I started today’s show with Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, talking with them about the terrorist attacks in Paris and the capital of Mali and Obama’s recent speech on his refusal to stem the Syrian refugee flow.
The audio: 11-20hhs-grahammccain
HH: That was United States Secretary of State, John Kerry talking last night. This morning, that “neutralized” al-Qaeda had gunmen seize a hotel in the capital of Mali, kill more than 27 people, take 100 people hostage. Discussing this and the events of a horrific week, I’m joined from New Hampshire by United States Senator John McCain, presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2008, Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina, seeking the presidential nomination in 2016. Senators, welcome. Senator McCain, you have seniority, what was John Kerry thinking and how does [Mali] fit into the picture of this week?
JM: All I can say is, we have something on a ballot in Arizona about whether it should be legal or not, we must have been indulging in some of that–
JM: . . . Or something stronger because really, compared with al-Qaeda? It’s bizarre. He has this delusion that continues on including the fact now he’s trying to get in bed with Russians and the Iranians in order to fight ISIS when Bashar al-Assad has killed 240,000 people and he’s responsible largely fort he blood of millions of refugees. I’m telling you, this is crazy stuff that’s going on, Hugh, and we are not winning, and that’s why I’m up here in New Hampshire with Lindsey Graham because I think he’s got the experience, the talent, the background, and the knowledge, and a long time ago, he said we would have to have boots on the ground and we’re going to have to have some boots on the ground if we’re going to defeat ISIS, not a lot, but we’re going to have to have some, my friend.
HH: Senator Graham, a week ago, we spoke as a battle raged in Paris and you were appropriately somber and did not want to point fingers or cast blame, but it’s been a week, and the president’s rhetoric has been remarkable. What’s your thought a week after the massacre in Paris and the day of the massacre in Mali?
LG: The French get it, Obama doesn’t. I never thought I’d live long enough to hear to say that I wish the American president would be as bold as the French president.
The speech the president gave a few days ago really broke my heart, made me sick to my stomach. He’s stubborn, arrogant, prideful, and quite frankly, he is incompetent. The French are going on the offense and President Obama is trying undersell the threat and oversell our successes. Between John Kerry and Barack Obama, radical Islam is running wild and we don’t have a strategy that will lead to success no matter what the president says. Two years ago, I was talking about boots on the ground as a formula to to go forward to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. You have to do it both places. Now people are coming my way in terms of rhetoric, but they really don’t have the vision to destroy ISIL. They’re talking about boots on the ground because they politically have to. I’ve been talking about it because we actually need them.
HH: Let me play for both of you and the audience who have just tuned in, the remarks I think you’re referencing, Senator Graham, of the president in the Philippines on Wednesday of this week.
BO: These are the same folks often times who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring ISIL or using some additional rhetoric is somehow going to solve the problems out there, but apparently they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. Now first they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates, now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me. They have been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are, and it needs to stop because the world is watching.
HH: Now, people don’t often get angry on my show, but I played that for Governor Kasich yesterday who you’ve both known for a long time as s serious guy, you got to hear what the governor said after I played it for him.
JK: That rhetoric was outrageous. To accuse someone, and I assume I’m one of the people he was talking about of making a decision here to keep the folks in Ohio safe based on politics. Frankly, he doesn’t have a whole lot of room to talk about this stuff, Hugh. It’s the first time I’ve heard this tape. I’m flabbergasted. We don’t know if we can verify who these people are and to say these decisions are being made for political reasons. This is an administration that doesn’t know what they’re doing. They have lost all the professionals who were around them. The president disrespected them and had a bunch of kids try to run our foreign policy. They have kids running our foreign policy who screwed all this stuff up.
HH: Senator Graham, do you agree with that assessment, kids are running the foreign policy of the United States?
LG: No, I think Obama’s foreign policy is why we’re here. He doesn’t have kids around, he has people who don’t believe America is exceptional, doesn’t understand the War on Terror. John Kerry is not a kid, he’s just delusional from reality. At the end of the day, Barack Obama made three major mistakes – he left Iraq against sound military advice, al-Qaeda and Iraq were on their knees. He left for political reasons. They came back in Iraq three years ago, had a chance to take Assad. Everybody recommended a “No-Fly Zone,” train a Free Syrian Army, Petraeus, even Secretary Clinton. These were not kids. What he did is he, Obama knows this, he was trying to end war. He doesn’t understand radical Islam. He severely misjudged the rise of ISIL. He’s got nobody to blame but himself. He has sat on the sidelines and watched 250,000 people being slaughtered, women being mass-raped, Yazadi people being destroyed as an entity. He enticed Syrians to join the fight against Assad. He allowed our CIA to do the training of Free Syrian rebels and the Russian president launched an attack against our training base to kill the people that we trained and he did not lift a finger. One of the lowest points in the history of the American presidency. The Russian president killed the people we trained and the American president hasn’t done a damn thing about it. So he’s incompetent, everybody in the world knows he’s a poor champion of freedom and a weak opponent of evil, and his criticism towards Republicans really falls on deaf ears. Barack Obama does not know what he’s doing and the people around him have given some good advice. He’s turned it down, and quite frankly, Hilary Clinton is talking about boots on the ground and a “No Fly Zone” because she’s trying to distance herself from Barack Obama. She’s making a political change. I’ve always had in the forefront of my thinking what’s best to protect America, not what’s best for the political moment.
HH: Senator McCain, it seems to me that former Secretary of State Clinton’s speech yesterday, she was trying to distance herself from herself. What are you advocating that the United States do right now?
JM: Right now, I’m saying establish the Safe Zone for refugees to relieve the refugee flow. Unless we do something like that, Hugh, the flow is going to continue. And remember, the refugee problem is the result of failed policies. There are so many of those running that are saying this is the problem. The problem of refugees is bred by a failed, feckless foreign policy by Barack Obama who is clueless. So what we need to do right now is the “Safe Zone, No-Fly” place for refugees, a place to arm, train and equip then a coalition of Arab states and maybe France and maybe some others where we contribute about 10,000 of 100,000 of our military force to go in and wipe out ISIS. They are not a 1,000. They are not strong, Hugh. We can go in there and take them out. We’re the strongest nation on Earth and we can do that with the coalition of others, and we’re talking about 100,000, as the president likes to set up the straw-man, do nothing or send in 100,000, but we’re talking about a coalition to go in, train, arm, and equip as well as take them out including with this “No-Fly Zone” so that we can stop Bashar al-Assad from the barrel-bombing, and that’s what we need to do and that’s what Lindsey Graham and I have been arguing for for years.
HH: Senator Graham, I want to give you the last minute and a half. The Pentagon is led by Ash Carter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [and] by “Fighting Joe” Dunford. Do you have confidence in those men that they really want to do this and the president is stopping them from it?
LG: I don’t know. I do know this, that General Keane, who was the architect of the surge has suggested that need 10,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, not 3,500, changed the tide of battle in Mosul and Ramadi and to neutralize the Shia militia advantage they have controlled by Iran. I had General Keane believe a regional army can be formed. ISIL is a direct threat to the region unlike Saddam Hussein. I’ll be the first to say that the Jordanians, the Egyptians, and the Saudis see ISIL as a threat to their kingdoms and to their country. They know they will cut their heads off. They are willing to go into the fight, but you have to put Assad on the table. So I can’t explain this, other than to say that this the President of the United States who assured us all that ISIL is the JV team, that Bin Laden, and Al-Qaeda has been decimated. He doesn’t understand the nature of the threat, oversells our successes, and he undersells–
HH: The challenges. Senator Graham, Senator McCain, thank you for joining me from New Hampshire.
End of Interview