South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has been to New Hampshire many times to campaign with his friend John McCain. Now, for the first time, on Sunday and Monday, Graham will come to the state to continue to explore his own candidacy for President.
“The thing I love the most about New Hampshire is that it’s a state you can’t buy,” Graham said in an interview on Thursday evening. “Retail politics matter.”
He said he “loved campaigning” with McCain, who he called “a tenacious campaigner.” He said McCain knows, as he also knows, “anybody who wants to get the nomination needs to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire and answer any and all questions.”
The three-term Republican said that requirement suits him just fine.
“If I run, I’ll have enough money to compete,” he said. “And if I run it will be through every coffee shop and living room and every town hall that I can get to in New Hampshire. The road to the nomination goes through the living rooms and coffee shops and town halls of New Hampshire.”
Graham will come to the state on Sunday for an appearance before the Concord Republican Committee’s new “Politics and Pies” event at the Snowshoe Club. He will then speak before the traditional “Politics and Eggs” event at the Bedford Village Inn on Monday morning.
Since creating an exploratory committee, Graham said, he has received a strong positive response. “He said he is working on developing “a ground game and a financial network.”
“I’m going to be meeting with some people and talking about hiring some staff,” he said.
“National security and terrorism are the biggest issues on people’s minds, and this set up well for me,” said the longtime member of the Senate Armed Services committee. “But I also have a practical form of conservatism and have worked with the other side often.”
Graham comes to New Hampshire in the wake of a controversy he created himself by making what he admits was a “bad joke” about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Graham: ‘Exploring’ in NH Sunday, Monday
At his own fundraiser following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday speech before Congress, Graham commented harshly on Pelosi’s negative reaction to the speech by saying, “Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor? Complete disgust. If you can get through all the surgeries, there’s disgust.”
“Basically her behavior at the speech was so over the top,” he said tonight, “and I made a bad attempt at humor. Two wrongs don’t make a right and I apologized. It is time to move on. I just felt that what she was doing and the way she was behaving was really over the top, but that does not justify making a bad joke. So I apologized.”
Graham said the name of his political action committee, Security Through Strength, is a “play” on Ronald Reagan’s well known mantra, “Peace Through Strength,” but, Graham said, the difference is, “I don’t think that you can peacefully co-exist with radical Islam, but I do think you can secure our nation.
“What I have to offer is that I’ve been working over the years standing up to the Obama foreign policy failures” and what Graham called Obama’s “leading from behind” approach.
“Voters realize we are less secure than we have been in years,” Graham said. “The terrorists have more safe havens and more resources with which to attack our homeland than they have had since 9/11, and this is due to poor policy choices by President Obama.
“Such as not leaving troops behind in Iraq as a residual forced and drawing a red line in the sand with regard to the Assad regime and then doing nothing about it, and ignoring the advice of his entire security team. I have a clear understanding of how we got into this and the pathway out, and that is leading from the front and embracing the concept that we are an exceptional nation.”
Graham said Netanyahu’s speech was “the most eloquent analysis of the Iranian situation and indictment of the Iranian regime that I have heard. What he had to offer was a clear analysis that Iranian behavior even under sanctions is completely unacceptable in the way they are wreaking havoc throughout the region, disrupting the neighborhood and are continuing to build ICBMs.
“The concept of giving them money and the potential to build bigger weapons makes no sense.
“President Obama has been close-minded,” Graham said, “arrogant and stubborn and has been incompetent in dealing with Iran. And now he is about to cut a deal that will lock in place thousands of centrifuges. I do not mind if the Iranians have a peaceful nuclear program, but I am not going to approve a bad deal — and that is where we are headed.”
Graham said the best “check and balance against a bad deal would be a requirement of congressional approval on lifting the sanctions. I’ve been working on this for over a year and there is strong bipartisan support for the concept of the Congress needing to approve lifting the sanctions against Iran, and that is absolutely critical.”
He said that the current sanctions against Iran were created by Congress over the administration’s objection.
“There is a waiver provision with the sanctions. If we disapprove of the deal, if we said it is not a good deal and not worthy of sanction relief,” then Congress could effectively kill the deal by not agreeing to lift the sanctions.”
He said the bill that states congressional approval is required for the deal would require 60 votes, “but I think we will get an overwhelming vote for this bill. If the deal is a good deal that does limit their nuclear weapon development and protects the region, it will pass.
“I want Iran to end its nuclear ambitions peacefully,” he said. “If it is a bad deal, it would require Democratic support to disapprove it and I do believe Congress would reject the bad deal in a bipartisan fashion.”
Graham said the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of personal emails for State Department business “is a very big deal to me.”
“The best you can say is that Secretary Clinton and her team are incompetent. They either didn’t know about the law or they felt they were above the law. The most likely outcome is they set up an elaborate process where her emails would not be subject to FOIA requests and I will not accept anything other than a full and complete investigation.
Regarding the recent fight over Homeland Security funding and immigration, Graham said, “I’m in the camp of never asking my colleagues, my fellow political soldiers, to engage in a fight that they can’t win. To have expected the President to accept a law repealing his executive order was unrealistic. What would we have done if the Democrats had said we are not going to fund part of the government unless the George W. Bush tax cuts they hated so much were repealed?”
He said there were not 60 votes to overturn the executive order in the Senate, let alone 67 to override an Obama veto.
“This is the second time some in our conference have taken paths that wound up not being fruitful pursuing efforts that never had a chance,” he said.
“I believe Republicans would have paid dearly if the department had been shut down and I never wanted to play this game with DHS, especially if you believe as I do that there are more threats to the homeland than ever.”