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Lindsey Graham: Rand Paul's 'Weaker on National Security Than Obama'

Lindsey Graham: Rand Paul's 'Weaker on National Security Than Obama'
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Thursday, 09 July 2015 10:34 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In his first major foreign policy address, South Carolina senator and Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham drew a sharp distinction Wednesday between himself and GOP White House hopeful Sen. Rand Paul on America's role in the world.

"My friend Rand Paul is weaker on national security than Obama," Graham told a standing-room-only audience at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. He added that when it came to national security issues, he felt that all of the 16 announced or soon-to-announce Republican presidential candidates were on the right side "except Rand Paul."

The Kentucky senator is known for his non-interventionist foreign policy, and Graham declared that "if you believe in 'Fortress America,' I am not your choice [for president]."

A day before his 60th birthday, Graham spelled out what he called "a clear and different path" on foreign policy that he would follow if he were president. This includes increasing U.S. ground forces in Iraq to over 10,000 and then "hunting the leadership" of the Islamic State (ISIS).

He also made it clear that the U.S. needs to "rebuild the coalition" of ISIS opponents and that he disagreed with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that we need to "just arm the Kurds."

On the Iran nuclear deal, Graham said: "I want a deal but I want a good deal," which could include telling the Tehran regime the U.S. would back the "the needs of a single [nuclear] reactor." But to permit Iran to go further, he said, is "North Korea in the making" and a threat to Israel by those he called "religious Nazis."

In contrast to many other Republicans, Graham left no doubt that he was glad Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya were gone. He said he questions those who say we’d be better off if they were in power.

Praising the Arab Spring that overthrew authoritarian governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, Graham said the days of the U.S. backing friendly dictators are over and "I say to women, young people, and the disenfranchised [of the Middle East], I am your friend."

But he stopped short of condemning the current Egyptian regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, saying he regarded Egypt as a special case. During the question-and-answer session moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Graham told Newsmax he "has been there enough times to know," and that the U.S. should "press el-Sisi for more open and transparent government" and a free media permitted to criticize him.

"If you’re not for these things, you’re on the wrong side of history," he said.

Like close friend and Senate colleague John McCain, the South Carolinian also demonstrated why he is a "maverick" who takes unconventional stands that sometimes irk conservatives in his own party.

He pulled no punches in expressing support for "something like Simpson-Bowles," the report of a special bipartisan commission on deficit reduction that many conservatives condemned because it called for raising taxes as well as slashing spending.

As president, he said, "I would have Republicans in the room and Democrats in the room," giving Republicans the spending cuts they want and giving Democrats what he called "the revenue component" — a tax increase, that is.

Graham said he would eliminate deductions and take the resulting revenue and apply it to the deficit.

The three-term senator also underscored his past support for comprehensive immigration reform and charged that President Barack Obama, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate in his first two years in office, did nothing on that issue, focusing instead on healthcare and Dodd-Frank regulatory reform.

"McCain and I would have helped him [on immigration reform]," he added.

As for Donald Trump’s controversial comments on immigration, Graham referred to someone in a hole digging himself deeper and deeper and asked: "Will someone take that shovel from Donald Trump?"

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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In his first major foreign policy address, South Carolina senator and Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham drew a sharp distinction Wednesday between himself and GOP White House hopeful Sen. Rand Paul on America's role in the world, John Gizzi writes.
lindsey graham, rand paul, security, isis, middle east
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2015-34-09
Thursday, 09 July 2015 10:34 AM
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