Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on 'FNS'

The following is a partial transcript from the April 2, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Joining us now to talk about immigration, Iraq and more, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who comes to us from his home state of South Carolina. Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Thank you for having me yet again.

WALLACE: Let's start with Senator Feingold's censure motion. You have expressed doubts about the legal basis for the president's NSA wiretap program. Senator Feingold says that if Congress doesn't stand up for itself, you become complicit in the lawbreaking.

GRAHAM: Well, I think to censure the program is to kill the program, and I don't want to kill it because I think it's going to help make us safe. The goal of the program is to find out what the enemy is up to, a foreign enemy intent on killing Americans, get as much information so we can strike them before they strike us.

I disagree with two theories being pushed by the president that would say you don't need a warrant. But it's a robust debate, it's an honest debate. And to bring up the ghost of Watergate and compare Watergate to this is just absurd. Watergate was about Richard Nixon's White House trying to abuse and punish domestic critics, people who were against the president, domestic enemies. This program is trying to find out what a foreign enemy, designed to kill Americans, is up to, and we can have a healthy debate about when you need a warrant and when you don't. But if Congress starts censuring presidents every time they have a legal difference with the president, you only weaken the president. This is a very bad idea. Russ Feingold is a very good man. The reason nobody is jumping on board is because it's just an overreaction to a real and honest debate.

WALLACE: Well, what about the argument that Feingold makes that listen, this fellow broke the law, the president broke the law, and Congress has to stand up against it?

GRAHAM: I think this is one of the most unsettled areas of the law in America. When does the power of the president begin and end in a time of war? Could the Congress have passed a statute telling Truman you've got to rehire MacArthur? Could we tell the president send over the target list over before you bomb anybody? I think these kinds of questions are very subject to legal debate. The courts have had two or three different views of it. The FISA court was first created in 1978. In 2002, the court of appeals, the FISA court itself said the inherent authority of the president in a time of war may make FISA moot.

So these are honest, open questions. Censure is a political stunt that's going to take us on the wrong road, divide America. And that's why nobody is jumping on board. It will weaken the presidency. And to bring up the ghost of Watergate here is really absurd.

The president has done a wonderful job putting a good, kind, firm face on this problem for our party. This is a defining moment for the Republican Party. If our answer to the fastest growing demographic in this country is that we want to make felons of your grandparents and we want to put people in jail who are helping your neighbors and people related to you, then we're going to suffer mightily. Let's don't filibuster; let's solve the problem in a comprehensive way — firm, fair pathway to citizenship.

WALLACE: Senator, finally, I want to talk to you about Iraq. Last June, you were talking at a Senate hearing with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about public opinion in your home state of South Carolina towards the war.


WALLACE: Let's watch.


GRAHAM: And I'm here to tell you, sir, in the most patriotic state I can imagine, people are beginning to question. And I don't think it's a blip on the radar screen.


WALLACE: Senator, it's almost nine months later, 598 Americans have been killed over in Iraq since then. How do people in your home state of South Carolina feel about the war now?

GRAHAM: I think people understand that we're better off without Saddam Hussein. But I'll be honest with you, there is an erosion here at home of support for the idea we can't leave until the Iraqis have had a chance to put up their functioning — to stand up a functioning democracy. You lose the war by losing public support here at home. You win the war by getting moderate forces in the Mideast to come together to put a democracy in place where they can live together. Right now, we're at a tipping point. The way that we can lose the war in Iraq is to have the institutions like the army and the police force fail. If the police force is seen by Iraqis in general as rewarding one side over the other, supporting the Shias and not the Sunnis, then we're going to fail.

The test of Iraq, to me, is will an army unit made up of Sunnisin a Shia area protect the Shias? Will a police force in a Sunni area take care of a Shiafamily? If the answer is yes, we can still win. If the institutions fail in Iraq, no political solution is ever going to prevail. The Iraqi people have got to want to take care of each other and put these differences aside, and I hope the American people will give them the opportunity to do so.

WALLACE: Secretary Rice, as I mentioned, Senator, has made a surprise trip to Iraq today. There's growing frustration with the failure of Iraqi politicians to come together and create a national government. It's been more than three and a half months since the elections there, and U.S. officials have reportedly been telling the Iraqi politicians that they would like the interim prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to step down, because they see him as a force for division, not a force for coming together. How tough should the U.S. get with Jaafari and the Iraqi politicians to get their act together?

GRAHAM: I think they should be really tough with the Iraqi politicians to act on the mandate they've been given by their people. But we need to understand, it took us 11 years to write our Constitution. And democracy is hard. But we need to push the political forces in Iraq to come together with a coalition government.

But I am not so worried about that. Here's what I think we need to watch as a nation. Are the institutions of government developing in the proper way in Iraq? Do we have a national army, or do we have a regional army? Do we have a police force that would enforce the law fairly for everybody, regardless of ethnic or religious differences? If you can get those two institutions right, the politicians will take care of themselves. No political compromise will work unless the institutions, the law courts, the police force and the army buy into protecting everybody fairly. To me, that is the goal, is to get these institutions built up in a way that they can sustain themselves, and that's going to take time.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you for joining us again, and always a pleasure to have you with us.

GRAHAM: Thank you, my friend.