Video: Moderate McCain

updated 5/26/2005 4:15:30 PM ET 2005-05-26T20:15:30

In an interview MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) "couldn't quite carry it off" on the filibuster struggle.  McCain also said that groups on both the far right and far left were only interested in "a battle to win supremacy," not the fight over judges.  Below is a partial transcript from the interview.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, over this past week, you have also been through something that politically awfully tough, nothing to compare with what you went through in Vietnam. And maybe that explains why you don't care about a lot of the criticism that has come your way, obviously, a lot of people upset about the deal you helped to broker regarding judges. You have Pat Buchanan, who today wrote an article that had this title: "McCain Sells Out the GOP." James Dobson, as you know, head of Focus on the Family, called the deal a complete bailout and a betrayal by a cabal of Republicans. And Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council that is also connected with James Dobson, warned that there would be repercussions. Senator, what do you say to those people out there who claim that you betrayed the president, Bill Frist and the Republican Party?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, you forgot to mention that, on the far left, the People for the American Way and all those other organizations, they are just as mad as those on the right, because the extremes wanted a battle here. They didn't want a compromise. You watch. We are going to confirm judges. We confirmed one that had been blocked for four years today. We are scheduled to take up and debate and confirm the others. And we are not going to slow down or shut down the Senate, as the Democrats had said they were going to do. We are going to take up the defense authorization bill and energy bill. We are going to move forward with the people's business. Joe, it's not an accident that only 33 percent of the American people think the Congress is doing a good job; 58 percent said that they thought we're acting like spoiled children. They expect us to work together. That's what this was all about. And you watch and see what happens in the Senate. I think we are going to go back to doing the people's business, rather than insulting each other on the floor of the Senate, as has been the case for the last period of time.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, senator, after I left Washington in 2001, it struck me — and I said this to several people — that you were the least popular person in the Washington, D.C., easily the least popular politician that I knew. Outside of the beltway, outside of Washington, D.C., you were the most popular politician in America. And I think you still are. But the big question is, what about those primary states like South Carolina? What about Iowa, where religious conservatives determine who wins the Republican nomination in 2008?

MCCAIN: Joe, first of all, I have not decided whether I am going to run or not, and I won't for a couple of years. But, second of all, look, I have got to do what is right. I have got to do what I believe is right. I was, and so were those 13 others, and we were all in this equally, were worried about the institution of the United States Senate. And we didn't want to see it blown up. We didn't want to see further divisiveness. We think-we are very grateful for Bill Frist's leadership and his efforts. And he couldn't quite carry it off. And we couldn't have done it without his leadership. And I still respect and admire his leadership. But the fact is, I have got to do what is right. I have got to do what I think is right. And, you know, I have been in politics for a long time, Joe. And I have found that, when I do what I believe is right, it usually turns out OK.

SCARBOROUGH: It certainly does, but again, the word betrayal, awfully tough. Does that bother you or have you just gotten to a stage in your life, a stage in your political career where it just rolls off your back and you keep going?

MCCAIN: Well, when I see where it's coming from.  They weren't interested in the fight over judges. They were interested in a battle to win supremacy, to bend us to their will, people from outside the United States Senate on the extreme left and the extreme right. We don't have that obligation. Our obligation is to work for our constituents and to do what we are supposed to do. And all 14 of us equally were people of goodwill. We trust one another. And my response to them is, see what we do. See how this works out and then make a judgment. And my response to those people who are watching this program, that you want us to do your work. We have now reached this compromise that we are going to. We are going to take up issues. We are going to try to figure out why you are paying 2 1/2 bucks at the gas tank for a gallon at the gas pump. We are going to win this war in Iraq, where young men and women are sacrificing every day. We are going to win the war on terror. We are not going to spend our time fighting over judges and insulting one another on the floor of the Senate.

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A full transcript of the program will be available at 'Scarborough Country' with Joe Scarborough airs Monday through Friday at 10 p.m. ET.


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