lines of credit to the Iranians. Shut all of that down. Make things very very tough economically on the Iranians and trade and others ways. I think it can have a beneficial effect.
Couric: Beyond a summer tax gas holiday plan that no one thinks will pass, are you offering any kind of relief to the American people, who are, as you well know, really struggling right now?
McCain: Well, we quickly have to go off-shore if the states let us and explore and exploit those areas. If you lift the moratorium on offshore exploration then I think that will send a signal and have an effect on gas prices immediately. The gas tax holiday was just a chance to give some people a little bit of a relief, that's all it was. A lot of people say it was a gimmick and wouldn't work. A lot of people who are driving the furthest with the most cars, which are low-income Americans, really would like to have a little bit of relief.
Couric: Your advisers say that you're promising to balance the budget by the end of your first term. Are you personally making this commitment to the American people?
McCain: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And if we reduce spending, we can do it. It all as to do with spending and it all as to do with discipline, which is out of control.
Couric: What's your reaction, though, Senator, to leading economists who say it's all but impossible to meet that goal that you would have to cut spending or raise tax beyond what anyone could anticipate is possible. Is it really achievevable?
McCain: I am saying that there is: five Nobel laureates and 300 economists who think my economic plan is a good one. I say that those who disagree, I respect their opinion, but growth and revenue increases is what will balance the budget.
Couric: Some Republicans, meanwhile, have privately complained that your campaign organization is in disarray and critics say if you can't effectively run a campaign, how can you effectively run the country? What's your response to that?
McCain: My response is that I do town hall meetings all of the time and you know what, not a single person at a town hall meeting says, 'how's your campaign organization doing?' What they say is, 'how are you going to get my health care affordable? I am worried about my job. I can't afford to drive my car anymore. How am I going to keep my home loan ... and afford my mortgage?' That's what I am talking about.
Couric: John McCain. Senator, thanks so much for talking to us.
McCain: Thank you, Katie.
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