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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Presidential candidate?
On Sunday 01 October, Andrew Marr interviewed Senator John McCain, US Republican Party - possible presidential contender in 2008

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Senator John McCain, US Republican Party
Senator John McCain, US Republican Party

ANDREW MARR: And Senator McCain is with me now.

I have to say Senator, if I look that good at seventy I'll be very, very pleased. Um let's, let's talk first of all about the most recent controversy you've been involved in.

You've been having an argument or a discussion or a debate with the White House over the issue of torture.

Just tell us about that and where you think you've got to.

JOHN McCAIN: Well basically, without getting complicated in a hurry, we know that there was a, a treaty signed by more than a hundred countries called The Geneva Conventions for the Treatment of Prisoners, was a thing called Common Article Three which has to do with prisoners, civil wars, not in uniform et cetera.

As a result of a United States Supreme Court decision the, the government had to come up with a new method of taking care of these detainees who were down in Guantanamo or being held. Anyway their, proposal entailed modifying, modifying the Geneva Conventions.

ANDREW MARR: And, and you thought this could involve effectively the use of torture by Americans on ..


ANDREW MARR: .. so called enemy competence.

JOHN McCAIN: I thought it could be, do that and I also thought that if we modified the Geneva Conventions, the next time say an American CIA person is captured by Iranians they will modify the Geneva Conventions to their liking. And that ..

ANDREW MARR: Yes but the ..

JOHN McCAIN: .. and the other thing, aspect of it of course is this ongoing debate as to how you treat prisoners and whether we keep the, the moral high ground or not. We are different from our enemy. This is a war in Iraq and Afghanistan but it's also a war for hearts and minds and .. ANDREW MARR: You ..

JOHN McCAIN: .. we believe we are superior.

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely. And that you've moved the president a bit on this. You were captured by the Viet Cong in nineteen sixty seven and underwent torture yourself. How much of your experience has prompted this current campaign?

JOHN McCAIN: I, I don't think nearly as much as people think. What bolsters my argument are people like General Colin Powell. We heard from five former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, our highest military position. We heard from military people from all over America. None of them were tortured. They, they just were worried about this issue of what happens to future generations of American service men and women.

ANDREW MARR: Do you expect to be a candidate in the next presidential election?

JOHN McCAIN: I expect that it's very likely but right now we republicans face a very tough election in, on November seventh. We are, we're going to have a struggle hanging on to both houses at Congress. I think we can and will but I'm spending all my time campaigning for republican candidates.

ANDREW MARR: Looking way ahead, throwing it way ahead, if you stood, if you won, if you became the next American president how would things be different?

JOHN McCAIN: We would be more seriously addressing the issue of climate change. We would be perhaps more multilateral. We would be believe it or not, we would have more troops on the ground in Iraq until we got it under control. I still believe we cannot afford to lose this conflict. And one of the major mistakes we've made is not having enough troops there to control the situation from the very beginning.

I think I, you would see many of the Bush policies pursued by an administration, no matter who his republican successor is. Free trade, close relations, our closest relations here in this country, strong national defence, call to people to serve the country.

ANDREW MARR: You had what was widely described as a bit of a dirty fight, certainly coming your way, when you took on President Bush last time round. You supported him over the war but you think it's gone, it's been badly handled since then?

JOHN McCAIN: I still support him and support it strongly. I believe, every military expert I know believes that if we left prematurely and allowed the insurgents to take over you would see chaos in the region.

I've been very critical of the conduct of the war. Since the beginning I've said we needed more troops. We shouldn't have allowed the looting. We shouldn't have disbanded the army. There are many books that have been written that I'm sure you've viewed.

ANDREW MARR: And, and, and, and ..

JOHN McCAIN: But that still doesn't change the fact that we must prevail there. What do I mean, prevail? A functioning government, a military, Iraqi military that can take control, gradual withdrawal to enclaves and then leave.

ANDREW MARR: Now you've been talking to David Cameron. You're going down to Bournemouth later on. You met him I think just for the first time over breakfast this morning. Why do ..

JOHN McCAIN: Yes but I talked to him several times.

ANDREW MARR: You've talked to him ..


ANDREW MARR: .. by phone first. Why do you want to throw your, you know pretty considerable, if I may say so, weight behind him?

JOHN McCAIN: Well I, I am a Conservative. I, I believe in the Conservative Party. I am excited and thrilled to see this new generation of leadership coming up. And by the way I know they'll make mistakes. We all do when we're just moving into those kinds of situations. But fresh blood, enthusiasm, Conservative principles. I'm excited about this group of young people.

ANDREW MARR: I mean you're a liberal Conservative. You've said I think that you don't want to give more tax cuts to the rich. In America of course it's a different situation, both countries.

JOHN McCAIN: Actually I am a Conservative. I am a Conservative. If you look at national security or you look at any other issues, I am a Conservative. Do I believe that we need to address climate change? I don't think that's a liberal position. I know that the Conservative Party here places that as a very high priority.

ANDREW MARR: Is that changing American politics then? Al Gore's film and so on has, has had a great ripple throughout American debate. But do you, because you weren't an environmentalist particularly. You were converted at some point?

JOHN McCAIN: Oh I, oh I've been on this issue for five or six years. And I have proposed legislation to try to, with Senator Liebermann, a Democrat, to try to at least have a cap in trade and, and other issues. I've been on this issue for a long time. I come from one of the most beautiful states in America.

I've worked to preserve the Grand Canyon and our, natural beauty. I've always been - Teddy Roosevelt, a great leader of our party was a strong conservationist. Somewhere the Republican Party got away from Teddy Roosevelt. We got to get back to him in many ways.

ANDREW MARR: Okay well maybe one day you will be in the White House and David Cameron will be number ten and you'll be meeting again. But from the Grand Canyon to the Jurassic Coast down at Bournemouth, enjoy your day Senator. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

JOHN McCAIN: Thank you for having me.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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