Senator Lindsey Graham joined me to start the program today:
HH: I’m pleased to welcome to start the show United States Senator Lindsey Graham from the great state of South Carolina. Senator Graham, welcome, it’s good to talk to you.
LG: Thank you, Hugh, visit our state and spend money.
HH: I’m going to do that. You can count on that because of 94.5 and my other affiliates down there. Look, today gives a whole new definition of the term going postal, and I want to start there. 61 year old Florida mailman, Doug Hughes, landed a gyrocopter on your Capitol, your office front lawn this morning. Do you think he should have been shot out of the sky before he got that close to the Capitol?
LG: Yes. He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky. I don’t know why he wasn’t, but our nation is under siege. Radical Islam is a threat to our homeland. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already. And if somebody is willing to, you know, approach vital government infrastructure, they should do so at their own peril. I don’t know if he’s mentally ill. I’m glad he’s alive in that regard, if he’s mentally ill, but we’ve got to be more serious about our national security.
HH: A drone has landed on the White House lawn, a guy jumped over the fence, got into the front door at the White House. We’ve had packages all over the place. Have we let our guard down, Lindsey Graham, after nearly 14 years since 9/11?
LG: It’s an attitude more than anything. These are episodes or instances of just poor security, not taking the situation as seriously as we should. But President Obama has done a miserable job of explaining the threat, marginalizing the threats we face, explain away and excusing the behavior of our enemies like Russia and Iran to the point that people have had a false sense of security. The beheadings change everything, but if you left it up to our president to inform us as a nation to threats we face at home and abroad, he has been a miserable failure. And that does take a toll on the country.
HH: Now Senator, this is sort of a poker tell if you’re on the stage with me at the Reagan library for the presidential debate. Do you think this country is more vulnerable to the sort of mass casualty attack we suffered on 9/11 today that it was six and a half years ago?
LG: Without any doubt. There are more terrorist organizations, some large enough to be an army, with more capability, with more safe haven, with more men, equipment and money to attack the homeland than before 9/11. They are in Africa, they’re all over the Mideast. Yes, without any doubt, there are more threats to our homeland, mass casualty potential than any time since before 9/11. President Obama has not decimated al Qaeda. Terrorism is running wild throughout the Mideast. And the nightmare of all nightmares is for a radical Islamic organization to acquire a weapon of mass destruction. The only reason they killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and not three million, Hugh, is they couldn’t get the weapons to do so. And if you’ll let the Iranians go down the nuclear road, I’m afraid they will share that technology with a terrorist organization, and it will be a bad day for America and our allies.
HH: And if they let a gyrocopter into the no-fly zone, that might not be able to carry a nuke, because those are very difficult to carry. But it could carry a weapon of mass destruction or a lethal agent. I mean, I’m just stunned by this, and I don’t think quite the news media knows what to do with it, yet, because Mr. Hughes is quite obviously off his rocker.
HH: But nevertheless, there are lots of fanatics out there who aren’t off their rocker who are going to study this.
LG: Well, a chemical, biological or nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists is the nightmare scenario for the United States. There are more organizations who desire to hit us than ever before. And their ability to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear agents is growing. And Syria is a complete cauldron. It is a nightmare. It is hell on Earth. And all the weapons banging around down there, in Mosul, we found out you had some mad scientist under the ISIL banner trying to make chemical agents. We’ve known that the ISIL has used chemical agents, kind of crude, but the nightmare scenario is for a nation state like Iran or North Korea or someone else to share this technology.
HH: That brings me to the story breaking this afternoon on the New York Times by Rick Gladstone and Thomas Erdbrink. From Tehran, Iran’s president today, not the Supreme Leader, the president, dismissed the compromise worked out between the Obama administration and the Congress over a pending nuclear agreement as internal American politics, saying the Iranians were negotiating with six countries, not just the United States. The president, Hassan Rouhani also reiterated Iran’s position that onerous economic sanctions that have been imposed on the country for years by the United Nations, U.S. and European Union must be lifted with the signing of any final agreement. What do you make of that, Lindsey Graham?
LG: Hang on 30 seconds.
HH: He’s obviously got to check with the staff here and maybe get a copy of that so he doesn’t have to rely upon my…
LG: I had to vote. I’m sorry.
HH: Okay, we like you to vote. We like you to vote.
LG: Okay, so what do I make of the Iranians writing off this as a no big deal?
LG: A misunderstanding of the consequences of this, here’s the markers that I’m trying to lay down to the President. Don’t think about taking this deal to the United Nations before you come to Congress. With a 19-0 vote requiring Congress to approve any deal before he can lift Congressional sanctions is a sea change in the politics. This is Democrats basically breaking away from President Obama, who threatened to veto the original legislation. They could not sell to their own constituents, I trust Obama so much, I don’t want to look at the deal myself before he lifts Congressional sanctions we’ve created. So the Iranian statements indicate to me they don’t understand the significance that the role Congress plays. If the Congress looks at this deal and we get over 60 votes to disapprove the deal, I think it becomes very hard for President Obama to stay part of the deal.
HH: If the deal includes, as President Rouhani said it must, first day lifting of sanctions, will that be rejected by the Congress, in your opinion, Lindsey Graham?
LG: Overwhelmingly. Here’s what I think will happen. If John Kerry continues to give into the Ayatollah demands, in two areas, this deal is probably dead on arrival. And I don’t want to prejudge it. I want to wait and see what it actually looks like on paper. But if there’s an immediate lifting of the sanctions without, you know, proving that you’re complying with the deal in change of behavior, that will be overwhelmingly rejected by the Congress. And the inspection regime has to be intrusive. It has to be anytime, anywhere. So when the Ayatollah said that military facilities cannot be inspected, I don’t think Congress is going to accept that at all. So if there is an immediate relief of sanctions, or if there is not a requirement of anytime, anywhere inspections, I think it will have a hard time getting through the Congress.
HH: What about the underground installation, Lindsey Graham? What is the minimum action that has to be taken with regards to the underground…
HH: Yeah, Fordow.
LG: Okay, so what they’re saying is that there is no enrichment going on in Fordow, but we’re not going to close the facility. It’s going to be an R&D center. President Obama’s own words indicated that you don’t need a hardened underground facility for a peaceful nuclear power program. If I were the President, I would stick to his original statement. It’s going to be a tough sell, Hugh, to allow the Iranian regime to keep open a facility that was hidden from international view, that was an illegal site to begin with, an underground, hardened facility to keep it open for any purpose just to save face on their part. So the President is contradicting his own earlier statement. So I think that’s going to be a very, very tough sell. And let me just end with this. Why would we, given what Iran’s done in the past with their nuclear program, the lying and the cheating, even risk allowing an underground facility to be left intact?
HH: Okay, now I want to switch to Iraq with my last question here, or penultimate question. Yesterday, the New York Times’ Rod Nordland reported on the condition of the Iraqi army, Senator Graham. We are basically starting over. It has fallen apart in four years. It is corrupt.
HH: Are we there for the long haul, in your opinion? Do we have to be?
LG: The answer is yes. Now we don’t need 100,000 troops, but first question, you’re a lawyer, you know, we think at things sort of a logical way here. Does the outcome in Iraq matter to the United States, or is it their problem? I believe that ISIL is a threat to the homeland. Do you agree with that?
LG: So if you have a fractured Iraq that becomes a safe haven for ISIL so that they can become richer and more powerful, and to say that the outcome in Mosul and Anbar Province doesn’t affect us is disconnected from reality regarding out national security interests. So if you believe ISIL is a direct threat to the homeland in Iraq and Syria, then you should not hesitate to do what is necessary to defeat them, hold and build once they’re destroyed. The Iraqi army is in shambles. If we’d left 10,000 troops behind, I think the political progress would have continued, and they would not have fractured, and Iran wouldn’t be as dominant as they are today. So the task at hand is to liberate Mosul, a city of a million people, eventually go to Anbar Province. You can’t do that with Shiia militias. So I think we’re going to need somewhere around 10,000 U.S. military personnel in a support role with Special Forces to make sure ISIL is defeated in Iraq. And if we take them on in Iraq and lose, we’re more exposed here at home.
HH: Senator Graham, thank you. As you leave the Capitol today, keep your eyes up looking for gyrocopters. I appreciate you taking the time, Senator.
End of interview.