Today on State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke with Gloria Borger about the shutdown autopsy, Obamacare, and the future of the republican party. Republican Senator McCain says a Ted Cruz presidential run in 2016 would be attractive to many voters.
A transcript and videos from the interview is available after the jump.
VIDEO: McCain: Can’t go at Obamacare “with a meat axe”
VIDEO: Is there a GOP civil war brewing?
VIDEO: McCain: President Obama took a victory lap
VIDEO: McCain: Millions living in shadows
VIDEO: McCain: Shutdown strategy ‘fool’s errand’
BORGER: And we're going to have more of Dana Bash's interview with Sen. Cruz in a moment. But joining me now is the man he was talking about and criticizing quite directly, that's Senator John McCain. Thanks for being with us this morning, senator. You heard what Senator Cruz said. He said he wanted you to be the cavalry to come in and save them and instead you lost the fight for him. So, are you to blame here?
MCCAIN: Well, there's a lot of ironies here because there were some of us and Republican senators that fought for 25 days against Obamacare up until Christmas eve morning. Campaigned across America in 2012 saying that as we elect Mitt Romney, we will repeal and replace Obamacare.
We were the leaders in the fight during that time. The point is, though, that it would require 67 Republican votes in the United States Senate in order to override a presidential veto in the case of repeal of Obamacare.
So, we take a backseat to no one, certainly I don't in my efforts against Obamacare. And the - many ironies here, but one of them is the fiasco of this rollout has been obscured because of - strike that's been going on in the Republican Party. So, we will continue, I think, to try to get rid the worst aspects of Obamacare including the medical device tax and others.
But it was a fool's errand to start with. It was never going to succeed. And the damage, this was not an academic exercise. the damage done to the people of this country, particularly in my state where we're dependent on the tourist industry and places like the Grand Canyon, there's a town called Tucson outside the Grand Canyon, hundreds of people then we had to have food banks send up meals for them because they live on minimum wage. Look, we can't do this to the American people.
BORGER: Do you blame Ted Cruz? Do you blame Ted Cruz for that?
MCCAIN: I blame the whole effort. I blame the whole effort.
BORGER: Well, he led it.
MCCAIN: Which as I said was not going to - well, all of those involved in it went on a fool's errand. That's just the fact. The other irony is that, in the polling data, national polling, Republicans are at an all-time historic low in approval or historic high in disapproval by the American people.
BORGER: So, what does this do to your brand? I mean, what does this do to the Republican Party brand then?
MCCAIN: Well, it's hurt. The question is, how deep and how long? But the point is that what we need to do, move forward with immigration reform, get a positive agenda for America, continue the fight against Obamacare, get taxes down, address this whole issue of sequestration which is devastating our military.
There are so many things we can do in a positive agenda and get off of this. Keep up the fight against Obamacare, but don't shut down the government and have so much collateral damage –
BORGER: Well, Senator Cruz says he's not ruling out a second shutdown. You know, he hasn't ruled it in. He says he's not ruling it out. Can he possibly do that?
MCCAIN: I think that he can exercise his rights as a senator, but it will not happen.
MCCAIN: The American people will not stand for another one of these things. They just won't.
BORGER: How can you prevent it, though?
MCCAIN: Too much damage.
BORGER: How do you prevent that?
MCCAIN: I think the American people have spoken and will continue to speak very loudly. We did this back in 1995. I've seen this movie before. It was another many years before we tried it again. And I am very confident the American people will not stand for another reputation of this disaster.
BORGER: Can I just talk about the Republican Party again for a second, because there are outside groups here, you know who they are, many with ties to Ted Cruz who are raising millions of dollars for Tea Party candidates off of this whole shutdown controversy. And some of them including your former running mate, Sarah Palin, are talking about primary opponents for Mitch McConnell, for example, the Republican leader in the Senate. And even for your good friend, Lindsey Graham, in South Carolina who's running for re-election. So, what's your response to that? That they want to primary people who actually voted the way you did to end the shutdown. I mean, are there two Republican parties here now in a civil war?
MCCAIN: Well, I think you've got to have straight talk. There are divisions within the Republican Party. We've had them in the past. The Democrat Party before Bill Clinton had them. It's very regrettable because our adversary is not each other and we will probably have to go through this discussion and debate. I just wish it would be respectful. I respect Ted Cruz. I respect these people and their views.
BORGER: But you did call him whacko bird –
MCCAIN: You know - and I apologize for it. I was reading from an editorial in "The Wall Street Journal." But the point is that we need to be respectful of each other and each other's views. Otherwise, we do damage to the party. I am confident the party of Ronald Reagan will come back strong, will get a positive agenda, will get something that an agenda that United States the party and we can move forward. I am absolutely confident of that.
BORGER: Well, let me switch for a moment to Obamacare which you mentioned before was obscured by this entire fight. Three weeks in, we know there've been huge problems with enrollment, rollout, et cetera. And I know you have fought the program as you were saying earlier, but is the administration being direct enough with the American people about the extent of the problems here?
MCCAIN: Of course not. They won't even tell us how many people have signed up –
BORGER: Well, this morning, they said 475,000 have enrolled, but go ahead.
MCCAIN: I'm glad they finally came through with some - I'm glad they finally came through with some information. Look, it's been a fiasco. Send Air Force One out to Silicone Valley, load it up with some smart people, bring them back to Washington, and fix this problem. It's ridiculous. And everybody knows that.
BORGER: Well, so do you think that somebody here needs to take the fall, that Kathleen Sebelius, as some have suggested, ought to resign?
MCCAIN: Let's have Congressional hearings. Let's find out who is responsible for this fiasco and then take the appropriate action, in my view. But, look, this is just the beginning of the problems associated with a massive restructuring of one fifth of our economy. And there's going to be a whole lot more problems associated with this before it's done.
That's why we, Republicans, have to keep up the fight, but we have to rival shot it rather than go at it with a meat ax which cannot succeed.
BORGER: So, rifle shot meaning try and repeal parts of it rather than the Ted Cruz strategy? Do you think Ted Cruz –
BORGER: Do you think he's cynical in doing this?
MCCAIN: I think that Ted Cruz was elected on a commitment to the people of Texas that he would do everything in his power. I respect that. I just knew that it could not succeed and it's just not, as I said, it's not an academic exercise.
MCCAIN: This has harmed the lives of millions of people and thousands of people in my state that I represent. I have an obligation to them to try to prevent that from happening.
BORGER: Let's step back for a moment and talk about what might happen over the next few years of this administration. I want you to listen for a moment to something President Obama said about Republican behavior and then we can talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hear some members who pushed for the shutdown say they were doing it to save the American economy. But nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create the manufactured crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: So, does this sound like a president whose building bridges to Republicans?
MCCAIN: No. It doesn't. It's very disappointing. The president felt he had to take a victory lap. Maybe it's not in his DNA to be magnanimous (ph) to his opponents. Mr. President, you won. Now, how about sitting down and let's try and fix some of these problems that are obviously there?
And, by the way, your foreign policy and national security policy is continuing to be a total debacle and United States prestige and standing in the world has never been lower.
BORGER: OK. Well, let's talk about some of these issues on the budget now. We've seen Super Committees fail. There is all this great talk now that there might be some kind of a grand compromise. Is there any reason, senator, for us to be optimistic now after the fight you just had that something can actually get done?
MCCAIN: I believe that there's good faith. I think that, you know, republicans weren't the only ones, Gloria, that suffered in this debacle. The president's numbers went down. Democrat numbers went down. Disapproval rates went up. You know, how you said we're down to paid staff and blood relatives. I got a call from my 101-year-old mother. She's angry.
So, the point is that it's in our interests. It's in our interests to sit down and get some of these issues resolved. Everybody knows that we cannot - this path we're on is unsustainable. So, maybe it will be a small bargain. Maybe we can achieve certain things. I'm most worried about sequestration next year and the devastating effect it's having on our military. I'm telling you, it is having effects that we won't cure for a long time, unless, we fix that.
BORGER: And what about immigration reform which is an issue near and dear to your heart? You've been working on it. Republican Congressman Labrador last week said this. He said, quote, "It would be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with the president on immigration." What's your response to that?
MCCAIN: My response is that we still - we're the architects of this comprehensive immigration reform and want you to pass legislation, the House representatives to pass legislation. We can sit down and work this out. Eleven million people living in the shadows in this country is not an acceptable situation.
We urge you to address this issue with us together and we respect your views. But to do nothing, I think, is a grave disservice to the American people and sooner or later, we will have to address this issue in a comprehensive fashion.
BORGER: And one more quick question. I can't help but ask you since you were the party's presidential nominee in 2008, you remember that, right? Ted Cruz clearly thinking about 2016. Do you think he would be an attractive Republican presidential nominee?
MCCAIN: Well, I can't predict what would happen this far in the future –
BORGER: But would he be attractive?
MCCAIN: Well, obviously, he'll be very attractive to many who we just heard from Dana Bash down in Texas. The question is, will our party be able to field a winning presidential candidate and vice president so that we can win the election rather than unfortunately the record of the last couple has not what we want it to be. I can say that from a personal standpoint.
BORGER: All right, senator. Thanks so much for being with us.