OTR Interviews

Lindsey Graham in 2016? 'Next time you vote for as Commander-in-Chief, make sure he has the experience and knowledge to get the job done right'

South Carolina senator says president's air strike strategy on the militant group was dommed from the start and it's beginning to show

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 14, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Lindsey Graham tweeting, "If ISIL takes Kobani, they will be able to recruit more jihadists from Europe and other places."

And that could bring terrorism to Europe and here to the U.S. homeland. So is that really winning?"

Senator Lindsey Graham joins us. Good evening, sir.

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

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't want to reduce this to a Packers/Bears game and who is winning and who is not, but when ISIS keeps gaining ground, it does seem like our strategy is not -- we are not on the right path.

GRAHAM: Well, the goal is to degrade and destroy ISIL and deny them a safe haven in Syria and Iraq to attack America. That goal is not being achieved. We are going backwards, not forward. And the White House says we are winning. They are probably the only people in the world that think that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why would the White House say that?

GRAHAM: I don't know why the president called these people the J.V.s in January and denied he said it. I can't explain why the president draws red lines and doesn't act. All I can tell you is that their strategy is not working. And ISIL has a strategy. I think Oliver North is on to something. Their goal is not to take Baghdad but to make this new government dysfunctional. I think you will see a series of attacks inside of Baghdad, maybe against our embassy, but against seats, powers, centers of the Iraqi government. ISIL has one goal, to keep the Iraqis separated and make sure this new government cannot pull the Sunni tribes away in Anbar Province to attack them. I think their efforts are really to disrupt the formation of a new government that could effectively challenge them. That's what their goal is regarding Baghdad.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why can't we get more help? A perfect example is Saudi Arabia. They have a lot of reason to want to fight Assad. They have got a lot of money. They can at least pony up money to help.

GRAHAM: Yeah. I guess all I can tell you is that if you go in on the ground against ISIL, you need an American partner. The Saudi Arabian government, they have airplanes and ground troops, but name one Arab country in the last 100 years that's defeated any foe of any size or strength. At the end of the day, nobody is going to our right. Nobody is going on to the ground unless we go on to the ground. Nobody is going to engage in Syria until we engage in Syria on the ground.

And the Turks are telling us something that makes sense to me. Why should we attack ISIL, train people in Saudi Arabia, Syrian free rebels, to send them into Syria without neutralizing Assad's air force? All of these countries have one thing in common, they hate Assad and they also hate ISIL. And this strategy of the administration of not providing a buffer zone or a no-fly zone inhibits people from going in on the ground. The people you are training to go into Syria on the ground are going to get slaughtered unless you deal with Assad's air force.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me switch gears for one second. A lot of attention on midterm elections. But there is -- I read one remark that you were not ruling out a 2016 run for the White House.

(LAUGHTER)

And then I read online that your friend, Senator John McCain, said to the newspaper in Arizona that he would support you. So, where are we on this?

GRAHAM: I'm about to get re-elected, I hope, in three weeks. I'm all in for getting re-elected to the United States Senate from South Carolina. I know what it takes to run for president, the sacrifice you make, the money you have to raise, the network. I'm nowhere near there. I'm very much focused on winning my Senate race.

And to the administration's statement today, this is going to be a long drawn-out war, all I can say is that two years from now, if we haven't defeated and destroyed ISIL in Syria and Iraq, that endangers our nation and puts the whole region into chaos. I think what President Obama is doing is trying to do the least amount possible to get this issue behind him and leave office without have destroyed ISIL to keep a campaign promise not to go back into Iraq. And that, to me, is dangerous and, quite frankly, pathetic leadership. Our commander-and-chief is more worried about political promise than he is keeping the region stable and protecting our homeland. I hope the American people understand, the next time you vote for Commander-and-Chief, make sure you are voting for somebody who has the experience and the knowledge to get the job right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. I notice you didn't answer that question, but you are lucky, we're right up against the clock --

(LAUGHTER)

-- so I have got to end it there.

Thank you, Senator.

GRAHAM: Thank you.