RFK STADIUM, WASHINGTON D.C. — Chris Matthews speaks with Senator John McCain Thursday on “Hardball” from RFK Stadium for the home opener of the Washington Nationals team. McCain talks about Jane Fonda, the issue baseball & steroids and how he’ll vote on the hot button topic of the filibuster for judicial nominees. Below are excerpts to the interview:
McCain on the filibuster
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Do you think it’s fair for the Democrats to stop all government business if the Republicans get rid of the filibuster in judgeships?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: No, I don’t. And I think...
MATTHEWS: Is it fair for the Republicans to get rid of the filibuster?
MCCAIN: No. And why is it that after 200 years we now cannot settle the issue of judges? Well, it’s a symptom of the problems we have with the bitter partisanship here in Washington.
MATTHEWS: The president of the United States gets to pick federal judges. What should be the standard that the opposition applies to whether they let it come to a vote or not?
MCCAIN: I think that they should let them come to a vote, but I also think that before the nominations are formally introduced, the way they used to do it, they would kind of run the traps of the— senators, particularly those on the committee and say, "Are these acceptable or unacceptable?" and if they were unacceptable they wouldn’t send them over and if they were acceptable, then they would move forward.
We used to have this thing called a blue slip, where if it was a judge from your state, you could and if you objected they didn’t take it up. And by the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we effectively, in the Judiciary Committee, blocked a number of his nominees.
MATTHEWS: But bottom line, would you vote for what’s called the “nuclear option,” to get rid of the filibuster rule on judgeships?
MCCAIN: No, I will not.
MATTHEWS: You will stick with the party?
MCCAIN: No, I will vote against the nuclear option.
MATTHEWS: You will vote—
MCCAIN: Against the nuclear option.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you will?
MATTHEWS: So you will vote with the Democrats?
MCCAIN: Yes, because I think we have got to sit down and work this thing out. Look, we won’t always be on the majority. I say to my conservative friends, some day there will be a liberal Democrat president and a liberal Democrat Congress. Why? Because history shows it goes back and forth. I don’t know if it’s a hundred years from now, but it will happen. And do we want a bunch of liberal judges approved by the Senate of the United States with 51 votes if the Democrats are in the majority?
Second of all, we ought to be able to work it out. Third of all I don’t want to shut down the Senate. We’re in a war. We’re in a war. Shouldn’t we be doing the people’s business?
McCain on who he's rooting for
MATTHEWS: Are you going to be rooting for the Washington Nationals or the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight?
MCCAIN: The Diamondbacks.
MATTHEWS: Of course.
McCain on the controversy around steroids
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about steroids and our confidence in the game. Does baseball run a risk of being not taken seriously with guys with arms this big, because of steroids?
MCCAIN: Sure they do. And baseball hurt itself very badly at the House hearing when we were told in a straightforward fashion, “Look, first offense is 10-day suspension.” That wasn’t doing it, not for most of us.
But at least they said "10-day suspension." Now we find out there’s a “drafting error” three months later that says 10-day suspension or up to $10,000 fine. You know what a $10,000 fine is to some of these guys?
MCCAIN: I mean, so I was very disappointed.
MATTHEWS: An inning. An inning.
MCCAIN: We were very disappointed in that, and so that’s why you’re now seeing more movement towards looking at the whole issue of steroids throughout professional sports.
The most moving part of that hearing in the House was the parents of those young high school kids who had committed suicide. This is a serious issue as far as young people are concerned.
McCain on Jane Fonda
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about—we’ve got Jane Fonda on tomorrow night. You over there for all those years in the Hanoi Hilton. What do you think I should ask her?
MCCAIN: I think you should ask her what she was thinking when she got into that anti-aircraft gun site and applauded and smiled and all that. And I think she’s going to tell you she was young and foolish and regrets it. And if anybody regrets something they’ve done—I’ve regretted some of the things I’ve done in my life—that’s fine with me.
MATTHEWS: What about visiting the POWs? She had a hand in that, too, right?
MCCAIN: Yes, she did. It’s...
MATTHEWS: She did a broadcast from that perspective, as if she was sort of like part of a—you know, sort of a care package coming over there.
MCCAIN: I didn’t like it. I thought it was wrong. But we had a former attorney general of the United States who was acting worse, Ramsey Clark. I expected more of him than a troubled actress.
Look, I didn’t like it. I don’t like it. But for me to hold a grudge against her, I think, you know, it’s a waste of time.