OTR Interviews

Graham on Obama's ISIS plan: 'If we don't get this right, they're coming here'

The president has a history of not following through on plans and sending mixed messages on a world stage. Will his national address - and what happens afterward - be any different?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 9, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tomorrow night, President Obama will speak to the nation, tell us his plan to combat ISIS. And from ISIS to Iraq, to Syria, here's what President Obama has said about his foreign policy in the past.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.

I determine it's in the national security interest of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons to a targeted military strike.

I also ask Congress to postpone a vote on the use military force while we pursue this diplomatic path, that's what we're doing.

Iraq's future will be in the hands of its people. America's war in Iraq will be over.

Today, I authorize two operations in Iraq.

We don't have a strategy yet.

Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL.

We continue to shrink ISIL's sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities, to the point where it is a manageable problem.


VAN SUSTEREN: And Senator Lindsey Graham joins us. Nice to see you, sir.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: You could -- that was very well done.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm curious. Not that foreign policy should be reduced to some catchy phrase or slogan, but how do you describe President Obama's foreign policy? What's his ideology?

GRAHAM: I think his ideology is basically not to be Bush.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that means what?

GRAHAM: Don't use a heavy footprint, use diplomacy. Don't be a cowboy. Use some professorial approach to problems, be contemplative and it's caught up with him.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I should say, how's that worked out for us?

GRAHAM: Not very well. Tomorrow night, he's got two tasks, to convince the American people, the Congress and our allies to follow him now, and he's got a trust and competency deficit that's been built up. Who would trust this guy, given pulling out of Iraq when he was told, you need to leave some troops behind. He did refer to ISIS as the "JV" team. Competency, he's ignored his national security team regarding training the free Syrian army three years ago. He ignored his commanders when it came to leaving a force behind in Iraq. He left Syria in a mess. So to persuade the American people and our allies, he's got to overcome this deficit.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, I give him a lot of credit for getting Usama bin Laden. I mean realize our SEALs did it, but he gave the order.

GRAHAM: No, he should be given credit for that.

VAN SUSTEREN: But aside from that, I'm trying to figure out, are we better off in the world?

GRAHAM: Well, there are more terrorist organizations with more money, more capability, more desire, more safe havens than before 9/11. Tomorrow night is an important moment in his presidency. He's got to speak to our enemies. And I think our enemies see and hear weakness. When he talks about destroying our enemies, they see and hear weakness. When he talks about destroying our enemies, he then goes into what he won't do. You've got to instill fear and respect as president. I think he's lost both fear and respect from our enemies. And when it comes to our allies, the American people and the Congress, he's not trusted. And people see him as incompetent.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there have been some questions posed, like a recent poll, Washington Post, ABC News poll: Do you think the Obama presidency so far has been more of a successor, more of a failure, success 42 percent, now failure, 52 percent. So he doesn't exactly have the wind behind his back with the American people.

GRAHAM: No, and all -- this is a problem of his own making. When you draw red lines, and you do nothing about it, when, you know, when you overrule your national security team and you don't listen to your military commanders. Every bet he's made has blown up in his face. And now, he's got to go from leading from behind in the back seat of a car reading a newspaper to convince the world to follow me now.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the military think -- I know that -- I mean, when you're not a U.S. senator you're still a reserve officer, is that the right description?

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does the military think of the president?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, they're loyal to the Constitution, which is that they follow orders of the commander-in-chief. I can tell you that former military leaders who have been successful in Iraq and Afghanistan believe that this strategy that the president's about to announce is going not to be successful. You can't have a campaign against a terrorist army and talk about what you won't do. There is no Arab, army or military in the world that can defeat ISIL in Syria without some American ground component. And what bothers me...

VAN SUSTEREN: You mean boots on the ground?

GRAHAM: You've got to have boots on the ground. The worst possible thing is to take these guys on and lose. He's been weak and indecisive in the face of threats from Putin and terrorists. He's been untrustworthy when it comes to explaining, you know, what happens with setting red lines and not following through. It's all caught up with him. And I'm pulling for him, why, because if we don't get this right, they're coming here.

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