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Interview with Senator Lindsey Graham

By On the Record, On the Record - August 31, 2010

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Special Guests | Sen. Lindsey Graham

Watch the latest video at FoxNews.com

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 31, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.adsonar_placementId=1502008;adsonar_pid=150758;adsonar_ps=-1;adsonar_zw=198;adsonar_zh=170;adsonar_jv='ads.adsonar.com';

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's over. At least, part of it is over. Seven years after the beginning of the war in Iraq, President Obama announcing the end of combat operations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.

Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq's future is not. Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission. This afternoon, I spoke to former president George W. Bush. It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset, yet no one can doubt President Bush's support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I've said, there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis' future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Lindsey Graham joins from South Carolina. Good evening, Senator. And Senator, why did President Obama give this speech?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, this is a transition moment where combat operations end. General Odierno, the commander in Iraq, indicated that we could withdraw the 50,000 troops. I guess the president is trying to let the American people know that, you know, combat operations are over, and that's something that we've been hoping for for a very long time.

I think it's a missed opportunity by the president, quite frankly, to lay the cards out on the table and acknowledge not only did he and the president have differences, but President Bush made adjustments in 2007 that led to the success that we're having today. And I really wish that President Obama would acknowledge that. I think that would have been a classy thing to have done.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think that you're making reference to the surge, which, incidentally, even backing up from President Bush 43 supporting it, is that former -- former candidate for president and Senator John McCain was probably the first to raise it publicly...

GRAHAM: He sure was.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that we should more troops. And then Senator Barack Obama was opposed to it.

GRAHAM: Yes, well, if you look back, President Bush is going to get some blame for allowing Iraq to deteriorate. He's going to get credit for the surge. And Senator McCain was the big push of the surge politically. And going forward, President Obama will get his fair share of the credit if we're successful in Iraq, and he's going to get the lion's share of the blame if we fail.

And the one thing the speech didn't emphasize enough to me is that combat operations may have ended, but Iraq is not over by any stretch of the imagination. They haven't formed a government yet, and I'm very worried about it. And I wish the Obama administration would pick up the pace to try to get the parties to reconcile with each other and come up with a new government. Without that, the country is going to go back into chaos.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose the president is going to get a little heat tomorrow morning by the fact that he, of course, is the -- is supporting the surge in Afghanistan and sees the -- and has told the American people how effective that is and should be and will be, even though he opposed -- he opposed the surge when he was a candidate in Iraq. And he's going to get hit at least for that inconsistency. Maybe it's not inconsistency. I don't know.

GRAHAM: Well, I -- well, I hope he's learned that what President Bush and Senator McCain pushed in Iraq and he opposed worked. And I'm glad he's trying to do something similar in Afghanistan. I give him credit for adjusting and changing.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me ask you about the speech, though. There were some things in it that I -- quite frankly, I wondered if it were simply political. At one point in the speech, he's talking about the timeline in Afghanistan. And he says, And next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. And he goes on later to say, But make no mistake, this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghans (SIC) people. And of course, that's very popular with much of his base electing him. And I guess to throw into the mix, let me give you some sound of what General Conway (ph) has said about the whole idea of talking about timelines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JAMES CONWAY, MARINE CORPS. COMMANDANT: It's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself, in fact, we've intercepted communications that say, Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So why put into this speech tonight -- even if he intends to meet that timeline, why once again make that sort of public announcement?

GRAHAM: I think you probably put your finger on it. There was a base element to this speech. He's reminding the Democratic base before the November election, I promised to end combat operations in Iraq and I've delivered on this promise. That's a big deal to the left. The truth is that this whole drawdown was negotiated by President Bush, and he's trying to reinforce to those who are opposed to this war that come July, we're going to withdraw troops. The only issue is, how fast and how many?

And General Conway put his finger on the problem. When you announce you're going to withdraw troops next July, the enemy doesn't hear an enduring commitment. They hear the fact that you're going to leave, and the only thing up for debate is how quick you leave. So he's really made a mess of it in Afghanistan by putting this condition of withdrawal. It may play well in the left of the Democratic Party, but it's not going to play well in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I thought it was interesting, I mean, the way the speech started -- as we've noticed, it started -- I mean, of course, it was in the Oval Office, which has, you know -- you know, huge significance...

GRAHAM: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... to us -- to us Americans. He talks about Iraq, and this was to announce the end of the combat phase. He then morphs into Afghanistan, which I guess is some -- I mean, it's related. It's war. And we're at war there. But then he goes into -- I mean, and he used the timeline thing and made me a little suspicious it was political.

GRAHAM: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: But then he goes into the economy on the war. Is that a necessary part of this discussion, or is that political?

GRAHAM: Well, I think he's trying to let the American people know about withdrawing troops from Iraq, we're going to have one less financial obligation, Give me credit for reducing a financial burden on the country.

What he should have been talking about, to me, is that we've come a long way in Iraq. We're close transforming the Mideast. We're vastly safer by Iraq becoming a democracy, versus a dictatorship, and having a democracy in the heart of the Mideast and the Arab is a world transformative event. He recognized the sacrifice of the troops, but he didn't put it in context that the ones who died and were injured have made us all safer.

And he should have transitioned to Afghanistan and say to the world at large, our enemies and our friends, I'm going to have the same commitment of winning in Afghanistan that President Bush showed to winning in Iraq. That's what I wanted him to say, not reinforce that we're going to leave next July, not talk about the economic benefit of withdrawing from Iraq, but talking about the fact that we took terrorism on with the Iraqi people and we're on the verge of winning.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except the big elephant in the room -- and I don't mean elephant in reference to the Republican Party, but the big elephant in the room is that -- is that the reason, at least I understood, why we went in there was weapons of mass destruction. That wasn't mentioned tonight. Of course, that wasn't under this president's watch, the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction.

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Should -- I mean, is there a way that, you know, like - - or I mean, how do we handle that with the American people? Because that was the original reason.

GRAHAM: Well, here's what we need to tell the American people, that the intelligence from all over the world was that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. He had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He invaded his neighbors and he was up to no good. He was funding suicide bombers attacking Israel.

And the president should have reminded the world and the American people that Saddam Hussein being replaced and the sacrifice that was necessary to replace him by the Iraqi people and the American people and made us safer, and al Qaeda got their nose bloodied big-time in Iraq with Muslims aligning with us to take on al Qaeda elements who went to undermine us in Iraq. And the big story of Iraq is that al Qaeda got beat by Muslims with our help.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except, of course, though, there is the problem that he -- that Saddam Hussein used the weapons of mass destruction against his own people in 1985 or 1989. That's a problem. And -- and...

continued...

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 31, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's over. At least, part of it is over. Seven years after the beginning of the war in Iraq, President Obama announcing the end of combat operations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.

Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq's future is not. Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission. This afternoon, I spoke to former president George W. Bush. It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset, yet no one can doubt President Bush's support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I've said, there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis' future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Lindsey Graham joins from South Carolina. Good evening, Senator. And Senator, why did President Obama give this speech?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, this is a transition moment where combat operations end. General Odierno, the commander in Iraq, indicated that we could withdraw the 50,000 troops. I guess the president is trying to let the American people know that, you know, combat operations are over, and that's something that we've been hoping for for a very long time.

I think it's a missed opportunity by the president, quite frankly, to lay the cards out on the table and acknowledge not only did he and the president have differences, but President Bush made adjustments in 2007 that led to the success that we're having today. And I really wish that President Obama would acknowledge that. I think that would have been a classy thing to have done.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think that you're making reference to the surge, which, incidentally, even backing up from President Bush 43 supporting it, is that former -- former candidate for president and Senator John McCain was probably the first to raise it publicly...

GRAHAM: He sure was.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that we should more troops. And then Senator Barack Obama was opposed to it.

GRAHAM: Yes, well, if you look back, President Bush is going to get some blame for allowing Iraq to deteriorate. He's going to get credit for the surge. And Senator McCain was the big push of the surge politically. And going forward, President Obama will get his fair share of the credit if we're successful in Iraq, and he's going to get the lion's share of the blame if we fail.

And the one thing the speech didn't emphasize enough to me is that combat operations may have ended, but Iraq is not over by any stretch of the imagination. They haven't formed a government yet, and I'm very worried about it. And I wish the Obama administration would pick up the pace to try to get the parties to reconcile with each other and come up with a new government. Without that, the country is going to go back into chaos.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose the president is going to get a little heat tomorrow morning by the fact that he, of course, is the -- is supporting the surge in Afghanistan and sees the -- and has told the American people how effective that is and should be and will be, even though he opposed -- he opposed the surge when he was a candidate in Iraq. And he's going to get hit at least for that inconsistency. Maybe it's not inconsistency. I don't know.

GRAHAM: Well, I -- well, I hope he's learned that what President Bush and Senator McCain pushed in Iraq and he opposed worked. And I'm glad he's trying to do something similar in Afghanistan. I give him credit for adjusting and changing.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me ask you about the speech, though. There were some things in it that I -- quite frankly, I wondered if it were simply political. At one point in the speech, he's talking about the timeline in Afghanistan. And he says, And next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. And he goes on later to say, But make no mistake, this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghans (SIC) people. And of course, that's very popular with much of his base electing him. And I guess to throw into the mix, let me give you some sound of what General Conway (ph) has said about the whole idea of talking about timelines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JAMES CONWAY, MARINE CORPS. COMMANDANT: It's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself, in fact, we've intercepted communications that say, Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So why put into this speech tonight -- even if he intends to meet that timeline, why once again make that sort of public announcement?

GRAHAM: I think you probably put your finger on it. There was a base element to this speech. He's reminding the Democratic base before the November election, I promised to end combat operations in Iraq and I've delivered on this promise. That's a big deal to the left. The truth is that this whole drawdown was negotiated by President Bush, and he's trying to reinforce to those who are opposed to this war that come July, we're going to withdraw troops. The only issue is, how fast and how many?

And General Conway put his finger on the problem. When you announce you're going to withdraw troops next July, the enemy doesn't hear an enduring commitment. They hear the fact that you're going to leave, and the only thing up for debate is how quick you leave. So he's really made a mess of it in Afghanistan by putting this condition of withdrawal. It may play well in the left of the Democratic Party, but it's not going to play well in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I thought it was interesting, I mean, the way the speech started -- as we've noticed, it started -- I mean, of course, it was in the Oval Office, which has, you know -- you know, huge significance...

GRAHAM: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... to us -- to us Americans. He talks about Iraq, and this was to announce the end of the combat phase. He then morphs into Afghanistan, which I guess is some -- I mean, it's related. It's war. And we're at war there. But then he goes into -- I mean, and he used the timeline thing and made me a little suspicious it was political.

GRAHAM: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: But then he goes into the economy on the war. Is that a necessary part of this discussion, or is that political?

GRAHAM: Well, I think he's trying to let the American people know about withdrawing troops from Iraq, we're going to have one less financial obligation, Give me credit for reducing a financial burden on the country.

What he should have been talking about, to me, is that we've come a long way in Iraq. We're close transforming the Mideast. We're vastly safer by Iraq becoming a democracy, versus a dictatorship, and having a democracy in the heart of the Mideast and the Arab is a world transformative event. He recognized the sacrifice of the troops, but he didn't put it in context that the ones who died and were injured have made us all safer.

And he should have transitioned to Afghanistan and say to the world at large, our enemies and our friends, I'm going to have the same commitment of winning in Afghanistan that President Bush showed to winning in Iraq. That's what I wanted him to say, not reinforce that we're going to leave next July, not talk about the economic benefit of withdrawing from Iraq, but talking about the fact that we took terrorism on with the Iraqi people and we're on the verge of winning.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except the big elephant in the room -- and I don't mean elephant in reference to the Republican Party, but the big elephant in the room is that -- is that the reason, at least I understood, why we went in there was weapons of mass destruction. That wasn't mentioned tonight. Of course, that wasn't under this president's watch, the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction.

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Should -- I mean, is there a way that, you know, like - - or I mean, how do we handle that with the American people? Because that was the original reason.

GRAHAM: Well, here's what we need to tell the American people, that the intelligence from all over the world was that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. He had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He invaded his neighbors and he was up to no good. He was funding suicide bombers attacking Israel.

And the president should have reminded the world and the American people that Saddam Hussein being replaced and the sacrifice that was necessary to replace him by the Iraqi people and the American people and made us safer, and al Qaeda got their nose bloodied big-time in Iraq with Muslims aligning with us to take on al Qaeda elements who went to undermine us in Iraq. And the big story of Iraq is that al Qaeda got beat by Muslims with our help.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except, of course, though, there is the problem that he -- that Saddam Hussein used the weapons of mass destruction against his own people in 1985 or 1989. That's a problem. And -- and...

continued...

< 1 2> adsonar_placementId=1502163;adsonar_pid=150758;adsonar_ps=-1;adsonar_zw=612;adsonar_zh=140;adsonar_jv='ads.adsonar.com'; Transcripts

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September 01, 2010

Guests: Sen. Lindsey Graham

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's over. At least, part of it is over. Seven years after the beginning of the war in Iraq, President Obama announcing the end of combat operations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.

Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq's future is not. Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission. This afternoon, I spoke to former president George W. Bush. It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset, yet no one can doubt President Bush's support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I've said, there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis' future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Lindsey Graham joins from South Carolina. Good evening, Senator. And Senator, why did President Obama give this speech?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, this is a transition moment where combat operations end. General Odierno, the commander in Iraq, indicated that we could withdraw the 50,000 troops. I guess the president is trying to let the American people know that, you know, combat operations are over, and that's something that we've been hoping for for a very long time.

I think it's a missed opportunity by the president, quite frankly, to lay the cards out on the table and acknowledge not only did he and the president have differences, but President Bush made adjustments in 2007 that led to the success that we're having today. And I really wish that President Obama would acknowledge that. I think that would have been a classy thing to have done.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think that you're making reference to the surge, which, incidentally, even backing up from President Bush 43 supporting it, is that former -- former candidate for president and Senator John McCain was probably the first to raise it publicly...

GRAHAM: He sure was.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that we should more troops. And then Senator Barack Obama was opposed to it.

GRAHAM: Yes, well, if you look back, President Bush is going to get some blame for allowing Iraq to deteriorate. He's going to get credit for the surge. And Senator McCain was the big push of the surge politically. And going forward, President Obama will get his fair share of the credit if we're successful in Iraq, and he's going to get the lion's share of the blame if we fail.

And the one thing the speech didn't emphasize enough to me is that combat operations may have ended, but Iraq is not over by any stretch of the imagination. They haven't formed a government yet, and I'm very worried about it. And I wish the Obama administration would pick up the pace to try to get the parties to reconcile with each other and come up with a new government. Without that, the country is going to go back into chaos.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose the president is going to get a little heat tomorrow morning by the fact that he, of course, is the -- is supporting the surge in Afghanistan and sees the -- and has told the American people how effective that is and should be and will be, even though he opposed -- he opposed the surge when he was a candidate in Iraq. And he's going to get hit at least for that inconsistency. Maybe it's not inconsistency. I don't know.

GRAHAM: Well, I -- well, I hope he's learned that what President Bush and Senator McCain pushed in Iraq and he opposed worked. And I'm glad he's trying to do something similar in Afghanistan. I give him credit for adjusting and changing.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me ask you about the speech, though. There were some things in it that I -- quite frankly, I wondered if it were simply political. At one point in the speech, he's talking about the timeline in Afghanistan. And he says, And next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. And he goes on later to say, But make no mistake, this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghans (SIC) people. And of course, that's very popular with much of his base electing him. And I guess to throw into the mix, let me give you some sound of what General Conway (ph) has said about the whole idea of talking about timelines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JAMES CONWAY, MARINE CORPS. COMMANDANT: It's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself, in fact, we've intercepted communications that say, Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So why put into this speech tonight -- even if he intends to meet that timeline, why once again make that sort of public announcement?

GRAHAM: I think you probably put your finger on it. There was a base element to this speech. He's reminding the Democratic base before the November election, I promised to end combat operations in Iraq and I've delivered on this promise. That's a big deal to the left. The truth is that this whole drawdown was negotiated by President Bush, and he's trying to reinforce to those who are opposed to this war that come July, we're going to withdraw troops. The only issue is, how fast and how many?

And General Conway put his finger on the problem. When you announce you're going to withdraw troops next July, the enemy doesn't hear an enduring commitment. They hear the fact that you're going to leave, and the only thing up for debate is how quick you leave. So he's really made a mess of it in Afghanistan by putting this condition of withdrawal. It may play well in the left of the Democratic Party, but it's not going to play well in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I thought it was interesting, I mean, the way the speech started -- as we've noticed, it started -- I mean, of course, it was in the Oval Office, which has, you know -- you know, huge significance...

GRAHAM: Sure.

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