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ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript


Location: Minneapolis, MN

ABC "This Week with Geoge Stephanopoulos"

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And for more from the convention, I'm joined here in the twin cities by Senator McCain's best friend, Senator Lindsey Graham. Welcome.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Not a lot of competition for that title. (Laughter.)

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get to Gustav right away.

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes, sir.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We now know that President Bush almost certainly will not be here tomorrow night because the hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast. I know you're in touch with the high command of the McCain campaign. What other changes are being planned?

SEN. GRAHAM: They're being talked about right now today. John and Governor Palin are going to Mississippi to talk with Governor Barbour today about what to expect. And the goal is to make sure we get it right -- that we let the country know, the people on the Gulf Coast know --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Because of Katrina.

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes -- that's we're not going to do anything here inappropriate, to use this convention to raise money to help people who are going to be affected by the hurricane and to make sure that we send the right signal to the people in harm's way.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator McCain yesterday raised the prospect of postponing the convention. Is that one idea that could make some sense, concentrate on the convention into Thursday night and basically putting it off for three days?

SEN. GRAHAM: It might, depending on how thing plays out. The goal is to make sure that you take the conservative approach, that we're not seen to be out of touch with people who could have everything they've worked for lost. And no one here, no one in Senator's McCain's inner circle wants to do anything to be insensitive to what is coming. And I think what is coming is a major blow to the Gulf Coast.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would advise Senator McCain to be there?

SEN. GRAHAM: I'd advise Senator McCain to go down as he is today to figure out what can I do. And I don't want him to get in the way down there. I want him to be briefed in a way that doesn't get in the way of preparing for the hurricane and to take action to show solidarity with the people on the Gulf Coast and not to distract from their problems.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's go to the stunning choice he made the other day of Governor Palin as running mate. I want to show everybody what you said about Senator McCain's criteria for vice president back in May. Take a look.

SEN. GRAHAM: (From tape.) He'll pick a vice presidential nominee that he think will help the country if something happened to him, lead the country if something happened to him.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that the criteria Senator McCain used, someone who could lead the country if something happened to him?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think what he was looking for is a partner that tells a story about what he wants to do in Washington. The idea of Washington being broken is accepted by most Americans. The Congress is at 12 percent approval rating. Who are the 12 percent and what do they like? John has a reputation of being a guy pushing the institution called Congress, and Senator -- excuse me, Governor Palin, what she's done in Alaska is what we would hope to do in Washington. That's why he picked her.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But is she ready to serve on day one? It sounds like you're shifting the criteria.

SEN. GRAHAM: No. I think so. I think so. Compared to Barack Obama, absolutely. She has done things that Barack Obama would never dream of. To go in her state and say, I'm not going to build a bridge to nowhere, a $400-million appropriation that was passed by brute force in the Congress between two senior members of the congressional delegation, very powerful figures in Washington, and for her to say to the citizens of Alaska, we're not going to do this because this is not necessary and it's wasteful, to take on your own Republican -- (unintelligible).

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But she turned against that only -- she campaigned for it in her 2006 race and turned against it in 2007 only after it became a national joke.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, the point is that she had the courage to say we're not going to do it because it's not the right signal we want to send to everybody else from Alaska. She took on the Republican Party chairman and called him unethical. She took on the attorney general, who eventually resigned because he was doing things that were inappropriate. I'm in politics. I voted against the bridge to nowhere.

I was one of 14. It scared the heck out of me because I knew what was going to come my way. I can't imagine being the governor of the state and telling the people who were able to secure the bridge, we're not going to do it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what national security experience does she have?

SEN. GRAHAM: She's been a governor. She's been in charge of the National Guard -- more than Obama. What has he done? What has he done? What has Senator Obama done in terms of managing a war? The only time he's been involved in war is when he voted on Iraq. He voted to cut off funding to people in the war. He opposed the surge, said it wouldn't work, that it would make things worse. His judgment, when it comes to matters of war, have been terrible. She's tough, she's talented, she's ready to lead.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator, Karl Rove and other Republicans when Governor Tim Kaine was being considered said the National Guard experience was irrelevant.


MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what President Bush said about Governor Clinton back in 1992. What do you say to this Republican delegate from Mobile, Alabama, Todd Burkhalter? He says this, "We're in a global war, we're in a global economy, so it's less than honest if someone says that this woman is qualified to lead America right now."

SEN. GRAHAM: I would say that compared to Senator Obama, she is qualified beyond belief to change the culture in Washington that is --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's the argument you've been using against Senator Obama.

SEN. GRAHAM: The argument I've been using against --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So how does she meet the standard that John McCain is setting?

SEN. GRAHAM: When you look at her resume of being a governor versus his resume of being a senator, he's been gone more than he's been there. She's been in office since 2006. She's vetoed budgets that were excessive, she has given money back to the people of Alaska by tax cuts, she's reformed institutions that are incredibly broken. She's been bold. She's been a leader. She's put her own political career at risk. And Senator Obama has been gone more than he's been here, and he's never challenged his own party to do anything different.

So John McCain is trying to tell the American people, I got it. You think you're government is broken? So do I. I picked somebody that knows how to fix broken governments. I've picked somebody that will stand up to powerful people in her own backyard, and together we're going to change this place. John Biden is a wonderful man, but there's not a change bone in his body when it comes to budgets and spending.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But he does have more national security experience.

SEN. GRAHAM: He has national security experience, but experience and judgment need to come together. He voted against the first Gulf War, he opposed the surge. He wanted to partition Iraq. I think Governor Palin has the characteristics of a leader that can take over on a moment's notice, but the most qualified person to be commander- in-chief of all four is John McCain.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So Senator McCain wins, and God forbid, tragedy strikes, you'd feel confident, safe, and secure a year from now if Governor Palin were the president?

SEN. GRAHAM: I would dread the day that Senator Obama took the oath and become commander-in-chief.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not what I asked.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, let me tell you, here's my choice. My choice is to elect him, Barack Obama, who got it incredibly wrong in Iraq, who would sit down with Ahmadinejad and change the whole dynamic of the Mideast by empowering a nut and sending every wrong signal to extremists and moderates. His judgment in these areas have been terrible -- proven to be terrible. I would be proud to call her my president. I think she could step in and fulfill the agenda domestically and internationally that John McCain wants to set for the country. Compared to Barack Obama, I think she'd make one hell of a commander-in-chief.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Our next guest is Senator John Kerry. I want to show a bit of what he said at the Democratic Convention. Take a look.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From tape.) Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same Rove tactics, the same Rove staff, the same old politics of fear and smear.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?

SEN. GRAHAM: I don't know what the heck he's talking about. Who have we feared or smeared? We've run ads questioning whether or not Barack Obama is a celebrity or a leader. We're putting questions out there about Senator Obama. What has he actually done? He's been in the Senate since 2006. He's been gone more than he's been there. He's never reached across the aisle to do one hard thing, and when it came to Iraq, he went two and a half years without visiting the country, never sat down and talked to General Petraeus about how the surge is going, declared the surge a failure, never got engaged at all, went to Iraq because we made him go, shamed him into going, comes back and says the surge still hasn't worked and I wouldn't have changed my vote.

So what we've tried to do is expose the guy for the calculating politician that he is. And Governor Palin, whether you think she's a good choice or not, I can tell you, she's got a resume of taking on hard issues and standing up to tough people. If you can take on Ted Stevens and that crowd in Alaska, you can handle the Russians.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Graham, thanks very much.

SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.

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