EXCLUSIVE: Sen. McCain: Conditions in the Middle East ‘more dangerous than any time in the past’
Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), member of the Foreign Relations Committee, spoke to Crowley in a CNN EXCLUSIVE interview about the Israel-Palestine conflict and the U.S.’s role in the crisis. Additionally, Sen. McCain also discussed the situation at the border and the issue of immigration in the U.S.
On the topic of Middle East tensions, Sen. McCain said to Crowley, “I would argue that, given conditions in the Middle East, this might be more dangerous than any time in the past, not only conditions domestically within Israel, but also the fact Egypt is not really playing the role they traditionally have, countries like Qatar and others that could play a role.”
Also in the interview, while speaking about the security at the U.S. border, Sen McCain said to CNN, “Every nation has the requirement to secure its borders. Our borders are not secure, no matter what they say.”
Videos and a transcript of the interview are available after the jump.
Sen. John McCain on what should be done with more than 50,000 immigrant children in limbo. Should they be sent back?
Sen. John McCain on how he’d fix the surge of immigrants coming from Central America
CROWLEY: I want to bring in Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, first, you heard what Ben had to say. What is the U.S. role right now?
MCCAIN: I think the United States should do what it can to bring about an end to this situation, which — I slightly disagree with Ben. I would argue that, given conditions in the Middle East, this might be more dangerous than any time in the past, not only conditions domestically within Israel, but also the fact Egypt is not really playing the role they traditionally have, countries like Qatar and others that could play a role.
So, we obviously want to do what we can do to bring an end to this conflict. But, Candy, it’s very important to understand there’s no moral equivalency here, that Israel is being attacked by hundreds of rockets.
Their people, a third of their population, has got about a 60- second warning. Picture the United States of America with a country contiguous to ours, we’re being subjected to rocket attacks. So the restraint of the Israelis, in my view, is — is admirable.
And thanks to Iron Dome, which is an Israeli/U.S. cooperation result, there’s not been casualties, but the patience of Bibi Netanyahu, as well as the fact that he’s getting pressured from the more conservative wing of his coalition, is — this is more dangerous, I think, than at any time in the past.
CROWLEY: Well, he — there have been no casualties that we know of on the Israeli side during this recent going back and forth. Obviously, it started with the deaths of the three Israeli teens. But we have seen more than 100 Palestinian casualties and rising.
And so there’s always that question about, when does this stop? So, what you’re saying, which is what I believe Ben did, was that there’s no real broker there, as Egypt was before, and the U.S. really, in the past, whether it’s President Obama or anyone else, has really been unable to broker these kind of truces.
MCCAIN: Yes, and there’s a — because of the breakdown in Israeli/Palestinian talks, and the expectations were there, and the decision in Syria, the United States’ influence has never been less than it is today.
And we’re seeing the results of that. But, again, I want to point out, because there haven’t been more Israeli casualties isn’t because the Hamas, a terrorist organization, hasn’t tried.
MCCAIN: In fact, they are indiscriminately targeting civilians, while Israelis are going so far as to warning the people in Gaza of impending strikes. There’s a dramatic difference here.
It’s a matter of capabilities, rather than intent, to say the least.
CROWLEY: Let me turn you to U.S. borders here, in this case, the border with Mexico. The president has asked for almost $4 billion in emergency money to deal with this ever-rising number of unaccompanied minors that are coming across the border. What is it going to take to get you and other Republicans to approve that money?
MCCAIN: There has to be a halt to this.
That’s what we want. And the best way to do that is for planeloads of these young people to be returning to the country of origin and their families who have spent as much as a year’s salary paying these coyotes, who are also by — in the business of an $85- billion-a-year drug business, will not be able to get their money and send their kids north.
As soon as they see their money is not effective in getting their kids to this country, then it will stop, and not before. And as tragic and as terrible as this situation is, we cannot have an unending flow of children from all over the world, much less Central America, into our country. So we have to repeal…
CROWLEY: But, Senator…
MCCAIN: Yes, go ahead.
CROWLEY: Go ahead.
MCCAIN: Go ahead.
CROWLEY: I was going to say, and I was going to talk about, you have a bill with Senator Flake which would expedite the process that would return these children to their countries.
I want to play you something that Senate Leahy said about returning these kids and then ask you something on the other side of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: When you have an 8- or 9-year-old girl who is being raped by gangs that are sending them up here, or they’re being sent by their parents to escape that kind of violence, I’m not sure Americans all really feel that we should immediately send them back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So, Senator, essentially, when you say expedited process, a lot of the folks who advocate for these children say that just means that no one’s going to hear their case. Many of them are fleeing violence and perhaps death.
So, how can you expedite a process and somehow avoid the very real danger that some of these children face in their homelands?
MCCAIN: Well, in all due respect to my colleague in the Senate and others, are they ignoring what’s happening to these children on the way up?
Are they ignoring the — the rapes, the death, the riding on the top of a train and the deaths and injury? I would think that…
CROWLEY: But doesn’t that tell you about something about the — the situation in their home countries…
CROWLEY: … that they would — that they would..
CROWLEY: … put themselves at that kind of risk?
MCCAIN: It tells me about conditions all over the world, in Nigeria and the Middle East today and the horrible things that are taking place all over the world.
And so the best thing to do is, if they have a case, we ought to beef up our consulate and our embassy and our capabilities, so they come there and present their case. And if they — if it’s valid, then we will bring them to the United States of America, not showing up at our borders.
The trip up that they’re taking, we should do everything in our power to prevent that. So if — and the fact is that we cannot have an unending stream of children, whether it be from Central America or anyplace else, to come into our country, with all of the strains and pressures that is put on our capabilities.
It’s not acceptable. Every nation has the requirement to secure its borders. Our borders are not secure, no matter what they say.
CROWLEY: Well, many of these children, Senator, are just presenting themselves to border guards. It’s not like they’re slipping through.
MCCAIN: Yes. Yes.
CROWLEY: In fact, when we look at some of the statistics, what we’re seeing, that enforcement does seem to be at an all-time high. I’m not talking children now. I mean in general.
CROWLEY: And that deportation — again, not about children — but deportation of those who are trying to cross illegally is also at an all-time high. So, is this really about border security?
MCCAIN: Well, a lot of it is about border security, because the same people, by the way, that are transporting the children are transporting, according to General Kelly, the head of Southern Command, $85-billion-a-year business in drugs.
And he says he is watching it happen because he doesn’t have the capability to stop it. But the important thing here is that these children — all we need to do is change the act, the trafficking victims prevention act, to treat these children the same way as we do with Canada and especially Mexico.
If you come to our country illegally, you will be sent back. And, unfortunately, things are very bad for them in their country. Things are terrible for them on the trip, and that has to be stopped as well. So it is a terrible situation. It’s a humanitarian crisis, but, for us, we Republicans and I’m sure many Democrats will have to see an end to this.
Look, we need to spend about $6 billion to have our borders secure. The president wants $3.7 billion. If this keeps up, he will ask for another $3.7 billion next year. It has got to come to a halt.
CROWLEY: At some point, Senator, though, one has to take care of these 50,000-plus that have come here since October. What is your plan to deal with them? Doesn’t that require more resources, more money for more social workers, more judges?
The law is what the law is right now. I understand you want to change it. But doesn’t the president need this money? And don’t you put yourself, again, Republicans, in the position that you’re complaining about this, but not giving the money to at least deal with the problem as it is right now?
MCCAIN: If we don’t address the root cause of the problem, and that is sending kids back where they came from and their parents having wasted $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 that went into the hands of the coyotes, the same people that are transporting billions of dollars of drugs into this country, then it won’t matter how much money we spend.
The cause of it is that they believe that they can come here and stay, no matter what the circumstances are. I’m for increasing the judges. I’m for increasing many things. By the way, technology is the way to secure our border, which is not secure.
And so we can address this problem, but we have to address the root part of the problem, including increased judges and all of those other things.
MCCAIN: But it has to be brought to an end. That’s my point.
CROWLEY: Unfortunately, I have to move you on to one last subject, because I wanted to get your take on something that has happened in the papers.
And that is an op-ed in “The Washington Post” from a friend of yours, Governor Rick Perry, who took on Rand Paul, another friend of yours, I suspect. And what Mr. Perry had to say was that: “Viewed together, Obama’s policies have certainly led us to this dangerous point in Iraq and Syria, but Paul’s brand of isolationism or whatever he prefers would compound the threat of terrorism even further.”
Rand Paul’s chief adviser responded to an inquiry from BuzzFeed. And he called the Perry article “utter nonsense. Interesting to be lectured in entirely in talking points, though, and his,” meaning Perry’s, “new glasses apparently don’t make him see the world any more clearly.”
Who sees the world and specifically terrorism more clearly, Governor Perry or Senator Paul?
MCCAIN: Well, it’s hard for me to describe both of their positions, because I don’t know them very much in-depth.
But Senator Paul is part of a wing of the party that’s been there ever since — prior to World War I in our Republican Party. And that is a withdrawal to fortress America. And I believe that the president of the United States has shown, absent American leadership, what can happen in the world today.
So I’m not particularly interested in getting between Senator Paul and Governor Perry, but I do believe that the things we’re seeing in the world today, in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime, is a direct result of an absence of American leadership. And we are paying a very, very heavy price now, and we will in the future, until we decide to understand that America is an essential role in maintaining peace and stability throughout the world, and that does not mean sending combat troops everywhere.
My time with you is well over, but I have got to ask yes or no. Do you think Senator Paul is an isolationist?
MCCAIN: I think he has a view of America’s role that is far different from mine in the world.
And I understand also his appeal to many Americans, who are very weary of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and others.
MCCAIN: And I would argue Americans who were weary after World War II, when President Truman said we had to stay in Korea.
CROWLEY: Senator McCain, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
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