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February 28: Imus talks to Senator John McCain (R) Arizona

DON IMUS, HOST:  “I told a story earlier this morning.  My wife came home a while back.  She loves John McCain, probably more than I do.  And she was outraged, because she had run into one of these -- men and women and said they were kind of put off by McCain because he was stiff.  And my wife said, "Well, those are -- those are war injuries, you know."

Charles:  “How about two broken shoulders?”

IMUS:  “And someone said, "Well, why doesn't he talk more about it?"  And oh, God. Please welcome to the IMUS IN THE MORNING program, the senior senator from the great state of Arizona, John McCain. Morning, Senator McCain.”

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  “Morning.  Maybe she -- maybe she thought I was just a stiff. “

IMUS:  “Well, I don't know.  But I think a lot of people probably think that because you don't ever say anything about it.”

MCCAIN:  “Well, what's to say?”

IMUS:  “Well, I know.  But I mean, you can't assume everybody knows, can you?  Or does it...”

MCCAIN:  “Well, you know, I mean, maybe I could wear -- maybe I could wear a sign.”

IMUS: “ Smart.”

MCCAIN:  “I mean, maybe, you know, one of those sandwich boards, you know, "Eat at Joe's and by the way...”

IMUS:  “By the way, I was, you know...”

MCCAIN:  “Listen, are you having that artery of Bernard's checked in his neck there?  Have you looked into that?”

IMUS:  “No, but that is kind of -- because Bernard, there's few people in better actual physical shape than Bernard.”

MCCAIN:  “Well, maybe we could get him an appointment at the V.A.”

IMUS:  “You know, when we were over there, when you took us over -- I would have never gone, had you not asked me to go.  I would not -- that's how out of it I am, I didn't think about it.  Were you aware of what's going on there with the outpatient program or what's going on throughout the V.A. system, apparently?”

MCCAIN:  “No, but let me say to start with, I'm also grateful that you came to San Antonio to the opening of that rehab facility, and everybody that was involved in it.  And look, you talk about touching moments, when we all had sat down at the ceremony and they welcomed the heroes and those young people came out, on crutches and wheelchairs and badly burned, it was one of the more moving experiences in my life. And I -- I think I've been around and seen a fair amount, but that was -- that was remarkable in the fact that you came down and spent time there and they were -- they were thrilled you were there, because that's what all of them told me.”

IMUS:  “Well, they -- sounds like your elaboration (ph).  They loved you, these kids.  But you were not aware of what was going on at Building 18, the outpatient situation?”

MCCAIN:  “No, no.  When I go out, I do the same thing that -- that you did the day that you and Bernard do and Charles went with me, and go to the hospital and see the patients and then down to the rehab place. And obviously, it's an unacceptable situation.  I'm glad the media does its job.  Now let's try to see that the government does its job.  And part of that is congressional oversight and knowing what's going on.  And we're going to have a hearing on it in the armed services committee.  But I do think that Secretary Gates did the right thing by going out there, saying it's unacceptable, saying it's going to be fixed, and I think he fired some people.  And, so, I was glad that Secretary Gates took quick action.  But it's not acceptable.”

IMUS: “ Well, how is it that none of us knew anything about this?  You didn't know about it?”

MCCAIN:  “I have no good answer.  We have communications with veterans all the time, constantly, both in Washington and back in Arizona. I do think it's important to point out that a lot of the employees there, particularly those physical therapists and others and many of the doctors and nurses, you know, they're the most dedicated people you will ever know.  It's an unacceptable situation, but we don't want to get everybody tarred by that brush.  You know, you met those...”

IMUS: “ Oh, it's not their fault, no.  I keep saying that.”

MCCAIN:  “Yes, yes.  We just need to keep saying that along with this, because we don't want them to feel that because of a government failure that it's any reflection on a lot of the dedicated people that -- that really extend not only their physical therapy and medical abilities, but a lot of love and affection out there. But it's an unacceptable situation.  We're going to have a hearing on it.  All I can tell you is that it's a failure on Congress' part as well as the government, because our job is oversight.”

IMUS:  “Did you happen to see that program last night on ABC with Bob Woodruff?”

MCCAIN:  “No, I did not. I was traveling.”

IMUS:  “Oh, man, I got to get you -- in fact, well, your staff -- you have a pretty good staff.  You have to watch that.  I'm begging you to watch that.  I mean...”

MCCAIN:  “I will watch it.  I will watch it for sure.”

IMUS:  “I'll tell you, one of the heroes in that is his wife, which is -- that's what I always thought about John Edwards.  I always thought his wife should be running for president, not him, you know?  I still think that.  So...”

MCCAIN:  “Well, I did see the clip.”

IMUS:  “Starting to think maybe Cindy should be running. “

MCCAIN: “ Everybody says that.”

IMUS:  “Cindy McCain.”

MCCAIN:  “Everybody says that.”

IMUS:  “But...”

MCCAIN:  “Look, I saw the clip you ran, and it was very touching.”

IMUS:  “Well, when -- when -- I mean, they've all got to think this.  All of these women and all of these parents and even people you introduced us to when we were there at Walter Reed, they've all got to be thinking this.  I mean, these women and the look on her -- I mean, it took your breath away.  This woman says, "Well, will he still love me?"  I mean, holy God, I don't know how you...”

MCCAIN:  “Look, I -- one of the aspects of this is that we have to keep in mind that war is a terrible thing.  And wars don't end quickly.  And we -- we are still trying to help veterans of the Vietnam War to get all the way home.  Some of them have never been able to get all the way home.  PTSD is a terrible thing.  This particular war, in my opinion, with these IEDs, is a particularly ghastly kind of war.  But no war, no mater how much people glorify it, no matter how much they find it romantic and exciting, is good.  It's horrible, and the worst thing is, obviously, is that we lose our comrades.  And sometimes we don't lose them completely, but we lose them to a large degree, and that's the tragedy of war.  And that's why I was so moved by the opening of that facility in San Antonio at Brooke Army Hospital, which was paid for by donations.  I'm sure that regular listeners to the program know very well, it was $50 million by the generosity of hundreds of thousands of Americans and people like Rick Santulli (ph) and the Fishers and others have our eternal gratitude. Now we've got to make sure that some of these, particularly PTSD get some kind of treatment that is absolutely necessary."

IMUS:  “That Arnold Fisher and Santulli (ph) are two of the most remarkable people that I have ever met.  I mean, particularly Fisher.  I don't know if you get a chance to talk to him much, but he's unbelievable.”

MCCAIN:  “Fisher Houses are wonderful.”

IMUS:  “He just doesn't care.  He's just going to get it done.  So...”

MCCAIN:  “And you know, you and I kind of had a little internal debate, not between us, but you know, shouldn't -- should the federal government be doing that construction?”

IMUS:  “Yes.”

MCCAIN:  “Well, you know, I have come down on the side of the American people's generosity should be accepted.  We have the Salvation Army.  We have the Red Cross.  We have a number of other charitable organizations who help people.  And I welcome a facility like that.  It certainly is built more quickly and a better facility.  So I'm sure that the federal government should be doing more, as we discussed, but to have a facility like that, I think, is an example, an embodiment of the generosity of the American people and how they're willing to help our brave men and women who serve.  You see my point?”

IMUS:  “Yes, sir, I do. We're talking with Senator John McCain here on the IMUS IN THE MORNING program. You know, another thing I don't understand -- well, I don't understand a lot of stuff.  But why we're -- is this true, let me first ask you, are we -- these kids that we're sending back over to or sending to Iraq or Afghanistan, are we send them with not as much training as they ordinarily would get, and with not the appropriate amount of -- appropriate amount of equipment?  Is that true?”

MCCAIN:  “We had a hearing last week.  The chief -- the heads of both the Army and the Marine Corps testified they do have the equipment they need and they -- and they are supplying them with it.  Now having said that, you've got to remember that the -- this is a game, almost, with the enemy.  We get protective armor and protective equipment for some of -- protection for some of our equipment, and they increase the lethality of the IEDs.  These latest things from Iran, as you know, are far more lethal than the stuff they were using at the beginning.  So it's a tit-for-tat kind of a thing, in that we improve our defenses and they make the IEDs more lethal, and people who wouldn't have been killed a short -- or injured a short time ago are.  And so it's kind of a back -- it's not a static situation.                  But I do believe that our military is doing the best they can to -- to provide them with the equipment that they need.  And that sometimes isn't enough, given the new developments that -- that take place.”

IMUS: “ How about the training? “

MCCAIN:  “I think the training is excellent from what I've seen.  And I have seen it fairly up close, lately. “

IMUS:  “But the reports are that it is not -- it used to be three months, and now it's not.”

MCCAIN:  “Yes.  Well, they are training them for exactly the kind of warfare that they are going to be involved in, which is this urban warfare.  In some cases, they are delaying, I'm told, a part of their training which doesn't have to do with the kind of environment that they're in Iraq. Look, we are -- we've got a military that surprisingly hard to expand.  It can take five months to get this increase in troop strength over there.  Five months to get five brigades over there.  The last one won't be over until May.  We've got to look at that whole system there.  Suppose there's a crisis in another part of the world.  Suppose North Korea attacks South Korea.  Suppose there's a flare-up someplace.  How quickly can we get people over there?  Those are some serious questions that need to be asked as to what's the capability of one and a half million military establishment.”

IMUS:  “Considering, Senator McCain, how the American public feels about -- the polls indicate how they feel about this war, your -- your support of the war and this surge, and of the president's policy, if this doesn't work, that pretty much finishes you for being president, doesn't it?  Then I've got to look for somebody else to vote for.”

MCCAIN:  “Don't -- don't keep searching so hard just yet.”

IMUS:  “Well, no, I'm going to keep, you know -- I need a winner.  I haven't had one in some time here.”

MCCAIN:  “I know.  Well, maybe, you know, maybe there's something about -- did you of think the reverse, maybe that someone who you support is doomed?  You know, that could be -- that could be the case.”

IMUS: “ I -- listen, I stuck with Lieberman so I'm going to live off that for a while.”

MCCAIN:  “Well, he's the greatest guy.  He is marvelous, and I'm glad you stuck with him.  And he's just -- he's a person of great courage, in my view.  And by the way, if it was as simple as some people describe, Joe Lieberman could never have been reelected in Connecticut otherwise.  So the point is that Americans want a path to success.  There's a -- there was a reliable poll not long ago that said if -- that Americans don't want immediate withdrawal.  They're confused and they're angry and they're frustrated, and they should be, because the war has been mishandled and mismanagement so -- mismanaged so terribly.                  But I think you are already seeing some small signs of success here.  I hope that in Anbar province, particularly, you're seeing progress.  It's going to be hard and tough and long.  But if we leave, literally everybody I talk to is an expert, says there's going to be going to be chaos.  Those who want to leave and just withdraw, I think they have an obligation to tell people what they think is going to happen.  I know what's going to happen.  It's going to be chaos and genocide, and it will spread throughout the region and we'll be involved again in one way or another.  So, I believe that this new general and this new strategy, which is long overdue, can succeed.  And we will know at least some indicators in the early months.  But we may not know some others for quite a period of time.”

IMUS:  “What does can succeed mean?  What's an acceptable resolution to you? “

MCCAIN: “It's obvious; it's the same thing that we do in counterinsurgencies in Bosnia, in Kosovo.  By the way there were those who say we shouldn't interfere with sectarian violence.  That's exactly what we did in Bosnia and Kosovo.  What we should have done in Rwanda and didn't.                 And it's -- it's a stability that allows the Iraqi military and police, although the police, as you know, are very corrupt, to take over responsibilities.  And they have a stable situation where economic and political development takes place.  It's not a new theory.  It's not a new -- it's not brand new.  For centuries people have been putting down insurgencies that same way.  The latest being, as I say, Bosnia and Kosovo.  So you know, it's not the -- it's not the splitting of the atom.  It's a new -- it's a previously tried doctrine and I believe we've got the general who can do it.  And I believe that these young Americans are doing a great job over there, and I'm proud of them. “

IMUS: “Back to the treatment that these soldiers are getting, coming home.”

MCCAIN:  “Yes.”

IMUS: “ Why the Defense Department says there were 23,000 injured and yet over 200,000 are showing up for serious -- seeking serious treatment at various V.A. hospitals.  What sort of -- what can we do and what can you do and others, and all of you guys running for president, Obama and Clinton and Joe Biden, and all of you, do to get this thing -- actually get it straightened out so that it's not just one or two or three week story and then goes away.”

MCCAIN:  “No, we have to look at the whole V.A. system.  We do have a veterans affairs committee in both the House and Senate.  I know they're looking at it, too.  We've got to better estimate -- -- look, war, they didn't plan for, obviously, these kinds of -- these kinds of casualties because remember, it was mission accomplished and last throws and a few dead-enders.  And...”

IMUS: “ Oh, I know, but...”

MCCAIN:  “So we've got to have a realistic plan.  We've got to do whatever funding needs to be done.  And we need to provide them with whatever they need, and there is -- it's our highest priority.  It is our absolute highest priority.  And I'm -- I am confident that we will do that.  And the media does play a role.  When there's areas that need to be brought to people's attention, such as what happened out at Walter Reed, we thank them for -- and it certainly exposes our lack of... “

IMUS: “ Well, some of them -- some of them thank them, like you.  But others, I mean, the surgeon general of the army, I mean, Bill White happened to be a friend of his.  I know he was all torked off at me for pointing out that he was a schmuck about it.  And he was.  Well, listen, Senator...”

MCCAIN:  “Well, I think really -- I really think you got it.  When these things come to light, the bureaucracy is a circle of wagons.  You've got to go out in on it.  And because, you know, it can hurt recruiting if this kind of thing is not -- can hurt it very badly. “

IMUS:  “Who'd want to go in?  You know -- you get home, you're going to be sent home and sit there and wait a year for the V.A. to send you a check.  That's crazy.  That's crazy.”

MCCAIN:  “Well -- again, I think that there has to be a thorough and really serious look at how we are handling what obviously was not anticipated to some degree -- should have been, should have been.  But was not, you know. By the way, I went to see, with my son jimmy and his buddy, "Letters from Iwo Jima" the other day. “

IMUS:  “Yes.”

MCCAIN:  “Have you seen that?”

IMUS: “ No, sir, I haven't. “

MCCAIN:  “You should see it.  It's an excellent movie.  It's the Japanese side of the Iwo Jima battle, and it's very, very good. “

IMUS:  “Well, by the way, finally, has Maureen Dowd turned on you?  She -- she said she misses the old straight talk McCain?”

MCCAIN:  "Apparently so.  Apparently so.  Look, we're having a lot of fun.  I've been out traveling all around.  I was done with Governor Schwarzenegger in the port of Los Angeles.  And I've been to Washington at the World Affairs Center Council, been to South Carolina and Florida and, you know, all over the post -- all over the place and been having a lot of fun.  It's been a great time, and we're going to roll out the old bus here pretty quick.  And we'll have a special spot for you on it, since you're not that well, you know.  We'll have a bottle of vodka in there for you.”

IMUS:  “Well, thanks, but we -- we don't need Maureen turning.  You better get a seat for her on the bus.”

MCCAIN:  “I'm afraid -- I'm afraid it's already happened.”

IMUS:  “Is it too late?”

MCCAIN:  “I wouldn't know.  I have no idea.”

IMUS:  “All right, well, try to loosen up a little bit, will you?”

MCCAIN:  “I'll try.”

IMUS:  “Don't be so stiff, will you, Senator?”

MCCAIN:  “Try not to be so stiff.”

IMUS:  “Yes.”

MCCAIN:  “Don't you loosen up too much on those pills.”

IMUS:  “I won't, Senator.  Thank you.”

MCCAIN:  “Thanks, bye.”

IMUS:  “Senator John McCain here on the IMUS IN THE MORNING program. “