National Press Club

Graham Takes on Iran Deal and Trump During Press Club Appearance

September 8, 2015 | By Ken Dalecki | kdalecki@hotmail.com

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican candidate for President, speaking at a September 8, 2015 National Press Club luncheon, shows off his new smartphone. It replaces one for which Donald Trump gave out the number.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican candidate for President, speaking at a September 8, 2015 National Press Club luncheon, shows off his new smartphone. It replaces one for which Donald Trump gave out the number.

Photo/Image: Al Teich

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told a National Press Club luncheon audience Tuesday that the U.S. must accept its "fair share" of refugees from wars in the Middle East or "take down the Statue of Liberty." He also vowed to lead Senate opposition to the nuclear arms deal with Iran, including a government spending shutdown if necessary.

The third-term senator is counting on a strong showing in his native state's GOP primary and support from fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in New Hampshire to bolster his so-far dismal standing among Republican presidential contestants in national polls of likely GOP voters.

Graham cited his 33 years of active and Reserve service as a judge advocate in the Air Force, membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and more than 35 trips to the Middle East as making him the best qualified candidate to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He called for more robust U.S. leadership in foreign policy challenges posed by Russia, China and chaos in the Middle East.

He said the nuclear arms deal with Iran is the result of "a long series of mistakes and miscalculations" by the Obama Administration that "could be a death sentence for Israel." He labeled the deal the President's "most consequential failure" because even if honored it will lead to Iran developing nuclear weapons, the missiles to deliver them and the money to pay for it. He said the only reason 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 and not three million is because radical Islamists did not have nuclear weapons. "The ink on the agreement is not dry yet and they are chanting 'death to America' and 'death to Israel.'"

Graham will push the Senate to reject the deal and to maintain sanctions against the Islamic regime until it agrees to unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities and ending support for terrorists. He also called for the release of jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian as part of a renegotiated deal. The Senator said he will try to win a cutting off of some $88 million in U.S. support for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency until a new deal grants inspectors free access to Iran's facilities.

He proposed sending 10,000 U.S. troops to bolster 3,500 already in the Middle East to join a large Arab state military coalition to defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and ISIL. "If we don't confront ISIL we will get hit and hit hard," Graham predicted. If more than 10,000 U.S. troops were needed "I would send more," he said.

Graham called what he sees as a failure of the U.S. to do more to help refugees fleeing chaos in the Middle East "a blight on our honor" and a threat to the survival of refugee-burdened Lebanon and Jordan. As for some 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S., Graham said Republicans must adopt a "sensible approach" to immigration reform or lose support from Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the population.

Graham continued his criticism of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, calling him "a fraud" who would pursue an "insanely dangerous" policy in the Middle East. He held up a new cellphone purchased after Trump gave out Graham's previous telephone number when Graham called Trump a "jackass." Trump countered by calling Graham a "lightweight" and an "idiot."