Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Oct. 23, 2011
Location: Unknown

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WALLACE: Joining us now for more on all of this, a leading Republican voice on national security, Senator Lindsey Graham.

Senator, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

I want to start with a big point that Secretary Clinton made at the very end of the interview, that the president has exhibited smart leadership and it's the kind of leadership the world is looking for?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I think in the last year, he's made poor dangerous policy questions at the strategic level when it comes to Iraq. When your military commander who I trust says you need 15,000 to 18,000 in 2012 to secure the gains we fought for, and you have zero and you try to celebrate, that is pretty disappointing.

Israel has been thrown under the bus by this president. His standing in the state of Israel is very low. The Iranians don't fear us at all. They are trying to attack us here.

So, I would argue that Iraq and Afghanistan are being run out of the Chicago, not Washington, in terms of decisions.

WALLACE: What about in the argument that in last six months, Bin Laden is gone, Awlaki is gone, and now, Qaddafi is gone.

GRAHAM: Give him credit for making good tactical decisions, killing Bin Laden. He stuck to it. Well done, Mr. President. Using the drones in Yemen and Pakistan -- well done, Mr. President.

And not able to close the deal in Iraq is a serious mistake. Celebrating leaving with no troops behind is a serious mistake. Panetta said on a scale of one to 10 --

WALLACE: The defense secretary.

GRAHAM: Yes -- that Iraq ending well was an eight in terms of our national security. Ashton Carter said it was a 10.

When it comes to Afghanistan, he rejected the military advice given. There was never an option on the table to pull all the surge forces out by next September his election. He's compromised the second fighting season. He made General Allen's job so much harder. He's putting in question our success in Afghanistan and he ended Iraq poorly, fumbled the ball inside of the tent. I hope I'm wrong about what happens in Iraq, but they are dancing in the streets in Tehran.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about Iraq and let me take Secretary Clinton's argument. She points out quite rightly -- it was President Bush, in fact, of 2008, who negotiated the Status of Forces Agreement which called for all U.S. troops to be out by the end of 2011 and it was clear that Iraqis didn't want us there any longer.

GRAHAM: That is not clear.

WALLACE: Well, why did Prime Minister Maliki put in this poison pill, there could be no legal immunity for our troops?

GRAHAM: I went in Iraq in May to try to urge the Iraqis to support a following force. Every political leader I met with, including Prime al-Maliki, suggested they would do this. Our military commander said we need it.

The Iraqis have no air force. They have intelligence gathering capability. They have they need counterterrorism assistance. There are missions only we can do.

The Iraqis were in my view open-minded to this. This was a failure by the Obama administration to close the deal. The military commander said we needed 15,000 to 18,000 and we have none. So, that's the bottom line here.

At a time when we need troops in Iraq to secure the place against intervention by Iran and they had actors in the region, we are going into 2012 with none. It was his job, the Obama administration's job, to end this well. They failed.

WALLACE: Let's turn to Libya. You were a loud critic of Obama's decision to work within NATO and as one White House official put it so unfortunately, to lead from behind, but the Obama White House is pointing out now, topple Qaddafi without the loss of a single -- single -- American soldier and cost a billion as opposed to $805 billion in Iraq.

Was the president right and critics like yourself wrong?

GRAHAM: If I hear a Republican nominee embracing leading from behind, they will have a very difficult time in South Carolina.

It was right to take Qaddafi down. The president deserves criticism for being involved in the no-fly zone initially. He deserves criticism for waiting so long. Qaddafi was on the ropes. We let him off the ropes and we only got involved when he's about to massacre everybody in Misrata. Thank God for strong women I said at the time, but this idea --

WALLACE: The fact that Hillary Clinton who --

GRAHAM: Yes, who pushed the president, along with --

WALLACE: Susan Rice.

GRAHAM: Yes. So, at the end of the day, he came in to the game after Qaddafi reemerged and started killing by the thousands of his own people. But this whole period of time where he was left unattended, the war lasted longer, more Libyans got killed.

And here's the big mistake by leaving from behind. When you take American air power off of the table, NATO is a much weaker force and these thousands of surface-to-air missiles that are now compromised and chemical caches that were broken into, are result of the war lasting too long and the devastation in Libya that has to be now dealt with is all the result of allowing the war going on much longer. If you go to war, go to win. Don't leave from behind.

WALLACE: What do you make of this push by human rights organizations and we heard Secretary Clinton endorsed it today to have an investigation of the death of Qaddafi as a possible war crime.

GRAHAM: I'm for the rule of law, even for the worst among us. And when you want to talk about foreign policy security decisions, let's have an investigation. But let's give our American forces a jail they can use in the war on terror. He failed to close Gitmo.

President Obama said he would close Gitmo. Well, we're not closing Gitmo and he's not using Gitmo, so we don't have a place to put a prisoner. If we caught a high value target tomorrow, where do we put them? We're not longer the CIA to interrogate terror suspects. That's a huge mistake and we're starting to try to criminalize the world by putting terrorist in federal court, unlike any other war we've been involved in.

So, let's investigate what happened to Qaddafi, but let's have a detention policy to protect Americans. Let's stop reading terrorists the Miranda rights. This president for the last year and half has made some very poor national security decisions that I'm afraid were going to come back to haunt this country. I hope I'm wrong.

WALLACE: How do you answer the other question I asked Secretary Clinton about the distinction, putting troops or at least military intervention in central Africa, in Libya, not troops on the ground, but air strikes and doing nothing in Syria? She says we basically have to be smart and take it on a case by case basis.

GRAHAM: Well, the world community is a bit divided about Syria. I support putting people in Africa. That's where this war is headed, in Africa.

And this idea about sanctions working -- if Iran gets a nuclear weapon where they are headed, it will be the biggest change in our national security environment in my lifetime, and this administration is blowing it when it comes to Iran. They are not being strong enough when it comes to Syria.

Israel has been thrown under the bus.

And Iranians are still emboldened. They're going to have a shot in Iraq they would never had otherwise. And if the Iranians develop a nuclear capability, it's going to throw into chaos.

And Obama's policies when it comes to Iran is not working, and they have not been bold enough when it comes to Syria. We live in dangerous times, and a lot of political decisions are being made about foreign policy.

WALLACE: When you sat down, and I hope I'm not talking out of school. You say you always have to think of what your audience says and you said your audience today is the 2012 Republican candidates. What is that -- what is your message that you want to get them?

GRAHAM: Well, my message to the American people is that these decisions matter. I want the troops to come home. God knows they fought well in Iraq and the president is right to say they come home with their head held up high. But I want to end well.

What happens in Iraq now is going to be much more difficult in terms of the Iraqi people being successful. Iran is the biggest winner.

I want our presidential candidates to talk about foreign policy. What would you do with Gitmo? Would you use it? Would you let the CIA interrogate prisoners? What would you do in Afghanistan? Would you pull all the troops out by September of next year, compromising the second fighting season?

What would you do with Iran if they threaten if they try to kill an ambassador here on U.S. soil? What is your policy to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon?

At the end of the day, these decisions that President Obama is making I think are strategically unsound and our people need to step up and challenge him. We've got a jobs problem. We've got a national security problem that's growing by the day.

WALLACE: When you say they need to step, you think they have failed to do so, so far?

GRAHAM: They have not done it robust enough. The issues that I'm talking about: Iran having a nuclear weapon -- a nation without a viable jail on the war on terror, Iraq now being compromised, Afghanistan being compromised, our best friend in Israel feeling they can't trust us -- all these issues are worth more discussion on our side.

And President Obama, I would praise him if I thought he was right. If he left 10,000 to 15,000 troops in Iraq, I would have defended him. If he had given General Allen a chance to finish the job in Afghanistan and not shorten the fighting season for political reasons, I would have stood by him.

GRAHAM: I've tried to help him close Gitmo. But we can't, we should use it.

So, to the Republican Party, national security matters, step up on it.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, hot dose was strong coffee this morning. Thank you so much for joining us. And it's always a pleasure to talk with you, sir.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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