HH: Joined now by presidential candidate and United States Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham, welcome, it’s great to have you. I didn’t know until last week you’re the father of ISIS.
LG: Yeah, you know, I didn’t know it, either, but I think the person who’s giving me paternity over ISIS doesn’t quite understand how it was birthed.
HH: Yeah, well that is, it launched Charles Krauthammer on a rocket ride on this show last week, and I imagine it must have struck you as being out there. When you announced, I played your announcement speech at the pool hall. It’s clear to me you’re running because of the war. And what do you hope to achieve in this campaign, if not the nomination?
LG: Well, I’m not running for any other purpose. I’ve got the greatest job in the world being senator from South Carolina. I’m running to be commander-in-chief. It’s not just the war. It’s the threats we face at home. 80 million Baby Boomers are going to retire in the next 20 to 30 years and wipe out Medicare and Social Security if you don’t do something like Simpson Bowles, but I think I’m the best person to be commander-in-chief at a time when we need somebody who understands the threat. And to my friend, Rand Paul, we’re in a religious war. Nobody brought this on America. I’m not responsible for it. He’s not responsible for it. The people we’re fighting are religious Nazis, and as soon as we understand that, the better off we’ll be. I’m running to win.
HH: Now I believe that last night, I was at the Bradley Prizes last night. General Jack Keane gave an overview of the situation we find ourselves in. It’s very bleak right now, Senator Graham. Do you think the American people get it?
LG: I think they’re beginning to get it, but it is very bleak, because radical Islam is running wild on the Sunni side. The Iranians have toppled, basically, four Arab capitals, so at the end of the day, the Sunni-Shiia conflict is growing, and the ability of radical Islamists to strike the United States is as high as I’ve seen it since 9/11, because there are more of them. There are more safe havens for money, more weapons, more men and material to strike the homeland, and our policies in terms of degrading and destroying ISIL are a complete joke, and Iran is just absolutely wearing Obama out when it comes to negotiations.
HH: It was announced this week that Iran has increased their store of enriched uranium by 20% since the negotiations began. Ought that not lead us to walk away from the table? They’ve been cheating while they’ve been talking.
LG: Any rational person would have suspended negotiations a long time ago, saying listen, we’re not going to negotiate with you about your nuclear program as you try to destabilize the region. We’re not going to negotiate with you as you try to build up your ICBM program. You’re still the largest state sponsor of terrorism, so we’re not going to talk about relieving sanctions until you change your behavior in other areas. And Obama wants a deal so bad, I don’t think there’s much of anything the Iranians could do to get him to walk away.
HH: Now he has got four American hostages as poker chips, and there was a story about this yesterday that the American State Department has urged the families not to talk. They’ve been tortured. Is that going to be the window dressing on this deal, the release of these four hostages so that we applaud briefly without looking at the fine print?
LG: I think they’re going to, you know, one, I hope we do get the hostages released. But at the end of the day, the Congress will have a final say as to whether or not this bill is good enough. And here’s what I’m looking for. Does this deal allow anytime, anywhere inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities, including military sites? Does this agreement allow Iran to access cash before they change their behavior? Does this agreement allow inspections to retire just with the passage of time without changing behavior? So I’m very firm in my understanding of what a good deal should look like. And the worst possible outcome is that the negotiations with the Iranians over their nuclear program leads to a nuclear arms race where the Sunni Arabs believe they have to get a nuclear weapon of their own.
HH: Now Senator Graham, I believe eight of nine on the Intelligence Committee voted against the USA Freedom Act and the sunset of the Patriot Act. Are we much less safe this week than we were last week?
LG: Yes. Our number one, the whole metadata program was to connect phone numbers, that there’s a terrorist overseas calling in to the United States, we’re matching up phone numbers, not names, we’re not listening to the phone call. If there’s a hit in terms of a call inside the United States, you go get a warrant to try to monitor the content if there’s anything terrorist related going on. That program has now been compromised to the point that I think it’s pretty much worthless. We’re telling the enemy way too much about what we’re doing. I’m concerned about privacy, but I’m more concerned right now about an attack on our homeland. And these programs have been demagogued, and at the end of the day, we’re lessening our defenses in terms of reducing our military spending, as far as the intelligence community, their budgets are being reduced, and we’ve compromised a program that I think is essential to prevent another 9/11.
HH: I’ll be right back with United States Senator Lindsey Graham. Don’t go anywhere.
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HH: Senator Graham, what’s your presidential campaign website?
LG: You know, I don’t know. I’ll have to get that to you. I don’t have the name of it right of the top of my head.
HH: Going to have to work on these basics, Senator. Okay, here’s my question. Yesterday, a lone wolf terrorist, actually, not lone wolf, he had two assistants, was shot and killed by the FBI. He had been under surveillance. He is a jihadi, had been radicalized by ISIS in Boston.
HH: Do you have any idea how many people are on the same level of surveillance by the Bureau as this man who turned out to be a jihadi?
LG: I can tell you this without releasing any numbers. The system is overwhelmed. There are more of these guys than we could possibly track. The number of foreign fighters flowing to jihad in Syria and Iraq goes up every month. Many of them have Western passports. We’re worried about them coming back to Western countries and getting here and hitting our allies. The number of people who are being attracted through these websites where they’re calling for jihad, lone wolf attacks, is growing exponentially, because ISIL is seen as a winner. When they take Ramadi, when they expand their power throughout the region, Libya, when they expand their influence inside of Syria, they’re being seen by disturbed people as winners. The only way you’re going to change this is to create a degrade/destroy campaign, more American troops on the ground in Iraq, around 10,000. I said this months ago. This is what General Keane has been recommending to really build up the Iraqi Security Forces so we can take ISIL down. And you’ve essentially got to go into Syria. The best way to stop the lone wolf attacks is to pull the caliphate up by its roots. And the only way you can do that is to partner with regional armies and go into Syria and Iraq and destroy these guys.
HH: When you say the system is overwhelmed, clearly it is in Iraq and Syria. Do you believe that domestic law enforcement is overwhelmed as well?
LG: Yes. There’s no doubt in my mind that the allure of ISIL grows every time they have a conquest. They seem to be defying all Western attempts to contain them. They seem to be running wild throughout the region. And they’re being viewed by many as winners. At the end of the day, they’re losers. Their ideology is a losing ideology. But President Obama’s degrade/destroy program is completely a joke. And if you want to prevent a future attack on this country, you’ve got to go over there to the source of the problem and come up with a campaign that will actually degrade and destroy ISIL, and I’m afraid that’s going to require American boots on the ground, more than we have today, in partnership with the regional forces. If I thought I could do it any other way, I would do it. But I don’t see how we can protect our homeland unless we go over and there and pull the caliphate up by its roots.
HH: Now Senator Graham, I had Senator McConnell on last hour, and I asked him, I read today Harry Reid’s going to prevent a vote on Defense Appropriations. And the tools that we need are in the Defense Appropriations bill. Are you in favor of breaking the filibuster to bring the Defense Appropriations bill to the President’s desk and defy him to veto it?
LG: Yes, I am absolutely committed to increasing Defense spending. I don’t mind trying to increase non-Defense spending in the area of the FBI, the CIA, the CDC, the NIH. These sequestrations budget cuts that you’ve been so against from day one, God bless you, are eroding the ability to defend ourselves, and it’s hurting our intelligence community. The plus up in the Defense Authorization bill will repair some of the damage, and I hope Harry Reid understands the threats we face and will stop this effort to deny more Defense spending at a time we need it the most.
HH: And if he doesn’t, would you support breaking the filibuster to put the President on the spot?
LG: I would, yes, I would literally support any lawful tactic to increase Defense spending, increase our capabilities on the intelligence front before the next 9/11. I cannot tell you how concerned I am about the growing threat to our homeland from radical Islam growing in strength over there. And if we don’t up our game militarily, improve our intelligence capability, it’s just a matter of time until we get hit here at home hard. This is insane to put America in this position. For the commander-in-chief to allow us to get in this position is absolutely malpractice on his part. He is weak, he’s indecisive, he’s exposing our country to, I think, a serious attack. And as we try to repair some of the damage in Congress, our Democratic friends seem to have lost their way, also.
HH: Now every time I make this argument and post a transcript, I’m accused of fearmongering. Earlier this week, one of your colleagues, Senator Paul, said he believes some people were hoping for an attack on America so that we could blame him. That was, I’m sure, a hot moment. But it also betrays to me a fundamental lack of understanding. Mike Morell’s book, The Great War Of Our Time, Lawrence Wright’s book, there isn’t any debate about the level of threat really, is there, Senator Graham?
LG: No, I mean, all I can tell you is that every member of the Senate has the same ability as I do to be informed. And if you spend 15 minutes looking at the situation on the ground in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and other places, you will conclude very quickly there are more terrorist organizations with more safe havens, more men, more equipment, more capability to strike the homeland and our allies than any time since 9/11. It wouldn’t take you 15 minutes to figure that out. The American people see what’s going on. They’re increasingly concerned about it. They’re more willing to engage the enemy over there before they come here. And when a United States Senator suggests that we’re making this up or hyping, it makes we wonder what are you looking at? I’m not trying to scare people. I’m trying to up our game while we still have time.
HH: Lindsey Graham, thank you for joining us, Senator. I will find the Lindsey Graham for President website, and I think it’s actually…
LG: Yeah, it’s just been up a day or two. I’ll get the name to you. Sorry about that.
HH: I think it’s www.lindseygraham.com. Honest to God, I do. I think it’s www.lindseygraham.com.
LG: That’s what I thought it was.
End of interview.