NASHUA — As talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian leaders over Iran’s nuclear weapons development reportedly intensified, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he will not compromise on the need for the Senate or full Congress to approve a deal.
“There will be by the end of this month,” which is the deadline for a deal, “bipartisan legislation passed requiring any deal with the Iranians to come before the Congress before we lift congressional sanctions,” Graham, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a foreign policy “hawk,” told reporters following a light-hearted two hours at the “Wild Irish Breakfast” at the Radisson Hotel.
“The President does not have the authority to negotiate away congressional sanctions without congressional review,” he said. “When he threatens to veto legislation that’s bipartisan in nature requiring a deal to come to Congress, before we lift congressional sanctions, he is wrong on the law and he’s wrong substantively.”
Graham said “the most important decision” of President Obama’s two terms in office is “how to handle the nuclear ambitions of Iran. When they say they’re building a power plant, they’re liars. If we get this wrong, every Sunni Arab state in the region will want a nuclear weapon and you’re on the road to Armageddon.”
Graham also agreed with former New York Gov. George Pataki, who also spoke at the breakfast, that governors don’t necessarily make the best presidents.
Regarding last week’s suggestion by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry that governors make the better Presidents than members of Congress, Graham said, “If I were a governor, that’s what I would say. We’re going to look at the next President anew. We’re going to look at somebody who’s got the background and qualifications to defend the nation, because I think this will be a national security election.
“Governors have a lot of good things to say about leading a state,” Graham said. “At the end of the day, I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to understand the threats we face as a nation. Washington is broken and the question is whether I’m more of a solution than the problem.”
He said of Washington Democrats, “There’s not one I don’t know, and I’ll put my record of trying to solve problems with Democrats and Republicans against anybody in (Washington) or anybody anywhere.”
Graham was kidded at the breakfast about the fact that he has never sent an email and does not have an email account. He said afterward that is true.
He said if his staffers “have a problem they can’t solve, they can call me,” he said, “and talk. I try not to get into the fire of the moment, so it’s worked well for me.
“If you want a tech-savvy, hip President, you’ve got one,” Graham said. “How well is that working out? I don’t’ claim to be technologically savvy, but cyber-attacks on our country keep me up at night.”
He said is trying to find a bipartisan way “to harden our infrastructure before we get hit very hard on the cyber-front. If you ask me, we’re most exposed here at home to a cyber-attack by terrorist organization and rogue nations, so in that regard I’m pretty savvy.”
Graham reiterated that New Hampshire is a perfect place for him to begin to build support as “an antidote to big money.
“The only way a guy like me would have a chance is to come here, make fun of myself and others, do a lot of town halls meetings and check me out as to whether I’m prepared to be commander-in-chief on day one,” he said. “The job interview for President should be, ‘Are you ready to be commander-in-chief?’ because I think the last guy we hired didn’t’ have the background to the job he has today.”