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FOX "Interview With Senator Lindsey Graham" - Transcript


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MR. GALLAGHER: Well, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switching sides in the United States Senate, putting Democrats one vote away from that 60-vote filibuster-proof Senate majority, but now, many Republicans say that the Specter switch, are you ready for this? Could actually be good news for the GOP, especially when it comes to appointing the next Supreme Court justice.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joins us here live.

The rule on this is, welcome, Senator.

MS. MACCALLUM: Good to have you here in the newsroom.

SEN. GRAHAM: I know everybody is cutting back.

MR. GALLAGHER: Yeah, they took the desks away.

SEN. GRAHAM: Have to stand up for three hours.

MR. GALLAGHER: We know the rule is that for the Senate, for the nominee to get out of the Senate --


MR. GALLAGHER: Out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, one Republican has to say, yeah, he goes. Arlen Specter could have been that one; now, somebody else has to rubber stamp.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, if he just gets one Republican, he screwed up.


SEN. GRAHAM: There are a lot of Republicans who understand that President Obama won the election, ready to support a nominee that's left of center. None of us, I hope, will support an ideologue who is a radical liberal.

I hope he will find somebody that a lot of Republicans can support, even though we may not have picked the person, that's qualified, that's not an ideologue, that has a good background.

MS. MACCALLUM: Do you think he will? I mean, you know, in a lot of his picks so far, many people feel that he's been more liberal than he was as a candidate.

SEN. GRAHAM: Absolutely.

MS. MACCALLUM: Do you think he'll seize this opportunity to pick somebody who, as he said in the past, has empathy and, you know, qualities like that?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, you know, I don't want a judge to take his robe and become a politician, an empathetic politician wearing a robe. I want a judge to decide cases fairly.

The only way you could screw up is to nominate somebody so out of center, left of center, radically liberal the public didn't like, all Republicans unite against and you lose moderate Democrats and he doesn't vet them well.

So it is his to lose, quite frankly.

MR. GALLAGHER: What about -- you cannot be happy about Arlen Specter switching sides, and last week you came out and saying, look, we need to broaden this tent.

SEN. GRAHAM: Absolutely.

MR. GALLAGHER: We need to get moderate Republicans --

SEN. GRAHAM: Absolutely.

MR. GALLAGHER: A lot of them have said, well, wait a minute, we need to get back to the basics, which is the base of our party.

SEN. GRAHAM: They're not inconsistent; the country is center right. But I don't think I could win in Pennsylvania. I'm not moving to try. We need to get people who can embrace center right politics, but win in states like Pennsylvania and Maine. Are we better off with Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, even though they vote with me 60 or 70 percent of the time? Yes. Because if we replace them with Democrats, that's bad for the party.

We've got to be able to win in blue states. Tom Ridge could win in Pennsylvania. I hope Pat Toomey could. But the Democrat is pro- life, so this is not about abortion politics. The Democrat in Pennsylvania is pro-life.

We need people who will carry our banner in states that are blue that can win, and center right politics is not our problem. Our problem is finding candidates that can broaden the party.

MR. GALLAGHER: California, the Northeast --

SEN. GRAHAM: Ronald Reagan came from California.

MR. GALLAGHER: There's no inroads there.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, see, I don't buy that. I think there are plenty of people in California and the Northeast who are scared as hell of what we're doing to the budget. They don't want the government to run health care. They're worried about Pakistan falling and getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq the wrong way.

Center right politics sells with independents. The largest group in America are not Republicans, not Democrats, but independents and when you ask them questions about what they want in terms of spending and taxes and national security, they're more with us. We just need to get people that can sell in the regions you named.

The politics are not the problem; it's the messengers.

MS. MACCALLUM: And who are those messengers? I mean, who do you see out there --

SEN. GRAHAM: Tom Ridge can win. Okay.


SEN. GRAHAM: I think Mike Castle can win in Delaware. I think we're going to win in Connecticut because Dodd has got problems.

I think Mark Kirk could win in Illinois. We've got some people out there that could be competitive in blue states.

There are 100 Senators, 50 states with two Senators. Do the math. We've got to win more than just the South and the Midwest.

MR. GALLAGHER: But who is your star, Senator? I mean, you look at Bobby Jindal; you look at Mitt Romney --

SEN. GRAHAM: So many to choose from. Yeah.

MR. GALLAGHER: But who is the real star? A lot of people saying Bobby Jindal didn't do well the last time that he spoke publicly --

SEN. GRAHAM: Somebody maybe you've never heard of.


SEN. GRAHAM: I don't know, but I know this, our party's politics is closer to America ideologically than President Obama, but he's connected with young people. We lost ground with Hispanics. We've got to repair the damage there. Young people voted against us by 19 points, 18 to 34-year-old demographic. They are the ones that's the biggest loser of the Obama agenda of growing this government, tripling the national debt. They'll never be able to have what we've had, and we need to convince them that there's a better way. You can be compassionate, humane, you can be caring without debt-laden the country.

MS. MACCALLUM: Just one last question before we let you go, I mean, in terms of RNC and organizations and getting those people out because that's really their job -


MS. MACCALLUM: To find those people, you say that the Republican Party is more aligned what you feel with the sentiment in the nation --

SEN. GRAHAM: With independent voters. I do.

MS. MACCALLUM: But you need those people to sell it.

SEN. GRAHAM: Absolutely.

MS. MACCALLUM: To sell that message. How confident are you in the leadership at the RNC right now to do that?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I think Michael Steele ran a competitive race here in New York; we lost by 200 votes, a seat that we lost by ten points. Things are moving our way, but if, Michael, if you're listening, talk to Tom Ridge, talk to Mike Castle. Try to get people in this election cycle who can win in blue states. If we want to broaden the party, we can do so without abandoning who we are.

If we let a narrow group of our party define us, we're in trouble. If the took over the Democratic Party, they're the ones that ran Joe Lieberman out of it. It can happen to both groups.

I am confident that we're well positioned if we get good candidates to come roaring back because the Obama agenda is not what people really expected.

MS. MACCALLUM: Senator Graham, good to see you here in New York.

SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.

MR. GALLAGHER: Senator --

SEN. GRAHAM: Good to see you.

MS. MACCALLUM: Thank you very much, sir.

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