Sen. Lindsey Graham Calls on Democrats to Put Financial Crisis First

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," September 24, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Breaking news on the election front tonight, folks. If you haven't heard about this, stay tuned.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham will join me with some inside information about Friday night's debate, much anticipated debate and also, about a possible solution to the financial crisis that is unfolding in our country.

Senator Graham joins me now. Good evening, senator. Good to have you with us.


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MACCALLUM: We just heard a little bit from Barack Obama in terms of his response to what John McCain has decided to do. Tell me what — you know, he suggested that he called at 8:30 this morning and that he wanted to talk to the senator about a joint statement that they would put out together about some common principles. Is that going to happen?

GRAHAM: What Senator McCain thinks has to happen soon is a solution that is not a statement, but becomes legislation to solve what Warren Buffett, an Obama supporter, said was a "financial Pearl Harbor." Chairman Bernanke, Secretary Paulson, and Warren Buffett, and many other people have told us all that if we don't act quickly, financial institutions in this country would begin to fail next week, the availability of credit will be almost nonexistent, and that is more important to Senator McCain to solve this problem in the next few days than having a debate on foreign policy.

The country needs a solution to a problem that may affect every American savings, ability to borrow money, and buy a house and go to school. And we can have the foreign policy debate next week.


GRAHAM: John is going to be in town trying to find a solution to this problem. And as you can tell from the last couple of days, the Congress is going nowhere quickly, and this is one time that Congress has to work. We can't have the luxury of the Congress failing yet again.

MACCALLUM: All right. So, you are saying we can have a foreign policy debate next week. What are you saying we are going to see on Friday then?

GRAHAM: Well, I hope we will see the major leaders of this country doing something we have not seen a lot before — getting in a room and solving a problem. Harry Reid said yesterday that if John McCain doesn't support the Paulson proposal, no Democrat will support, and it will fail, blaming Senator McCain.

Well, today, when John announced that he would come back in town and suspend his campaign, Harry Reid said, "You should not come in town, we're working on this."

At the end of the day, what we need is people in Washington who can get something done. This Congress is at 12 percent for a reason. You've seen the hearings in the last two days. We are going nowhere quickly.

So, Senator McCain wants to suspend his campaign, come back in town with Senator Obama, congressional leaders, Secretary Paulson, and President Bush, to find a way to avoid a "financial Pearl Harbor."

MACCALLUM: All right. Let me —

GRAHAM: That is more important to this country than anything else right now.

MACCALLUM: I hear what you're saying, senator. I just want to be clear about the possibility of Friday.


MACCALLUM: Is there any possibility that John McCain is going to come back to Washington and that by Thursday afternoon, he's going to feel that enough has been done that he can, you know, pack his bags and get on a plane and be in Mississippi by Friday night and do this debate? Is there any chance that he will do that?

GRAHAM: I hope so. I hope we can get this done quickly, and it's going to take all of us working together, but he will not be in Mississippi for a debate on foreign policy while the country is on the edge of a financial collapse. We are going to solve this problem before we do anything else.

MACCALLUM: So, is your —

GRAHAM: He's been trying to debate Senator Obama for months.


GRAHAM: For months, we've been begging him to debate. What we want to do now would be unusual for Washington — solve a problem that would protect the American people from a financial disaster.

MACCALLUM: Is there anything in what you're saying that suggests that on Friday, Senator McCain would prefer to have an economic debate, that maybe the venue should change, maybe they should speak in Washington, anything along those lines?

GRAHAM: Yes. We don't want a debate. We want a solution. We've got 40 days to debate. We've been begging this guy to debate us for six months now. What we need is for Congress to answer the call of Secretary Paulson, Chairman Bernanke, Warren Buffett, and every other smart person to not allow a "financial Pearl Harbor" to happen. We have been convinced.

MACCALLUM: Well, here, Lindsey Graham — senator, I just want to grab —


MACCALLUM: Get one more question in here, if I may. Senator Obama has suggested that a president needs to be able to do a number of things at the same time, like have a debate, for example, and still be able to have his finger on the pulse of what's going on in Washington. Is he right about that?

GRAHAM: I would think if a president were overseas right now talking to a foreign leader, they would get on a plane and come back home because the country is experiencing a financial crisis. If either one of these people were president and they were overseas talking about some foreign policy matter, I hope they would have the good judgment to jump on a plane and come back to the United States and call an emergency session of the congressional leaders to avoid what Warren Buffett calls a "financial Pearl Harbor." That, to me, is what we need to do.

We have 40 days left to debate. We may not have but a few days left to protect American savings and financial institutions from collapse. And after the two days you've seen here in Congress of nothing but posturing, we're running out of time.

MACCALLUM: All right. Well, I think the American people would like to see these two senators work on this problem. And I thank you for joining us, Senator Lindsey Graham. Good to talk to you.

GRAHAM: I hope they want to see us solve it, because we need to. Thank you.

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