MEREDITH VIEIRA: And now to Senator John McCain , who knows how crucial Pennsylvania will be in deciding this election. He is campaigning across the state today. Sunday I sat down with him in Philadelphia. He started by talking about Americas economy in crisis. Last week on "Today," Senator said that he was opposed to a government bailout of insurance giant AIG. Now he appears to have softened his position, so I began by asking him if he now believes in bailouts.
JOHN MCCAIN : The role of government is fundamentally, is to help American people when they are into situations that are not of their own making. So, certainly, I believe in regulation. I spoke out two years ago against Fannie and Freddie. I argued against it. I have said corporate greed four years ago, I spoke against specific examples and other examples of corporate greed.
VIEIRA: But some people watching this
MCCAIN : So Im very clear in my position.
VIEIRA: Some people watching you, Senator, over the past week, say he's not very clear. He says one thing. Then the next day he says something else.
MCCAIN : Actually, Ive been very clear. The American worker is the best and the fundamentals of our economy, and they have been put into a terrible crisis by the excess and greed in Washingtonand Wall Street, and that's what Ive said consistently. I proposed a plan, I proposed a plan to help our economy, but we've got to have an oversight board. Weve got to have a group of Americans -- Mitt Romney, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, the best people in America to oversight this over $1 trillion, apparently, that we're going to have to spend to fix Americas economy.
HENRY PAULSON: Despite these steps, more is need.
VIEIRA: Lets talk about Paulson, treasury secretary, and Ben Bernanke. They are not equivocal about the situation at all. They said to congress, if you do not accept this bailout package, this plan, we face certain disaster. Do you share their sense of urgency that we are on the brink of collapse?
MCCAIN : Sure. Absolutely. We are in the most serious crisis since World War II.
VIEIRA: This bailout plan, there are figures being thrown around. The last I heard was around $700 billion, give or take. Its certainly not going to help the national debt at all. Were fighting two wars, billions dollars more. Youre somebody who said no more taxes. Somethings got to give.
MCCAIN : History shows us that if you raise people's taxes in tough economic times, that makes problems worse. That goes back to the Hoover administration.
VIEIRA: So to quote a former president, "read my lips, no new taxes" under your administration?
MCCAIN : I don't know. That phrase obviously has lots of connotations to it, but no, Im not going to raise anybody's taxes.
VIEIRA: So no new taxes if you're president?
MCCAIN : I will not raise taxes in a time of a hurting economy because it will hurt, obviously, our ability to recover from this. I am opposed to new taxes.
VIEIRA: You have said, Senator, that -- I mean, there are a lot of reasons for this financial crisis, but you have said, bottom line, it's those fat cats. Its the greed of Wall Street. And you said, you promised
MCCAIN : and corruption in Washington.
VIEIRA: And corruption in Washington. But about Wall Street. You said you promised to crack down on ceos who walked away with huge severance packages. And yet, the person that up until recently was your public face really on your economic policies was Carly Fiorina. Shes a former ceo of Hewlett-Packard. She was fired in 2005, but she left with, I think it was a $45 million golden parachute, while 20,000 of her employees were laid off. She is an example of exactly the kind of person you say is at the root of the problem. The CEO-
MCCAIN : I don't think so.
VIEIRA: How can you say that?
MCCAIN : Well, because I think she did a good job as CEO in many respects. I don't know the details of her compensation package, but she's one of many advisers that I have.
VIEIRA: But she did get a $45 million golden parachute, after being fired, while 20,000 of her employees were laid off.
MCCAIN : I have many of the people -- and I do not know the details of what happened.
VIEIRA: Senator, let me ask you, because this woman was obviously, again, the public face on your economic policies, how can you not know the details of her past? I mean, that would be awfully important.
MCCAIN : Well, I know that she was a very successful businesswoman, started out as a part-time secretary and made her way to the top of the corporate ladder as one of the biggest CEOs in the United States of America.
SARAH PALIN: John McCain and I, we're going to put an end to the mismanagement and abuses in Washington. [...]