Transcript Excerpt: Sen. John McCain

Read A Transcript Excerpt Of Scott Pelley's Interview With Sen. McCain

SCOTT PELLEY: You met last night with senior members of the Iraqi government?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Yeah. We gave them a little straight talk and told them that, you know, there are certain benchmarks that we expect them to meet. And I gave them my assessment that the American patience or tolerance for the war is limited, and we've got to show success. And the reaction, I think, was a little strong. But overall, I've met with most of these people on many occasions. So, it's not as if we're strangers. We can speak frankly to each other. But no, they didn't particular like to hear it. Some of them don't quite understand the urgency of them meeting these benchmarks. We don't have an unlimited amount of time here. We've go to have the oil revenue thing pass. We've got to have provincial elections. We've got to have a number of other issues resolved here so that we can show the American people that progress is being made.

PELLEY: And you told them what, to get your point across?

MCCAIN: I described to them what's been going on in the House and Senate, and just said that I think there's a window here where we need to show progress. And so did my other colleagues who were there.

PELLEY: What is it that the Iraqi leadership doesn't get?

MCCAIN: It varies. In at least one case, I don't think they quite understand the political climate very well, the political climate back in the United States. I think that's probably the problem. But couple of the others, they're very well attuned.

PELLEY: And when you say they don't understand the political climate in the States, what did you tell them?

MCCAIN: Well, I told them that I believe that we had a window of opportunity of some period of time where the American people should expect them to enact pieces of legislation and show that they are governing and governing effectively, ranging from oil revenue sharing to all across the board, to training and equipping, to investing their money -- and they have a lot of money, billions as you know -- into projects for economic development. In other words, we need to see across-the-board progress on the part of the Iraqi government. And I think they have been showing some progress. I would point out they're only ten months old. But still, I tried to convey to them a sense of urgency.

PELLEY: When does our patience and our money run out?

MCCAIN: I think that that is dependent directly upon our success on the ground, or prospects of success, and also the political and economic process moving forward. I think it's directly related to that. I still believe that if you can show the American people a steady progress towards political, economic, and military stability, then the American people will say 'okay.' But I do understand that it's not an unlimited amount of time, to say the least.

PELLEY: In all of the polls, the majority of the American people say it's time to begin withdrawing the troops. The House is on record saying it's time to begin withdrawing. The Senate now on the record. You say more troops are the answer. Why?

MCCAIN: Well, I think the surge is a new strategy. It's not just more troops. It's a new strategy. The second thing is, polls are interesting. If you ask the American people, "If we can show you a path to success, a way that you can have a government that's functioning and the military situation under control," of course they'll support it. They're frustrated, and understandably, by the lack of progress in Iraq. And that's because of the terrible mismanagement of this war that went on for nearly four years.

PELLEY: Mismanaged by whom?

MCCAIN: By the Secretary of Defense primarily, but also others. And obviously, the responsibility rests with the President of the United States. That's what you're getting around to. But mistakes have been made in every war. Abraham Lincoln made mistakes. Harry Truman made mistakes. Many mistakes have been made in every war. The key to it is, can you fix the problem and can you move forward and succeed? I believe that we have a new strategy and new generals. And I believe that we can succeed. And I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic. And I want to say, Scott, [to] those who say 'just withdraw,' then you say, what next? So far, I've not gotten a satisfactory answer to what Plan B is.

PELLEY: You've described Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld as among the worst Secretaries of Defense in the history of the country?

MCCAIN: Mm-hm [AFFIRM].

PELLEY: Why do you say so?

MCCAIN: The war was just very badly mismanaged. There's ample evidence of that. There's no doubt about that aspect of it. The key is, do we fix the problem or do we leave and face the consequences of failure, which I still think are terrible?
  • Daniel Schorn

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