June 7th, 2015
12:27 PM ET

Sen Graham on CNN's State of the Union: "...if you think we can protect America without some troops having to go back overseas and fight for a very long time - ...then I’m not your guy."

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, GOP presidential candidate, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), joined chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash to discuss his thoughts on sending troops overseas, China, Russia and potential cyber warfare, climate change and Caitlyn Jenner.

 

Text and video highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Graham on sending troops overseas: "…if you think we can protect America without some troops having to go back overseas and fight for a very long time - most likely, then I’m not your guy. Radical Islam is not going to be defeated just by armies over there.  We have to be part of those armies.  It’s going to be a generational struggle, it’s not just about killing terrorists, building a school house for a poor girl in a remote region of Afghanistan, will do more damage to the Taliban..."

Graham on China, Russia threat: "The Chinese and the Russians are symptoms of greater problem.  China is building islands over resource-rich waters that other nations claim because they think we’re weak.  They’re intimidating their neighbors, and the only way we’re going to reset world order is to get back in the game.”

Graham on climate change: “I do believe that climate change is real. I want a business solution to that problem. … When 90 percent of the doctors tell you you’ve got a problem, do you listen to the one? At the end of the day, I do believe that the CO2 emission problem all over the world is hurting our environment. But the solution is a pro-business solution to a lower-carbon economy.”

Graham on Caitlyn Jenner: “If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be safe and have a prosperous economy, vote for me. I’m into addition. I haven’t walked into her shoes. I don’t have all the answers to the mysteries of life. I can only imagine the torment that Bruce Jenner went through. I hope he’s – I hope she has found peace. I’m a pro-life, traditional marriage kind of guy. But I’m running to be president of the United States. If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a Republican, she is welcome in my party.”

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Graham: GOP should welcome Caitlyn Jenner

TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, thank you for sitting down with me in very windy Iowa.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you.  That’s why they have windmills here.  Now, I know.

BASH:  Yes, it is.  It is.

GRAHAM:  Now, I know.

BASH:  So, the last time this country elected a new president, it was on hope and change.  You seem to be running on doom and gloom.  Kind of, you know, if you don’t -

GRAHAM:  Not at all.

GRAHAM:  I’m running on what I think, to be honest, assessment of where we’re at.  Too much of that, too many terrorists.

So, here is the pitch - if you think we can protect America without some troops having to go back overseas and fight for a very long time - most likely, then I’m not your guy.

Radical Islam is not going to be defeated just by armies over there.  We have to be part of those armies.  It’s going to be a generational struggle, it’s not just about killing terrorists, building a school house for a poor girl in a remote region of Afghanistan, will do more damage to the Taliban, and to the region over 30 times, I understand how hard it’s going to be. But the good news is, most people in that region don’t want to buy what ISIL is selling.  But there’s no way that we’re going to defend this country under the current construct.

BASH:  But in all seriousness, you are basically promising that troops are going to go in that region.

GRAHAM:  Absolutely, I’m -

BASH:  So, you’ve even said, if you as a voter don’t want war, don’t vote for me.

GRAHAM:  I didn’t say you don’t want - nobody wants war.  If you don’t want to defend the nation from radical Islam, don’t vote for me.  I don’t know how you defend the nation without some of our forces going back to Iraq, to help the Iraqi army.  This is our war, too.

I’m not going to outsource our national security to massive armies that don’t know how to fight.  How do you deal with Syria without forming an army in the region and how do they win without us?

BASH:  Let’s talk about something at the top of the news, which is the cyberattacks that we saw this past week again on the government, supposedly from the Chinese.

GRAHAM:  Yes.

BASH:  We know that you’re calling for more money to try to combat cyberterrorism.

GRAHAM:  Right.

BASH:  And you said it could lead to a cyber-Pearl Harbor.  What -

GRAHAM:  Yes, that’s what I’ve been told by experts.  People in the intelligence committee are more worried about this than anything else, a cyberattack in our country, to break - to knock the grid off, to get into our financial systems, and basically shut down the financial services.

BASH:  So, what would you do as president?

GRAHAM:  Number one, you’ve got to have more money.  You’ve got to set aside these budget cuts for defense and nondefense.  Do Simpson-Bowles.  That’s where the money is at.  $70 trillion of unfunded liability from the retirement of baby boomers makes us Greece.  But with some means-testing and some major adjustments, we’ll get through.

Replenish our military, up our game on the intel side, work with the guy like Sheldon Whitehouse, who’s a liberal Democrat from Rhode Island, who knows as much about cybersecurity as anybody.  Incentivize the private sector to harden their infrastructure against the cyberattack, give them liability protections if they do.

The Chinese and the Russians are symptom of greater problem.  China is building islands over resource-rich waters that other nations claim because they think we’re weak.  They’re intimidating their neighbors, and the only way we’re going to reset world order is to get back in the game.

BASH:  You mentioned Russia.  Vladimir Putin said this weekend - everything we do is just a respond to threats emerging against us.  There is no need to fear Russia.

GRAHAM:  Well, tell that to the people who oppose him inside of Russia.  You know, it’s hard to buy a life insurance policy if you’re an opponent of Putin inside Russia.  It is a totalitarian dictatorship.

Tell that to the Ukrainian people, who are being invaded by Russian proxies.  Nobody believes that.  Russia is trampling over Ukraine in violation of international law. Here’s the concern I have: we signed an agreement with Ukrainians in the ‘90s, "Give up your nuclear weapons, we’ll guarantee your sovereignty."  Well, they did, and Russia is basically dismantling the Ukraine.

BASH:  Let’s bring it back home and specifically to your party.  Part of the reason why you’re running, you say, is to challenge your own party -

GRAHAM:  Yes.

BASH:  - and to make them understand what it means to be an electable Republican, particularly on the environment. What would you do differently than many of your Republican opponents?

GRAHAM: Here’s a question you need to ask everybody running as a Republican: what is the environmental policy of the Republican policy? When I ask that question, I get a blank stare.

We don’t have an environmental policy. We have an energy policy. If I’m president of the United States, we’re going to address climate change, CO2 emissions in a business-friendly way. We’re going to find oil and gas that we own because we’re going to use fossil fuels for a long time to come, but it’s okay to set lower carbon targets.

I do believe that climate change is real. I want a business solution to that problem -

BASH: Man-made climate change?

GRAHAM: Yes, I do. Absolutely. When 90 percent of the doctors tell you you’ve got a problem, do you listen to the one? At the end of the day, I do believe that the CO2 emission problem all over the world is hurting our environment. But the solution is a pro-business solution to a lower-carbon economy.

BASH: Let me ask you also about sort of a cultural touchstone this week, and that is Caitlyn – formerly Bruce – Jenner. A very popular Iowa – actually syndicated, but radio host here, Steve Dee said, “If we’re not going to defend as a party” – meaning the Republican Party – “basic principles of male and female, that life is sacred because it comes from God, then you’re going to lose the vast majority of people who have joined that party.”

GRAHAM: If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be safe and have a prosperous economy, vote for me. I’m into addition. I haven’t walked into her shoes. I don’t have all the answers to the mysteries of life. I can only imagine the torment that Bruce Jenner went through. I hope he’s – I hope she has found peace.

I’m a pro-life, traditional marriage kind of guy. But I’m running to be president of the United States. If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a Republican, she is welcome in my party.

BASH: So the Republicans should reach out to people like her, to transgender Americans and not – not -

GRAHAM: Understanding what you’re getting with Lindsey Graham: I’m pro-life. I believe in traditional marriage without animosity. The courts are going to rule probably in June about traditional marriage. I will accept the Court’s decision. I will proudly defend the unborn. But if we can’t agree on abortion, let’s talk about taxes.

We’re literally all in this together. We’re going to rise and fall as a nation as to whether or not we deal with the retirement of the baby boomers. It’s going to wipe out Social Security and Medicare and take the whole economy down with it. We need to do what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did when it came to compromise on the entitlement programs. And we need to fight radical Islam together.

Here’s what I would say to the talk show host: in the eyes of radical Islam, they hate you as much as they hate Caitlyn Jenner. They hate us all because we won’t agree to their view of religion.

So America, we are all in this together.

BASH: One last thing I wanted to just talk to you about. And that is I was in your hometown of Central, South Carolina this week for your announcement, and spoke to your sister. And was in the one room that you mentioned here where you grow up – grew up. And she talked about the fact that you were not just a brother but a father figure and a caregiver.

GRAHAM: Well, I want to let everybody know my aunt and uncle helped me raise my sister. My family and friends helped me a lot. I borrowed money from friends, because we really were pretty well wiped out when my mom got sick.

What I’m trying to tell people is I know what it’s like to be knocked down. And you get back up because people help you. Most people are one car wreck away from needing some help, including the government’s help. So what I’ve learned as a young man is that life is fragile. You never know what’s coming your way. There may be a lot of self-made people running for president, and I’m not one of them.

I love Mike Huckabee. But when he says you don’t have to deal with entitlement reform, I don’t agree with him. Scott Walker’s a great guy. He says he’s not into open-ended conflicts. Here’s what I’m telling the American people: the war against radical Islam is a generational struggle. Some of us have to go back over there to keep our country safe. And this war is going to go on a long time, long after I’m gone.

But here’s the good news: most people over there are not buying what these guys are selling. There is no easy way ahead when it comes to our financial problems at home and defeating radical Islam. But we can win, and we can be successful. And growing up in a small town in South Carolina in the back of a liquor store, from parents who never graduated high school and being able to become a United States senator, I think has been an experience that would make me a good president.

BASH: Senator, thank you very much for your time.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much.

BASH: Appreciate it.

 

END INTERVIEW

 


Topics: CNN • Dana Bash • State of the Union
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