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Insider Interview: John McCain

As part of our continuing series of interviews with politicians weighing bids for president in 2008, the Post's Dan Balz and I sat down with Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) late last month.

John McCain
Arizona Sen. John McCain

Much has been written on The Fix and elsewhere about McCain's public support for President Bush on issues like the war in Iraq and immigration, as well as his more private courtship of key players from the president's 2000 and 2004 races.

During the 30-minute interview McCain said that any sort of timetable-setting for troop withdrawals from Iraq would be a mistake and asserted that progress is being made. On immigration McCain expressed optimism that a compromise bill could emerge before the November election, warning that his party faces considerable peril if no legislation is approved.

He also reiterated his call for partisan comity on Capitol Hill, decried the negativity of modern campaigns, and said he wouldn't make a decision on his own political future until next year.

For the next week, the only way you can hear what McCain had to say is to click on the links below to download the complete interview, available in audio and video formats. You may also subscribe to The Fix Podcast to get the McCain interview along with a host of others The Fix has done over the past few months. A full analysis of the McCain interview, along with the transcript, will be posted next Monday.

Download audio of The Fix's interview with Sen. John McCain.

Subscribe to the Audio Podcast: XML | iTunes | My Yahoo

Download video of The Fix's interview with Sen. John McCain.

Subscribe to the Video Podcast: XML | iTunes | My Yahoo

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 10, 2006; 6:02 AM ET
Categories:  Insider Interview  
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Comments

the talent poll for 2008 is not good. So far McCain seems to best choice. All the critics of McCain make good and valid points. The problem is these complaints are true for the other candidates also. Politicians are two faced lairs. It's what they do. We aren't going to get good choices in 2008 so why not pick the best mutt in the litter. If we are diligent citizens and hold them accountable things could work out.

Posted by: Charles Jordan | July 17, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Steven you said it. This is clearly folks trying to redefine a conadidate that most Americans truly admire. He is fighting the good fght on wasteful government speonding and trying to strengthen our position in the world, while also understanding the benfits of working across party lines for a better America. Yet, because he doesn't toe the line on a few issues or because he supports President Bush on a few issues, he's lambasted by the left and the right. I think that's a sure sign he's the right person to serve as our next President.

Posted by: Doug in Virginia | July 11, 2006 10:49 PM | Report abuse

It really amazes me when Republicans accuse John McCain of not being a 'true' conservative. I'll admit he's no Delay or Limpbone, (he actually served in the military) but on practically every issue, he is aligned with President Bush. I don't hear people saying he's not a 'true conservative.

Already we're seeing the beginnings of the tactics that the far right wing of the party wil use to try and smear him: he's too mean, he's crazy, no one likes him. It's all baloney!

If other Republicans don't like him it's because he exposes their hypocracy. They claim to be conservatives yet spend our hard earn tax dollars just as bad as the liberals do. He's proven he loves this country more than a lot of people do.

Posted by: steven | July 11, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

The first priority of a politician is to get elected, doing whatever it takes, after which he can perhaps do some good...or that is the rationalization, anyway.

Posted by: jc | July 11, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know who John McCain is anymore? Does he?

Posted by: Mark | July 10, 2006 7:32 PM | Report abuse

I personally find McCain a shallow and narrow minded politician. I don't think he exudes the "renegade" image he likes to think he projects. I think it is ironic that he fights vehmently for veterans issues but tends to neglect Native American Indian issues. He is like any other politician and it is evident through his flip flopping. The best example of this is the Jerry Fallwell-Liberty University incident. He spoke out against Jerry Fallwell for years. They had a very public, mutual dislike for one another, but a few years later McCain is the commencement speaker at Liberty University. It is an obvious ploy to court voters on the far right for the 2008 primary and election. It is a transparent move motivated by a desire to win. That doesn't seem to be such a "renegade" idea to me.

Posted by: Ron Burgundy | July 10, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Southern Progressive: McCain is far from finished politically. The guy is as viable as ever--especially in a post-Bush era. I think that the Bush administration--perhaps unknowingly--has opened the door for a McCain presidency. He is hawkish on foreign policy (much in the same fashion and worldview as Dubya); he is sympathetic to immigration and a rising Latino population (again, much in the same way as the president). McCain and Bush have been an odd, political couple indeed, especially knowing how brutal the 2000 campaign was.

I think that the people in the White House--who, behind closed doors, widely suspect a Hillary Clinton run in 2008--have come to the conclusion that she will be the nominee for the Democrats in 2008, and that McCain has the right blend of fiscal conservatism and moderate views on social issues where he could defeat Clinton.

In my view, McCain is the only one in the potential GOP crowd--with an exception of Mitt Romney, who's political stock has been rising--who can beat Hillary.

It shall be an interesting 2 more years...

Posted by: Texan Centrist Democrat | July 10, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Chris Baker, What are you talking about? Finished politically? Are you crazy? If McCain wins the GOP nomination, which is likely, are you telling me that his stances on immigration will keep Republicans home on Election Day in 2008, just to sit and watch a Democrat win the presidency? And if they do come out and vote, would they rather vote for Hilary or Russ? How about either of the Johns? Please... McCain has built a solid base of staffers in key states and many donors have and will continue to jump on his bandwagon. Ultra-conservatives on immigration like Tancredo have absolutely no chance.

Personally I liked McCain better in 2000. That said, I am very much for granting pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and I can appreciate his, Bush's, and Rove's position on the matter. He is not finished politically and the GOP would be very smart to push comprehensive immigration reform before November.

Posted by: Southern Progressive | July 10, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I simply cannot respect a man who was smeared by Bush and Co. in the 2000 GOP primary in SC, then turn around and support him in 2004, campaign for him and now actively court his backers while at the same time not speaking out more against this administration's policies regarding Iraq, detainee torture, etc. What a hypocrite.

Posted by: Sean | July 10, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Maybe McCain and The Big Lie should run on the Pander Party ticket. Neither of them are really Dem nor GOP since they have both totally offended their respective bases, but they are not Independents either b/c I's tend to be, well, independent. Constituents include big business and.... thats it, just big business. That way they can bloviate all they want and raise lots of corporate money and nobody will pay attention to what they say (kinda like now).

Whaddya think?

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | July 10, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

McCain and Clinton have many similarities: Not only are they both disliked by many in the respective political base, but they both will have a tough time winning the national election. I think both picks would be bad for their parties. Clinton, for the obvious reason that she is Hillary Clinton - an extremely devisive candidate and one who will rally the Republicans to the polls against her. But in terms of McCain, I feel that he won't be able to stand up to the pressure of a national campaign. Much like he was destroyed by George Bush in 2000, I feel the same will happen in 2008.

http://democraticway.blogspot.com/

Posted by: VaDemocrat | July 10, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

If McCain presents himself as the man who can competently implement the policies of the current administration, he will win. He has indepedent credibility with the American public, though whether he deserves it is another matter.

I respect that he has on occasion challenged the administration, but anymore I don't know that I can discern principle from maneuvering. The torture bill? A nearly identical Democratic measure had passed just weeks before McCain introduced his amendment to a defense appropriations bill, but it was McCain who got the spotlight.

I agree that his biggest challenge is the GOP primary. Many in the Republican base are annoyed with McCain, but they know he can win. He has not yet been through the campaign smear machine, but presently he probably appears the most appealing candidate of either party.

That said, I will not be voting for him.

Posted by: peter | July 10, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

McCain is finished politically because of his activist support for Amnesty and citizenship for illegal aliens. Maybe he should run for the Democratic nomination for President.

Posted by: Chris Baker | July 10, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

And I might add, that wasnt always the case (for me). I used to respect his independence from the extreme conservative/neocon base, but he has clearly been sucking at that teat for way too long. It is unthinkable for such a "maverick" that he is STILL so closely aligned with this Admin... Esp after the horrific 2000 GOP primary and a war that has done nothing but drain our resources and decimate our military.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | July 10, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

As an individual I have great respect for JM. As a politician, none whatsoever.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | July 10, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Relative to the current crop of frontrunners - the ones who are touted as building political teams on the ground in Iowa, South Carolina, and NH, Senator McCain is still the most palatable and can run mostly as a uniter. He still has strength among the independents and Scoop Jackson Democrats. His biggest hurdle is getting past the GOP primary process.

He differs from the president in a few key areas relative to Iraq:

- he believes in higher standards of conduct, regarding interrogation practices and has promoted the defanged bill that advocates human treatment of prisoners;
- he has been critical of the conduct of the war in terms of some implementation issues;
- while being perceived as some as a Bush apologist, he has better working relationships with Democratic legislators, which he can tout in a general election.

Do we really want a one-term governor or a real Bush yes-man to get the GOP nomination?

There are other options out there, Republicans who are true to the federalist cause, who voted against excessive government programs, like the farm bill, Medicaid Part D, or No Child Left Behind. But for the moment, McCain can still be regarded as the front-runner, and if some other more forthright candidates decide not to run, still could be considered the best of the bunch. And remember, he is the candidate - those Bush political folk who have gone to work for him need to shift their approach to McCain's, not the other way around.

Posted by: McCain 2008? | July 10, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Senator McCain is the last candidate I would vote for for anything. He always plays two sides. You can never count on what he says. He wants to be liked by everyone, and appears soft, at times, only to get his way. He is mean-natured, and loses it when confronted - is out-of-copntrol. He is a devoted hawk and, like Bush, wants to conquer THE WORLD. He resents anyone who disagrees with him. He appears to have a flawed personality and is known in Arizona for temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way. If he runs, he will never be elected.

Posted by: Dott Clarke Koch | July 10, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

McCain seems to falling into the current Washington style of leadership and is no longer a man of the people. Is he in the game to see what he can take from the system? We see this of Chaney who used the system of avoiding the draft and then we see a blind eye to the overcharges/war profiteering of his former employer, Haliburton. Mr Bush avoided active service and is turning a blind eye to the oil companies speculation.
Mr. McCain the average middle American is asking "Are we any safer from terrorism today than four years ago?" Also we are asking the same question about the oil supply and profits.

Posted by: Alvin Schneider | July 10, 2006 9:00 AM | Report abuse

McCain seems to falling into the current Washington style of leadership and is no longer a man of the people. Is he in the game to see what he can take from the system? We see this of Chaney who used the system of avoiding the draft and then we see a blind eye to the overcharges/war profiteering of his former employer, Haliburton. Mr Bush avoided active service and is turning a blind eye to the oil companies speculation.
Mr. McCain the average middle American is asking "Are we any safer from terrorism today than four years ago?" Also we are asking the same question about the oil supply and profits.

Posted by: Alvin | July 10, 2006 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I hate to say this, but Sen. McCain has totally lost my respect and my support. He is no longer the maverick which gained my support and admiration when he run against George Bush for the GOP nomination. He is no longer that man, but has become transformed into another Bush apologist, becoming chummy with various Bush campaign financial backers. I had read how angry he was when the president signed the prisoner treatment accords, only to do what he has done with more than 700 other pieces of legislation -- disregard them in separate signing statements. You'd think McCain would wise up and see the president for the two-faced liar he is. But I don't see that. He has become just "another" typical blind Republican who marches in lockstep with the insanity in the White House! I used to be a Reagan Republican. Right now, the GOP can go straight to hell!

Posted by: Jon Shafer | July 10, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

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