OTR Interviews

Sen. Graham: Pres. Obama is not looking out for our military

Could failure to specify the impact of cuts of proposed defense cuts compromise our national security?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Lindsey Graham says our commander-in-chief is not looking out for our troops. Now, why is he saying that? The White House just blew off a key deadline, the Obama administration failing to report on how it would cut $109 billion in defense and domestic spending. Senator Graham says our military and national security are at risk. We spoke with the senator a short time ago.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

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

VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, how angry or frustrated, whatever term you want to use, should the American people be that we are fighting about this sequestration, it's unresolved, and this has been lingering since the budget act of about 13 months ago?

GRAHAM: Every American who believes that our national security is the most important thing we should deal with in Washington first and foremost, every American who appreciates the service of those in uniform during the last decade should be furious that we've put the finest military at risk at the time we need it the most.

VAN SUSTEREN: I did not see any seriousness of purpose on behalf of many people in government on this. If you go back to last August, the deal was is that the super-committee was supposed to make a decision by November. If they couldn't, sequestration kicked in.

There was nothing -- they couldn't reach a decision in November. There was nothing to prevent them from doing something December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July. August, the president signed the Transparency Act in which he was supposed to provide by the 6th of September information about sequestration. He blew off that deadline. I don't see -- I don't see any effort of anyone to take this seriously!

GRAHAM: You know, the commander-in-chief's first responsibility is look out for those in uniform who fight the wars. He's not looking out for them. To let sequestration go forward is a great, huge blow to the men and women in uniform, to our intelligence services.

Where do you think all this information we get about Iran and China and Russia and the Taliban comes from? Where do you think these drone programs come from? They come from the intel side. The intelligence community gets hurt through sequestration.

And make sure your viewers understand what we're talking about. The super-committee's failure to find $1.2 trillion in savings over a decade had a penalty clause called sequestration. If the super-committee fails, we're going to take half of the $1.2 trillion out of the Defense Department as a penalty. We've already cut $400 billion out of the Defense Department. That's a trillion. Leon Panetta says we're shooting ourselves in the head.

VAN SUSTEREN: But even the sequestration, the American people were gamed because when that deal was cut last August, that it had to be done by November...

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and nothing's been done since -- when does that sequestration occur?

GRAHAM: January.

VAN SUSTEREN: It occurs a month after the election, when everybody up on Capitol Hill...

GRAHAM: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and the president -- they've got complete cover because the American people -- American people are getting gamed totally on that! Nothing's being done, and now the American people are gamed on top of it!

GRAHAM: And here's the problem. If you're in the military, you have to start planning for this. The report we haven't gotten I think is coming Friday. Congress demanded that the administration -- what will be the effect on the military and the intelligence community if we do sequestration?

If you take $600 billion out over the next decade on top of what we've already done, you'll have the smallest Navy since 1915, 232 ships. You'll have the smallest Army since 1940. You'll have the smallest Air Force in history. It will devastate our defense industries who make these weapons that give us an advantage. And it starts in January.

So I'm working with Senator McCain, Carl Levin, a Democrat, Kelly Ayotte -- a handful of us are trying to put a proposal together to delay sequestration.

VAN SUSTEREN: I -- but see, I -- I -- you know, maybe I'm much too literal, but when the president signed the Transparency Act...

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... in August, he put his name on it. He said, You know what? This is when I'm going to provide this information, September 6th. I'm signing my name.

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: It goes by, and it's just nothing! It's meaningless to anybody! And maybe I'm too literal and...



VAN SUSTEREN: ... but you know...

GRAHAM: I think it's coming Friday.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but -- but the point is, like, it's always gaming! It's always after the election. It's always coming after the deadline! It's always something! No one keeps his word!

GRAHAM: How about this? You got the House and the Senate back after five weeks.

VAN SUSTEREN: For eight days, the House!

GRAHAM: For eight days.

VAN SUSTEREN: For eight days only!

GRAHAM: No, you have made a very good case for the fact that if sequestration is allowed to go forward, it will throw the whole Defense industry and our military into chaos. If anybody...

VAN SUSTEREN: Because -- because -- because no one's doing his job! That's the simple reason!

GRAHAM: OK. Well, John McCain, myself, Kelly Ayotte, Carl Levin and others are trying to put a proposal together to delay the effects of sequestration in the new Congress for three months so the new Congress in January doesn't have this hanging over their head.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it -- but that's just another -- I mean, I realize that that may be what...

GRAHAM: It's better than...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... has to be done.

GRAHAM: ... doing nothing.

VAN SUSTEREN: However, in the meantime, our debt grows. In the meantime, we're paying more interest on our debt. We get deeper into trouble. The more everyone sort of pushes (INAUDIBLE) if people just did their jobs, if -- if last -- last November, when it didn't work out, if anyone had had the -- had the decency to say, OK, well, it didn't work out. Let's try December. There was no impediment to staying and working, none!

GRAHAM: Well, let me tell you. Do you see anything out of the House? Do you see any proposal coming from the House which Democrats are in charge of? I mean, Republicans are in charge of -- trying to avoid sequestration. Do you see anything in the Democratic-controlled Senate to avoid sequestration? Do you see the commander-in-chief, instead of preaching to the Congress, we've got to fix this before it starts, he is sitting on the sidelines and allowing it to begin. The lame duck is the hope that will somehow fix this before January of next year.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's where we're played! That's where the American people -- I mean -- I mean, that's where we're played! Totally played!

GRAHAM: Well, I've been here a long time, and I've made my fair share of mistakes. But from the get-go, when they put this idea on the table that if the super-committee failed, we would take $600 billion out of the Defense Department, I said, What are you thinking?

Look at Iran. Look at the world as it is. Is now the time to disarm? Is now the time to take the capabilities off the table that we worked on for years? Where did the party of Ronald Reagan go?

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you another quick question, and then we got to go. You have endorsed -- you and Senator McCain have endorsed a Congressman from the state of California...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... in a primary.

GRAHAM: Who's a Democrat.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who's a Democrat. That's -- that's -- is that going to hurt him or help him to have you guys endorse him?

GRAHAM: Well, he asked us to do it. His name is Howard Berman. We disagree on most things, but he believes Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and if they do, it will throw the world into chaos. He stood by Israel as a staunch Democrat. He's been good on the war on terror.

And I think of the -- of all the issues you name -- debt, out of control tax code, mountains of debt, out of control spending -- the biggest threat to our way of life, quite frankly, is the rise of radical Islam and Iran getting a nuclear weapon. And that's going to happen sooner rather than later.

And what are we -- what signals are we sending our enemies when we take our Defense Department and put it on the chopping block? What signals are we sending to the world about America's resolve to protect her freedom and everyone else's?

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're -- you're endorsing a Democrat, Congressman Berman.

GRAHAM: Because I think he will be good for national security, and God knows we're not talking about national security enough. If it weren't for this program, I don't think most people would even know sequestration exists.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you. Always nice to see you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.