CBS's Harry Smith to McCain: "Is the 'Straight Talk Express' Going Off the Road?"

Republican Senator and presidential candidate John McCain appeared with his wife on the April 26 edition of "The Early Show" to discuss the war in Iraq and his presidential campaign. Host Harry Smith wondered if the "‘straight talk express’ is going off the road." Why? McCain dared to cite some progress in Iraq.

Smith also asked McCain if he still would have started the war in Iraq, knowing the information that is now know.

"Let me ask you this. Knowing what we know now, that there were no WMD's, that there really were no connections between Iraq and Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, would you still --would you have still started this war with Iraq?"

McCain responded that Saddam Hussein actually attempted to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Smith interrupted him and asserted, "we know all of that information is false now." Not true. According to Factcheck.org, the Lord Butler investigation found Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire uranium from Niger. The Butler report states the following.

"It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible."

The transcript of the relevant portion is below.

SMITH: Senator, let me start with the Democrats are getting ready to move this legislation toward the White House, money for the troop support for the next year or so, but with a date certain of troop withdrawals. If you were the president of the United States, would you sign the legislation?

JOHN McCAIN: Of course not. A date of troop withdrawal is a date for certain surrender. We'd have to -- obviously, we'd have to leave, chaos would ensue in the region, and they would follow us home. And that's what they say they would do. And not necessarily what I say we would do, so it's a recipe for disaster.

SMITH: Let me ask you this. Knowing what we know now, that there were no WMD's, that there really were no connections between Iraq and Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, would you still --would you have still started this war with Iraq?

JOHN McCAIN: Given the information that we had at the time, of course. And the fact is that Saddam Hussein had attempted to acquire weapons of mass destruction --

SMITH: But Senator, we know that all of that information is false now.

JOHN McCAIN: Harry, Harry, if everything had gone well as it should have it wasn't so terribly mismanaged and we had a peaceful democratic Iraq now, we would all be glad that it had. Obviously, the mismanagement of the war has caused us to look back obviously in great sorrow. So it depends on whether -- if the war had been managed correctly after the initial success, I think we would all be happy. One the great cruel really terrible people was removed. But obviously it was so terrible -- the war was so badly mismanaged, we all regret the results of what's happened. We've sacrificed so many young Americans.

SMITH: Your campaign was famous eight years ago for the "straight talk express." And your most recent trip to Baghdad, you painted a far more optimistic picture of what was actually going on, on the ground there than exists. Is the "straight talk express" going off the road?

JOHN McCAIN: No, and you know what? Baghdad is safer than it was. I'm not saying last throes. I'm not saying few dead-enders. I'm saying it's long and hard and tough. But there is progress being made, as General Petraeus stated yesterday. And we got to at least give this new strategy a chance to succeed in my view. And I think that the Maliki government has to perform as well. Look this is very difficult. And I never said anything else. I don't care what the impression was. But, look, the fact is, that this long and hard and tough -- and I've said that a thousand times and that's what I mean. And if I said anything else, than that was incorrect.