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– By G. Miller Thompson –
On October 22, United States Senator Lindsey Graham sat down with me to discuss his time in Washington and make the case for his reelection as South Carolina’s senior senator. Graham has served the people of South Carolina in both the SC State and United States House of Representatives. He succeeded Edgefield Senator Strom Thurmond in the seat for which he seeks reelection.
Though the incumbent typically holds an advantage over the challengers, Graham has faced a wave of criticism in recent months from many of his constituents that leaves the success of his 2014 reelection bid uncertain.
You may recall my article regarding the recent chaos in Syria. Senator Graham is a vocal advocate for the rebels in Syria and wants the US to support the rebel forces to remove Syrian dictator Assad from power. “We need to be backing that Syrian that could replace Assad and live at peace with us.” Graham insists. The Senator believes the US has little choice but to take action against Assad following the President’s “red line” remark. Failing to do so will inevitably “diminish us.”
When asked about the al Qaeda operatives disguised within the opposition, Graham stated, “The Syrian people started this revolution through peaceful demonstrations. These radical Islamists are hijacking this revolution.” Senator Graham recognizes the danger posed by the extremists. In fact, this acknowledgment drives his contention that the US must involve itself in the Syrian civil war. “The Iranians are backing Assad for a reason.” He says, “We need to be backing people who would replace Assad who are not radical Islamists and that’s most Syrians”
I asked Senator Graham what he would like to say to his constituents who have lost faith in his ability to appropriately represent them. In response, Graham called himself a “Strom Thurmond, Carol Campbell, Ronald Reagan Republican” with a “conservative voting record fiscally and socially that [he] would put up against anybody’s.” Graham claims former President Reagan as his mentor noting that when Reagan “got 80% of what he wanted, it was a good day.”
Graham believes it is vital to the success of our nation for our leaders to work together. He says, “I think most conservatives expect us to find common ground where we can, fight where we must.” And goes on, “I’m a good fighter, but I’ll also find common ground.” The Senator noted his work with former Senator Hillary Clinton on military health care and alluded to the relationship between Strom Thurmond and Joe Biden as an example of politicians working together.
I asked why South Carolina is better today than when Graham first moved to Washington and he pointed to Boeing, the Port of Charleston, and South Carolina’s employment interests at Savannah River Site. Graham is proud to be one of the recruiters of Boeing to South Carolina, citing his unwavering support for funding the military (Boeing makes many military airplanes) and South Carolina’s business friendly working environment. The Port of Charleston, Graham says, “Is my number one reason for living because if that port fails, the economy [of South Carolina] fails.” In regard to SRS, Graham says he has worked to keep it “viable.” Graham ends his response by saying, “I think if you ask businesses in this state, they will say that I’m their most reliable partner.”
Graham calls the illegal immigration both a national security and an economic threat. “There’s nothing worse for the working man and woman” than “to compete against an illegal immigrant that gets paid cash under the table.” He notes. Graham insists upon taking a “practical” approach to the eleven million illegal immigrants already in the US. He proposes identifying the illegals, making them learn English in order to stay, and forcing them to the back of the line for those seeking citizenship. Additionally, Graham says these immigrants must pay taxes, be fined, and wait ten years before applying for a green card. Furthermore, the border must be secured and the government should establish an employee verification system employers must utilize.
Two weeks ago, Senator Graham was among the majority in Congress who voted “Yes” to reopen government and raise the debt ceiling. In defense of his vote, Graham said he voted “to reopen government because it’s killing us as a party in this country. Nobody in their right mind wants to default on their debt.” The Republicans put themselves in a tough spot and defaulting would lead to a financial crisis throughout the world. Graham says he is ardently opposed to ObamaCare and will “attack” it by all means necessary; however, “to say that we were gonna get him [President Obama] to sign a bill to defund his signature issue by shutting down the government never made a whole lot of sense to me.” Going forward, Graham plans to support an opt out bill for those who wish not to take part in ObamaCare.
On education, Graham says Common Core is a “bad idea.” “The key to education success in the 21st century is to have a confident teacher and empower the parents.” Lagging technology is also a serious issue holding back American students from competing with Chinese and Indian students. In short, Graham explains, “I’m very leery of the federal government or a group of states dictating policies for local schools.”
On faith Graham explains, “If you’re a person of faith, you realize the limitations of being a human being.” Grahams says he prays for courage more than anything. The courage of one’s convictions is the greatest tool a politician can have and Graham thinks this is exactly what each politician should pray for. To be effective in his position, Graham says he must unafraid of his job. To do this, he says, “I pray for the courage to do what I think is right and accepting the consequences.”
More information can be found online at www.lindseygraham.com. The full transcript of my interview with the Senator can be found at millerthompson.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/full-transcript-senator-lindsey-graham/.