ABOARD “Straight Talk Air” (between New York and Miami) — Sen. John McCain would “absolutely” not compromise on Supreme Court nominations if elected and would continue to nominate strict constructionist judges if any of his Supreme Court nominations were defeated by a hostile Senate.
McCain said that and much more to HUMAN EVENTS chief political correspondent John Gizzi in an exclusive interview Friday morning.
The Republican presidential nominee also said, if elected, he would gladly join running mate Sarah Palin on a trip to Alaska to view the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but has not yet changed his mind on oil drilling in ANWR.
McCain said he would consider former rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney for his Cabinet and backed away from earlier talk of Democrats Al Gore and Andrew Cuomo in his prospective Administration.
The following is a transcript of the interview:
John Gizzi: Senator, Jimmy Carter signed the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which leaned on financial institutions to lend to people with lower-incomes, and the CRA was toughened under Bill Clinton. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd backed legislation that forced Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to give out mortgages to people who would clearly have difficulty paying them. So isn’t the current financial crisis a crisis created by Democrats?
Sen. John McCain: I think that Fannie and Freddie and certainly the CRA you are talking about are a big part of it. There was an Inspector General’s report, I believe, that talked about unsafe and unsound financial practices. And [the Democrats’] defense of Freddie and Fannie was remarkable. Certainly, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank and many others were there.
Regarding the CRA, the much-maligned [former Texas Sen.] Phil Gramm fought it and led the opposition to it. So there’s no doubt that those of us who sponsored legislation to reign in Freddie and Fannie were defeated by the Democrats. I wonder if Republicans had not lost control of Congress [in ‘06]that maybe we could have acted and avoided the financial crisis in ’07.
But having said that, John, Republicans bear a great responsibility for letting spending get out of control. So when this crisis took place, they had no cushion. Okay?
A ten trillion deficit, debt to China $500 billion. So, I’d love to blame the Democrats for all of it, but a spending spree and the increase in the size of government [when Republicans controlled Congress] and increasing the national debt also helped create this firestorm.
Q: When Moveon.org ran those newspaper ads condemning Gen. David Petraeus as “General Betray Us,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas offered a sense of the Senate resolution denouncing the ad and praising Gen. Petraeus. The vote was 75-to-25 for it, with three senators not voting — Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, all Democrats. Is that non-vote on MoveOn.org’s attack on the general a legitimate issue?
A: It’s disgraceful not to condemn an ad that questions the patriotism and loyalty of one of our great American heroes. Gen. Petraeus has served his country for 35 years with great honor. But it’s a larger issue. It is clear that Senator Obama was not going to go against MoveOn.org, and the base of his support for his nomination. As everybody acknowledges, his opposition to the war and his using Sen. Clinton’s vote in support of the war as one of the pivotal aspects that took him from a long-shot candidate to winning the nomination. .
Q: When I interviewed Gov. Palin at the National Governors Association meeting
in July, she voiced disagreement with your opposition to drilling in the Arctic Natural Wildlife Reserve and said she wanted you to come to Alaska to see it. As she said, this isn’t ‘pristine’ ground [a McCain description of ANWR]. If elected, will you go to Alaska?
A: Sure. Yeah. Why not? I’ve been there on other occasions. I’ll be glad to. She’s a maverick, she’s very persuasive. But right now, I would have to be shown something I haven’t seen. So my position is very clear. But nobody expects two mavericks to agree on everything.
Q: On the Supreme Court, you have said you will make nominations of strict constructionists in the mold of Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. If such nominees are “borked,” defeated for confirmation in the Senate, will you promise to continue to send similar constructionist nominees to the Senate for confirmation?
A: Absolutely. I will send [judicial nominees] to the Senate with a record of strictly interpreting the Constitution of the United States. That’s what the founding fathers said they should do. It’s not an idea of mine. That’s what the founding fathers said when they called for the separation of branches [of government] — executive, legislative, and judicial. I mean to somehow think this is a departure of what our fathers have clearly stated is really a continuing puzzlement to me. My point is that judges who legislate from the bench are not within their line of responsibility as clearly cited by the Founding Fathers.
Q: Now the four justices you cite as models for nomination — Roberts, Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia — have all at different times voted to overturn parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign legislation you co-authored. Would you appoint justices who would do that?
A: Well, obviously, I wouldn’t impose any litmus tests. No justice that I would nominate would I expect to agree with me on every single issue. The majority of justices just made a ruling on detainees I didn’t agree with. That was very disturbing to me. And so, I can’t say I would agree with every decision. But if I can count on every justice that I name to share my view of the judiciary, then in the long run, things should come out OK.
Q: I noted with interest that you, as I have read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln naming many of his rivals for the Republican nomination to his Cabinet. Roger Edwards, who wrote into us as to what he would like to ask you, wonders if you would considering doing the same and name, say, Mitt Romney as treasury secretary and Rudy Giuliani as attorney general?
A: Absolutely. I have the highest regard for all of those people. We have become good friends. They’re out there campaigning for me and we’ve all become good friends. You know, when you look at the length of the campaign, we had surprisingly very little rancor. Maybe a little bit. But we came out okay and with a great deal of respect for one another.
Q: My colleague Allan Ryskind, who worked with you to defeat Morton Halperin’s nomination to a Pentagon position in the Clinton years, said he wouldn’t mind Joe Lieberman as secretary of defense or state, but would very much mind Al Gore or [Democratic New York Attorney General] Andrew Cuomo in your Cabinet. Are you seriously considering Gore and Cuomo for a McCain-Administration?
A: Not necessarily those two. But you’ve got to reach out. You’ve got to work together and you’ve got to be inclusive. Look, I know that I disagree with HUMAN EVENTS on the issue of climate change. But there are Democrats who have areas of expertise that all of us agree on. For example, Warren Buffett is a Democrat, pro-choice, a lot of things. But I think a lot of Americans would approve it if Warren Buffett were to come in and offer his expertise and help clean up this mess. Do you see what I mean? I wouldn’t appoint Warren Buffett, say, secretary of defense. But I would say, ‘Warren, hey come in and sit down with us. Help us clean up this financial mess. Help us on what to do. But I don’t know what the specific job would be, so it depends on the job you’re talking about.
Q: You were in the forefront of the comprehensive immigration package that died in the Senate in ’06. Now you are saying ‘border security’ first…
A: That’s the reality. The reason it was rejected by the Senate was we didn’t give the American people the confidence that the borders would be secure. But, in all candor, you need to have a path to citizenship who come here illegally. And you need a temporary worker program.
Q: So will you send the Senate a “border security only” package?
A: I’m still open to a comprehensive package. But I understand we have to sit down on this. We must secure the borders, we have to have a temporary worker program, we must round up and deport 2 million people who are here illegally and have committed crimes. But people who have gotten here illegally, obeyed the laws, learned English, lived here all their lives and have lived decent lives — they have to go through the naturalization process. They are God’s children.
Q: Whatever the results at the top in November, the Senate and the House are likely to remain in Democratic hands — probably with larger majorities than now. How do you pursue the agenda you have spoken of — tax cuts, spending cuts, revisiting entitlements — with a Congress like that?
A: You have to go to the American people. You have to make an appeal. Because if anything comes out of this severe crisis, it is that you’ve got to unite the American people. You’ve got to rally the nation. You’ve got to say to the American people to tell their elected representatives and tell them you can’t raise taxes during bad economic times. The last President to do that was Herbert Hoover. So you have to appeal to the nation. Ronald Reagan was very good at that. Remember he had a Democratic Congress.
Q: Since I have known you back when you were in the House, you were one of the most vigorous campaigners for Republicans everywhere. Rob Simmons [former House Member from Connecticut] still talks about how your campaigning put him over in the closest House race in the nation in 2000. Now I’m getting complaints from other Republican candidates that you and Gov. Palin don’t even mention the names of Republican House and Senate candidates that are on the platform with you. Bob Schaffer [Senate candidate in Colorado] did not get a mention from you or Gov. Palin when he was on the platform with you in Colorado Springs. Is there a reason for your not mentioning the rest of your ticket?
A: I do. I do. I’ll be doing that down in Miami, where my friends [Republican Reps.] Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have tough races. But the problem is, and I’ll be frank about it, is airtime. You know you have only so much airtime. You start talking, the cameras don’t stay on you for your entire speech. It’s kind of driven by our desire to get the message out. But at a town hall meeting, for example, I try to say at some point at the end ‘Please vote for Bob Schaffer for Senate.’ But we’ll do more of that. I promise.