Oct 8, 2018
Lindsey Graham The Atlantic Festival Interview Transcript 2018: Talks SCOTUS Vacancies, John McCain, More
Senator Lindsey Graham did an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic on October 8, 2018. He talked about John McCain, the Supreme Court (Brett Kavanaugh, Merrick Garland nominations). He said of Obama’s 2016 SCOTUS nomination and potential 2020 nomination, “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait ’till the next election….hold the tape.” Read the full transcript here.
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And next to our stage, Senator Lindsey Graham, here with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic.
Lindsey Graham: (00:16)
Thank you. What a nice place.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:17)
Yeah, it is a nice place. Good morning, everyone. Nice to see all of you again. Senator Graham, thank you very much.
Lindsey Graham: (00:22)
What was the price of that package he was talking about?
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:25)
Right? Yeah, are you signing up? We’ll sign you up-
Lindsey Graham: (00:27)
I’m looking for a new-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:27)
Lindsey Graham: (00:29)
My cable’s out.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:30)
Senator Graham …
Lindsey Graham: (00:33)
It literally is.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:35)
You’re throwing smoke now.
Lindsey Graham: (00:36)
Yeah, yeah. I’m trying to-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:37)
You’re cutting into my time.
Lindsey Graham: (00:38)
I’m trying to get a better deal. You’ll get all you want and then some.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:43)
All right. All right.
Lindsey Graham: (00:43)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:43)
Well, let’s go. Actually, I don’t want to start with the obvious thing, if you don’t mind.
Lindsey Graham: (00:49)
Yeah, North Korea. We’ll pass on that.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (00:51)
No. I want to do our policy toward India. I want to talk for a minute, because we haven’t spoken since this. I want to talk for a minute about John McCain.
Lindsey Graham: (01:04)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (01:04)
I want you to just talk for a minute about how … You were very, very close to the Senator. He was a mentor, closest friend, even something of a father figure in some ways.
Lindsey Graham: (01:19)
Brother. He hated that father stuff.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (01:21)
Well, nevertheless. And I’m wondering how his death has changed you?
Lindsey Graham: (01:28)
Well, it’s put pressure to up my game. So a vacuum is being left in the Senate. When they write the history of the Senate, John will be in the first paragraph. Ted Kennedy, John McCain, modern people who were ideological opponents, but could find ways to move things forward. On our side, he was the keeper of the flame for the Reagan view. We make history, we are not run over by it. America’s values are its strongest asset, not our military. Count me in. You got Marco, you got Selmy, you got a new generation of McCaniacs coming up.
Lindsey Graham: (02:08)
So, the natural person to kind of keep that way of thinking alive is me, because we were so close. So on my side, I’m trying to fight back against isolationism, nativism. If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. It won’t work. Values are a good thing. Democracies, name two democracies that have ever gone to war. I can’t think of two. So, the bottom line is, the pressure to keep that way of thinking alive, build on the relationships I had. I just talked to Pakistani Foreign Minister, and through John, I’ve got to know a lot of people in the world and just keep it going.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (02:43)
Okay. I have to go at the obvious contradiction to what you’re saying right now, which is to say the following. I know as well as you know that John McCain could not stand President Trump, both on ideological and personal grounds. You were John McCain’s wing man, for many … Self-described, often, wing man. You have developed a very, very close and respectful relationship with the President. In fact, if you don’t mind me saying so, you were talking to him backstage a minute ago. Explain this.
Lindsey Graham: (03:13)
I would be glad to. John and Trump, Trump gave him a pass in the primary and I was glad for that, because John was in a tough fight and we worked on Trump. “You want this guy- ”
Jeffrey Goldberg: (03:26)
He also insulted his POW [crosstalk 00:00:03:27]-
Lindsey Graham: (03:27)
Listen, trust me. I’ve told the President every way I know to tell him, “I think that’s cheap. I think it hurts you. It doesn’t hurt John when you say something bad about my friend. You’re hurting yourself. You won, I lost.” I finished in the top 17 in our primary. I called him every name I could think of and literally ran out of names. And it’s over. When it’s over, it was over for John. Vietnam, Obama, Bush, you name it. So, I got zero doubt about what I should do. I represent the people of South Carolina. I love John McCain, but my day job is to represent the people of South Carolina. They expect me to work with Trump when I can.
Lindsey Graham: (04:14)
The best way to work with President Trump is actually to get to know him. Spend some time with him. You can disagree with him, but he’s got to believe that you want him to be successful to listen to you. In case you’re listening, Mr. President, I want you to be successful. Generally, very pleased with a lot of things you’re doing, some not so much. So, he can be persuaded. He’s got the best foreign policy team around him that I can think of. John McCain was always pleased with the choices. And now here’s my job, to counsel the President when he asks for my advice, help him where I can, and say no where I must, and try to take the good faith that the people in South Carolina have put in me and use it wisely. And I will do that.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (04:57)
Okay. So if the President-
Lindsey Graham: (04:58)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (04:59)
… is listening to you right now-
Lindsey Graham: (05:01)
And he could be, because-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (05:01)
Lindsey Graham: (05:02)
… he watches a lot of television.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (05:06)
If he’s listening right now, what would you say to him about his performance last night in which he openly disparaged a person who’s alleging that she was a victim of sexual assault by your Supreme Court nominee?
Lindsey Graham: (05:16)
I say, “Hey, I can figure this out.” Everything he said was factual. He’s frustrated his nominee has been treated so badly-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (05:23)
Factual, it was a personal degrading attack on someone who is a private citizen.
Lindsey Graham: (05:27)
Yeah. Well, here’s what’s personally degrading. This is what you get when you go through a trailer park with a hundred dollar bill. see, this is not the first time this has happened.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (05:36)
That’s actually a reference to something somebody said.
Lindsey Graham: (05:39)
James Carville. See, most of y’all are too young to remember this. The bottom line is, I know what can happen to a woman who comes forward in a political environment. Dr. Ford, I thought was treated respectfully by Ms. Mitchell. I’m glad she did it. She was boring. Boring’s okay. So, I’ve been a prosecutor most of my … Defense attorney and judge, before I got in this business. For every woman that comes forward, God knows how many never say a word and take it to their grave.
Lindsey Graham: (06:07)
Sometimes people are accused of something they didn’t do. So President Trump went through a factual rendition that I didn’t particularly like, and I would tell him, “Knock it off. You’re not helping.” But it can be worse. You can actually kill somebody’s cat and punch out their tires to get them to shut up. So, what he said-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (06:26)
I don’t even understand what that means.
Lindsey Graham: (06:27)
Well, you don’t remember Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. See, I do.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (06:32)
[crosstalk 00:06:32] I don’t remember the thing about the cat, but what’s the point?
Lindsey Graham: (06:33)
Well, [crosstalk 00:06:34] her cat-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (06:35)
The point is that Donald Trump could have said something even worse, so we should be thankful?
Lindsey Graham: (06:38)
No, the point is that we’ve come a long way. We’ve come a long way since [crosstalk 00:06:42]-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (06:42)
All right. All right. It’s fine. It’s fine.
Lindsey Graham: (06:43)
No, wait a minute.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (06:43)
It’s fine. It’s fine.
Lindsey Graham: (06:44)
No, wait a minute. Whether you like it or not, I really don’t care. Here’s the point. I have seen what happened to these women in 1998 that came forward. I don’t like what the President said last night. I’m the first person to say, I want to hear from Dr. Ford. I thought she was handled respectfully. I thought Kavanaugh was treated like crap. Yeah. Well, boo yourself. Here’s what I-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (07:11)
All right. All right. [crosstalk 00:07:11] I’m going to ask you to please be respectful of this conversations, so we can have the conversation.
Lindsey Graham: (07:15)
That’s right. I have nothing … I really believe that Brett Kavanaugh is not a gang rapist, a sexual predator, or a stumbling bumbling drunk. I really believe that. And I don’t care whether you believe it or not. I believe it, because I’ve known him for 20 years. If the shoe were on the other foot and an accusation came from South Carolina against a male democratic nominee and I got a hold of it and I didn’t disclose it to the committee, I waited to leak it to the press against the wishes of the lady from South Carolina, I would be torn apart and I should be. And if I referred her to a conservative activist lawyer who didn’t tell her that the Democrats were willing to come to South Carolina to hear a testimony so she wouldn’t have to go through this, I would be-
Lindsey Graham: (08:02)
… your testimony, so she wouldn’t have to go through this, I would be destroyed, wait a minute.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (08:05)
Lindsey Graham: (08:05)
Wait a minute. And if a Republican-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (08:07)
Lindsey Graham: (08:07)
Had said, “Why are you doing this? We’re trying to hold a seat open to get past the midterms, so we can take power back,” the Republican who said that couldn’t go five feet in this town without having a hundred reporters in her face. So the double standard here, offends me. And I voted for Sotomayer and Kagan, and never thought twice about it. I would never have done it to them what’s been done to this good man.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (08:32)
But let me just step back for one minute, to talk about … [crosstalk 00:00:36] Please, sir. Thank you.
Lindsey Graham: (08:37)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (08:38)
Let me ask you about Dr. Ford’s testimony.
Lindsey Graham: (08:42)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (08:43)
You believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that something terrible happened to her, but it wasn’t Kavanaugh.
Lindsey Graham: (08:50)
It seems to me, I’m not a psychologist, but I have been a lawyer. So I don’t know what happened. I know this, that if you’re going to accuse a person of a crime in this country, “Oh, by the way, you’re not assumed guilty.”
Lindsey Graham: (09:02)
And what got me so upset in the hearing was, when they told Judge Kavanaugh had turned a dime again, and if you’re truly innocent, just ask to extend this investigation, “What are you hiding?” Now, this is not the Soviet Union, this is America. So that kind of got me going.
Lindsey Graham: (09:17)
So here’s what I think. I think the accusation was made by Dr. Ford, and I listened. She was heard. I think she was treated respectfully, because everybody deserves that. I back up and I say, “What do I have? I can’t have a location, I can’t have a time, the corroborating witnesses don’t validate the claim. They actually go the other way.”
Lindsey Graham: (09:38)
Everything else in the record I know about Brett Kavanaugh is, he’s not Bill Cosby. And he’s not Harvey Weinstein. This is about power, usually, [Jeff 00:01:49]. it’s not about sex. And if you’re a serial rapist, and a gang rapist, and you drug women in high school, you usually don’t get over it.
Lindsey Graham: (09:56)
So what this is about is power, and every woman in the workplace that has ever been supervised by Brett Kavanaugh has nothing but good things to say. So it doesn’t add up to me. The third accusations are complete garbage that he was a gang rapist in high school.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:14)
Not to going to track those accusations, but stay on Dr.-
Lindsey Graham: (10:14)
I know you’re not, I know you’re not.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:15)
Stay on Dr. … Well, no, stay on Dr. Ford for a second.
Lindsey Graham: (10:18)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:19)
I’m curious about this.
Lindsey Graham: (10:21)
I believe that Brett was [crosstalk 00:10:22].
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:22)
You’re a former prosecutor.
Lindsey Graham: (10:23)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:24)
You understand that many of these types of situations, there is the nature of the crime, the nature of the event is that there’s no witnesses, of course.
Lindsey Graham: (10:32)
Right, absolutely. Most of the time, it’s a, he said, she said.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:33)
So how do you explain, How do you explain, from a perspective of your understanding of the science of trauma and memory?
Lindsey Graham: (10:41)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:41)
How do you explain the idea that she says that this guy was on top of her?
Lindsey Graham: (10:45)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:45)
She knew him, right?
Lindsey Graham: (10:47)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (10:47)
She knew him. She knows that it’s Brett Kavanaugh. How do you explain? What is the trick of the mind, as you wonder, I’m just trying to understand how you understand it.
Lindsey Graham: (10:54)
Yeah, right. Well, number one, he’s presumed to be, the Biden standard says the nominee, if you’re accused of a crime, we’re going to give you the presumption. So I’m not a psychologist, here’s what I do as a lawyer. And it’s good to have a system that will stand the test of time.
Lindsey Graham: (11:10)
I know in our system, that to bring a case forward, you have to give the accused notice of the time and the location. And a lot of these are he said, she said, so cooperation is very difficult. A 36-year-old allegation is hard to recreate. And here’s what I thought.
Lindsey Graham: (11:26)
I don’t know how she knew she had one beer, but that’s not the issue. I don’t know what happened to Dr. Ford. And I’m not here to tell, to belittle her about what she can’t tell us. He denied it in a passionate, effective way.
Lindsey Graham: (11:42)
He had a calendar talking about where you went, I can’t believe that, all over 1982. And to me, that was something. I can just tell you this no prosecutor in this country could get out of the batter’s box with this allegation. And that the people that she remembered being there said they weren’t there. And Miss Leland Keyser is her best friend.
Lindsey Graham: (12:07)
She’s not refuting what Dr. Ford said, but she says, “I have never met Brett Kavanaugh. And I don’t remember ever being at a party with him.” And all I can tell you, this happens to you.
Lindsey Graham: (12:19)
And it doesn’t matter that the accusation is not defined by time, place, and the people who say were there, said, “No, I wasn’t there,” and that’s still okay? Destroy the person’s life? God help us all.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (12:32)
Let me ask you a broader question.
Lindsey Graham: (12:34)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (12:34)
I want to come to your, I’m looking for a word, performance, at the hearing though, because it was seemed out of, out of character for you, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But I want to talk about issues that have been raised by his performance in the hearing.
Lindsey Graham: (12:52)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (12:52)
Which is to say, he was, and in the Atlantic, we have a great piece by Ben Wittes today, or yesterday, we posted it about this issue. Ben, who is a friend acquaintance of Kavanaugh, says that this guy is no longer qualified for the Supreme court, because his presentation was so nakedly, partisan, right?
Lindsey Graham: (13:11)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (13:11)
The attack on the Clintons, and so on …
Lindsey Graham: (13:13)
Yeah, right, right.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (13:13)
That we’re now politicizing the Supreme Court in a way that’s not tenable for American democracy.
Lindsey Graham: (13:20)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (13:20)
Lindsey Graham: (13:21)
I’ll be glad to.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (13:21)
Lindsey Graham: (13:23)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (13:23)
Why is he not disqualified by his partisan performance?
Lindsey Graham: (13:26)
We’re going to talk about that. Before the hearing, Brett Kavanaugh was highly respected by all who served with him on the court for 12 years. Before the hearing, every female law clerk said that he never did anything untoward me, I really respect him.
Lindsey Graham: (13:44)
The ABA, before the hearing, gave him a plus plus in terms of temperament, demeanor, character, integrity, ability. That’s before the hearing. Now let’s disqualify him now, because, the way he behaved at the hearing.
Lindsey Graham: (14:02)
I would never do that, because you’re rewarding people who are using the most despicable tactics I have ever seen since my time in politics. It’s like running over somebody, get out of the truck, and accusing them of denting your fender.
Lindsey Graham: (14:18)
What would you do, my friend, if somebody accused you of drugging women, being a serial gang rapist, being a stumbling, bumbling, drunk, turning your life upside down, and you know where it’s coming from? So if you hold this against him, I think that is the most unfair thing.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (14:37)
Pardon me for my cynicism here, but this goes to-
Lindsey Graham: (14:39)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (14:39)
This goes to Judge Kavanaugh that day. And it also goes to you a little bit. There’s a feeling, and correct me if I’m wrong, there’s a feeling that a lot of that was performance directed at the person who may or may not be watching the Atlantic Festival at this moment.
Lindsey Graham: (14:52)
Yeah, well let me [inaudible 00:14:52]-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (14:52)
Which is to say-
Lindsey Graham: (14:53)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (14:54)
Which is say, in our, in this new framework, anger is rewarded, and buttressed …
Lindsey Graham: (14:58)
Yes. Yeah, right. Got you.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (15:00)
Rather than civil discourse.
Lindsey Graham: (15:00)
Yeah, right. Yeah.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (15:00)
And so, that’s infecting the process of picking a Justice, and it will affect the Supreme Court.
Lindsey Graham: (15:05)
Yes, yeah, yeah.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (15:06)
I mean, am I fair in saying that you were directing some of that toward the President, your anger?
Lindsey Graham: (15:11)
To the President?
Jeffrey Goldberg: (15:13)
Showing the President, “No, we’re standing up and fighting in the way that we know you like.”
Lindsey Graham: (15:17)
No, I think that I, I think you’re cheapening me, and that’s fine. I don’t really care.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (15:20)
No, I would never cheapen you.
Lindsey Graham: (15:21)
So, no, no, no, you are. No, you are. You’re suggesting that the reason I got mad was for some political play. The reason I got mean, I-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (15:28)
No, no, no, no, no, no.
Lindsey Graham: (15:29)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (15:30)
No. Let him go, let him go.
Lindsey Graham: (15:31)
Please. The reason I voted for Sotomayor and Kagan was because I thought it made sense. The reason I came to his defense is because I thought he was being treated like crap.
Lindsey Graham: (15:41)
This is America. Turned to Don McGahn, and tell him, if you’re truly innocent, that you want to continue this, and have your family torn apart. That was too much for me.
Lindsey Graham: (15:53)
So here’s the game here. When I’m voting for two female nominees nominated by the Democrat, I’m the smartest freaking guy in town. I’m the epitome of what a good Republican …
Lindsey Graham: (16:03)
… frigging guy in town. I’m the epitome of what a good Republican would be like. When I defend somebody I know for 20 years against a complete character assassination, all of a sudden it’s about Lindsey.
Lindsey Graham: (16:13)
The reason I did what I did is because I wanted to let the country know that if this is the new normal, God help the next person who follows Brett Kavanaugh. I wanted the country to know that in this country, you don’t have to turn and prove anything. If you’re not asking for the cops to investigate you more, you’re guilty is probably not the way to go.
Lindsey Graham: (16:40)
I have seen Democratic senators say, “I believe her.” Before he ever spoke, I’ve been a lawyer. Most of my life. That’s not the way it works. I don’t know what the standard should be. Biden had it pretty well right.
Lindsey Graham: (16:55)
So here’s what’s happened. I said what I thought I needed to say at a time I thought it needed to be said. And here’s what’s happened on our side. Whether you’re a Trump Republican, a Bush Republican, a McCain Republican, a libertarian, or a vegetarian, you’re pissed.
Lindsey Graham: (17:16)
I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as I do right now. The defining issue in 2018 has changed. It’s about this. Republicans across the board, country club, tea party, you name it, believe this was way over the top. And I can tell you as a member of the body, who’s tried to work across the aisle and on occasion got people on my side mad, that this cannot be the new normal, because it will destroy the ability to get people to come forward and be judges.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (17:50)
Let me ask you one more question to this before we turn to such easy subject as the North Korea nuclear program. The issue of perjury. We know you have a long record going back to the Clinton impeachment of taking perjury very serious as an idea.
Lindsey Graham: (18:04)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (18:05)
There is a feeling including, especially among people who went to high school in the ’80s, that Brett Kavanaugh has done a fairly serious job of sanitizing what was for most of us forgivable behavior in terms of the drinking and the partying and so on, and that he’s presenting an image, and has presented it under oath, that is just not an accurate image. Do you have any doubt that he’s not telling the truth about his-
Lindsey Graham: (18:31)
No, I have … I believe the following, that if it comes down to a high school yearbook entry, we’re all in trouble. I believe that six FBI investigations that have been done over a 26-year period, he was part of Ken Starr’s team, that if he had truly been a stumbling bumbling drunk all these years in high school in college, we’d know something about it by now. I really do believe that the Brett Kavanaugh being portrayed by these five allegations, in my view, have all fallen apart, doesn’t represent the body of his life, and I’m highly suspicious of anything coming out now. And I don’t know what you would do about your high school … He said, “I drink beer. I like beer.”
Lindsey Graham: (19:22)
Like enough already with me. Enough, enough, enough. Vote against him. I really don’t care. If a serial rapist is not good enough, if a sexual predator is not good enough, well, maybe his temperament. Maybe that’s when we get him. Maybe he lied about how much he drank in high school, and maybe he threw ice in a bar in New York. Enough. Vote. Don’t destroy this man’s life, because goes around, comes around.
Lindsey Graham: (19:51)
I have tried to be an institutionalist. John McCain had been the chairman of this committee, and he had found out that the witness did not know the committee offered to go to California, he’d have blown his stack. John McCain believed in a process. He didn’t like the process in healthcare, and he voted against it. If somebody had withheld information from the committee they’d had for two months and dropped it last minute, whoa be unto them.
Lindsey Graham: (20:18)
So I’m a conservative, proud of it, want conservative judges on the court when it’s our turn to pick. When it’s their turn, I’ve honored their pick.
[ crosstalk 00:00:20:26].
Lindsey Graham: (20:30)
Merrick Garland, I’ll tell you about.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (20:31)
Thank you. I was just going to-
Lindsey Graham: (20:32)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (20:33)
He’s not North Korea, but [crosstalk 00:20:34]-
Lindsey Graham: (20:34)
No, he’s not, but [crosstalk 00:20:35]-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (20:35)
… you want to do 30 seconds on Merrick Garland.
Lindsey Graham: (20:37)
Judge Scalia dies in 2016. The primary process is ongoing. And if you look back in 100 years, nobody has been replaced under that circumstance. If you listen to what Joe Biden said and Bush 41, you should hold it over to the next election. Joe is right a lot, so I felt like I was doing the traditional thing there. When it came to Sotomayor and Kagan, I thought I did the traditional thing.
Lindsey Graham: (21:07)
Now, I’ll tell you this. This may make you feel better, but I really don’t care. If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term and the primary process has started, we’ll wait till the next election. And I’ve got a pretty good chance of being the judiciary-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (21:28)
You’re on the record.
Lindsey Graham: (21:29)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (21:29)
Lindsey Graham: (21:30)
Hold the tape. North Korea.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (21:34)
You and I have discussed many times in the past, what’s known as the crazy Nixon approach to foreign policy, which is the Henry Kissinger tactic of telling our adversaries that, “Hey, I’m a reasonable guy, but this president, I don’t know about him.”
Lindsey Graham: (21:54)
This is an easy sell by the way.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (21:55)
No, no, no, but let’s talk about the difference between the Nixon approach and the Trump approach. With the Trump approach, and we see this in some of the reporting by Bob Woodward and other people, in the Trump approach, we’re not sure if this is a highly elaborate, crazy Nixon approach, or just crazy. Right? I mean, and this is not-
Lindsey Graham: (22:12)
No, I’m with you. I don’t know either.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (22:15)
You don’t know either?
Lindsey Graham: (22:16)
Well, so here’s what I think-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (22:17)
Wait, you think that Donald Trump is crazy?
Lindsey Graham: (22:18)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (22:19)
Okay. Just checking.
Lindsey Graham: (22:20)
Is crazy like a fox. And just sometimes like, okay, where are we going with this? He won, by the way. You need to ask yourself, what was it about Donald Trump that allowed him to win? If you can’t figure that out, you’re probably going to lose in 2020.
Lindsey Graham: (22:36)
Foreign policy. Rocket Man.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (22:39)
Lindsey Graham: (22:40)
Everything we did, didn’t work. He’s got more weapons. We talk to him, we give sanctions, we relieved sanctions. Didn’t work. I said, first conversation I had with President Trump, “This is your biggest challenge. Longterm Iran, they get a nuke, they’ll use it, because they’re crazy, religious Nazis. This guy’s like a crazy, but he’s not religiously driven. He’s liable to sell it, and if he’s got plutonium bombs, he’ll get a hydrogen bomb. Somebody better stop him before he has a missile that can hit us. And on and on and on. You don’t want to be the guy that let it get completely out of the box.”
Lindsey Graham: (23:16)
And he asked me, “Would use military force?” I said, “As a last resort, because if people are going to be at risk, it’s not going to be our Homeland. It’s going to be over there. And the only way he’ll change is he believes you would use military force to stop his program. I think he wants to survive, but you got to convince him.”
Lindsey Graham: (23:34)
So the Chinese ambassador comes in, wanting to know about Trump. I said, “If you don’t believe he’ll do it, then you’re crazy.” Now we’ve gone from that to this. I’m worried that North Korea is dividing us from South Korea. I’m worried that we’re being played here. So I’m telling President Trump enough with, “I love you.” This is not a guy that loves-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (24:00)
You specifically told him, “Do not say …
Lindsey Graham: (24:02)
Not a guy to love.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (24:02)
You specifically told him do not say my-
Lindsey Graham: (24:05)
From my point of view, this love crap needs to stop. There’s nothing to love about Kim Jong-un.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (24:11)
Why did he say it, why did Donald Trump say it?
Lindsey Graham: (24:13)
In his world, he’s trying to pull him in his orbit, charm works, insults work. I can’t explain. I know that NAFTA worked, but this is different.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (24:24)
Yeah, but Kim is not Justin Trudeau.
Lindsey Graham: (24:26)
No. Yes. I’ll be the first one to agree with that.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (24:31)
I’m glad we finally have found a-
Lindsey Graham: (24:32)
Yeah, I know. So here’s the problem for the President. You’ve got to end this. They want to end the Korean war, but that comes after they give up their nukes. Condos or death need to be your choice. You can have Trump Hotels everywhere, you can have nice condos, or we’re going to take you down if you keep developing nuclear weapons to threaten our country. I don’t know how this ends, but we’re into another round of engagement.
Lindsey Graham: (24:59)
And here’s what I worry about. You get sucked into the love thing. And nothing changes. So he has really created a hard choice for himself, President Trump, in my view. If you don’t deliver on this, I think it’s going to be the-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (25:19)
And you think the chances are slim that he’s going to be able to deliver.
Lindsey Graham: (25:21)
I don’t know if he can convince rocket man it’s death or condos, he’s okay. If rocket man gets confused-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (25:27)
Death or condos.
Lindsey Graham: (25:28)
Jeffrey Goldberg: (25:29)
It’s a great band by the way, from the ’90s.
Lindsey Graham: (25:30)
Yeah, right. If rocket man believes that he’s got Trump loving him and backing off, then we’re all in trouble.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (25:38)
Go one more round on foreign policy. Then you have to go do the next thing. But what I still don’t understand, I come back to this, McCain worldview, McCain-Graham-Lieberman worldview, and this Trump worldview. He’s an isolationist. He does not believe. He’s purely transactional. Doesn’t believe in human rights as a important agenda item. All these things are antithetical to your whole approach to the world. Do you believe that by talking to him as much as you do, and my impression is it’s quite often, you believe that you’re moving him to another position. Do you think he’s so fixed-
Lindsey Graham: (26:16)
No, that’s a really good question. I think the team around him would be a McCain type team. That’s good news. So you got Mattis, you got Pompeo, who I like a lot. He traveled with John and myself all the time. So he’s got people, but if you want a North Korean skeptic, John Bolton. If you want some nice [inaudible 00:26:36]-
Jeffrey Goldberg: (26:36)
Have you ever won an argument with him about foreign policy?
Lindsey Graham: (26:38)
No, I don’t argue. I just say here’s the way. He’s probably watching. So I’m just going to lay it on the line. Keep doing what Obama did and see if it works out better for you. Pull out of Syria. Be my guest. Take the 2,200 troops that keep us having a say in Syria, see what happens to the Kurds. If you pull the 2,200 troops out, the Kurds are going to be destroyed either by Turkey or a Assad or ISIS comes back, and see if anybody will help you in the future. Now you’ve got 13,000 troops in Afghanistan. You’re tired of being there. Pull them out. See what happens when ISIS comes back along the Afghan-Pakistan border. See what happens when everything we worked for collapsed because you wanted to leave. You own it.
Lindsey Graham: (27:24)
Now, if you’re willing to leave them in there, I’ll stand behind you. If you’re willing to stay the course in Afghanistan, I’ll give you all the protection I can. But you’re President, I’m not. These things really matter. Everybody’s telling him that the 13,000 troops in Afghanistan are going to be needed for a while to come. Either listen to your commanders or just follow your political instincts. The last guy to do that was Barack Obama.
Lindsey Graham: (27:52)
So here’s what I would argue to the President, I do it all the time. Bush, too much. Not thinking it, through. Hundreds of thousands. Obama, zero, somewhere between a hundred thousand and zero is the right answer. And what is winning, Mr. President. If you don’t talk about the word winning, you’re wasting your time. Winning in Afghanistan is not losing. Winning in Afghanistan has giving a chance for the country to develop slowly but surely, where women have more say, the army and the police get better. You wear down the Taliban so they’ll actually want to talk. Winning is over the arc of time where terrorism becomes an ember, not a flame. You can bomb them to smithereens, but if you’re not willing to build a small schoolhouse in a remote region in Syria, Afghan or Pakistan, you named country Iraq. They’ll win. You’ve got to invest in the lives of others to win this war. Killing only would take you so far. Learn from the mistakes of Bush. Learn from the mistakes of Obama. Listen to smart people and whatever decision you make, own it.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (29:13)
I could do this all day. You got to go.
Lindsey Graham: (29:15)
I got to go.
Jeffrey Goldberg: (29:16)
So we’re going to say thank you.