Graham Tries to "Lighten This Up a Little Bit" at Lincoln Dinner

Jun 10, 2015

These are the remarks, as delivered, by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham at the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, May 16, 2015.

This is half time. If you’re a veteran, stand-up. If you’re tired of sitting, stand-up. If you need to go to the bathroom, now’s your time. It won’t bother me a bit. How about a round of applause for the people who put this dinner on? The more you drink, the better I’ll sound. So, keep drinking. Chuck Grassley, is he still here? The one thing I’ve learned about this dinner, it was free for Chuck, or he wouldn’t have been here. And, if he had met Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin would have one less penny. And, another thing I’ve learned about Chuck Grassley - I’m glad a farmer is in charge of the lawyers. We’ve had two doctors here tonight. Ben Carson is like awesome. Isn’t he like the smartest guy I’ve ever met? He’s like too smart to be president. I’m a lawyer. I fit it just right. I remember the first case I had in South Carolina after I got out of the Air Force, was a divorce case. And, I went to the guy and said, hey, I’m here to help you, and he asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to: If me and my wife get divorced will we still be cousins? The answer is yes in South Carolina. I don’t know about Iowa. We’ve got to lighten this up a little bit. Is Joni here? Joni Ernst rocks. Thank you, Joni. When I saw that ad with the pigs, I made sure I’d never offend Joni. But what I like most about Joni is that when she talks about boots on the ground, she knows what the hell she’s talking about because she’s had her boots on the ground. Thank you, Joni.

Now, we had a little discussion about the Constitution and terrorists. One thing I would say, what have we learned tonight? If you’re a radical Islamist you’ve come to the wrong meeting. Nobody here likes you. And, if you like God, you’ve come to the right place. Count me in for God. But I’ve been a lawyer in the military for 33 years.  If I don’t get court martialed, I’m going to retire at the end of the month. And, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve six and half years on active duty, I’ve been the Guard and Reserves. And it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been a military judge, I’ve been a defense attorney, and I’ve been a prosecutor. And, let me tell you this, I’m thinking about running for president. You get a house, a car, and a plane. It’s a pretty good gig. If I’m president of the United States, and you’re thinking about joining Al Qaeda or ISIL, anybody thinking about that? I’m not going to call a judge, I’m going to call a drone and we will kill you.

We’re at war, and I’m tired of treating the war as a crime. You may be tired of fighting the terrorists, but they’re not tired of fighting you. I’ve been to Afghanistan 23 times. I’m going back Memorial Day week for my last tour of duty. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve seen the enemy up close and I’ve seen people who would live in peace with us if they could. And, I’ve got one simple goal: To make sure this war never comes back here again and that means some of us got to go over there and fight. And, when it comes to blaming people about Iraq, the person I blame is Barack Obama not George W. Bush. To all of our friends in the media, ask Hillary Clinton any question, anything about anything. How can you run for president of the United States and never be asked a question? But all I can say is that President Bush - W - had the same information everybody else in the world did and made the best decision he could. And if anybody thinks Saddam Hussein was a good guy, then you need to go back in time and check out the facts. He was shooting at our airplanes patrolling the sky under international law. He was gassing his own people. He was denying UN inspectors access to weapons sites. And I’m glad he’s dead.

Now, Bush made mistakes, but he corrected his mistakes. Let me tell you why I blame Barack Obama more than President George W. Bush.  When it came time to wind down the war in Iraq, President Obama was told by every military leader in this country: Mr. President, you need to leave troops behind to hold the gains that we fought so hard, and the surge worked. If you fought in Iraq, it worked. It’s not your fault it’s going to hell. It’s Obama’s fault. You did your job. And I’ll have no part of anybody saying you didn’t. So, what he said is I made a campaign promise. I’m going to discount your military advice. And everything they told him would happen if he withdrew from Iraq has happened. So, I blame Barack Obama above all else for squandering the gains that was so hard to come about in Iraq. And I’m here to tell you that if I run for President of the United States and I win, we’re going to leave troops behind in Afghanistan because it makes us safer to have troops over there so the war can’t come here, again.

You know, everybody talks about radical Islam and talks about it being a religious war. If you have any doubt, ask them. They would kill everybody in this room. We got any Presbyterians here? Yeah, you were predestined to be here, glad to have you. We got any Catholics? Yeah, the Pope’s cool, too. We laugh about our religious differences, but they’ve got three goals: To purify their own religion and kill anybody who disagrees with them; Destroy, kill, maim, crucify every Christian they can get their hands on; and destroy the state of Israel. And they are not going to quit unless somebody makes them stop. Ladies and gentlemen, if I’m President of the United States, I will make them stop.

Now, how many of you believe the Iranians have been trying to build a nuclear weapon, not a nuclear power plant? Well, if you think they’re building a nuclear power plant you shouldn’t be allowed to drive in Iowa. What do you need to tell the Iranians? If you want a peaceful nuclear power program, you can have it. I don’t want a war with Iran. I don’t want a war with anybody. But the worst outcome in the world is to allow the Ayatollahs to get a nuclear weapon because they will use it. And it will come here one day. And as sure as I’m standing here, they will use it against Israel. So, this is one thing we’ve got to get right. So, here’s what I’d tell them. If you want a peaceful nuclear power program, you can have it. If you want a nuclear power program one day to make a bomb, you will not be allowed to do it. If you want a war, you will lose it.

Now, anybody here pro-life? Rick Santorum, who’s been great on this issue, said check our records out. Have you heard of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, the Laci Peterson law? I helped write that in the House. When I got to the Senate we passed it. If federal jurisdiction lies, and you assault a woman carrying her unborn child, you can be charged with two crimes, not one: A crime against the mother and a crime against the baby. I’m proud of that legislation. The House, Steve King and his colleagues in the House, you passed the Pain Capable Bill in the House, this week. It says that if a baby gets to twenty weeks in the pregnancy we’re going to ban wholesale abortions of that baby. I’m going to take that bill up with Joni’s help and Chuck’s help. We’re going to have a debate in the Senate. Seven nations in this world allow abortions at twenty weeks, five months in the pregnancy. We’re one of them, and I’m going to get us out of that club.  

Running for president, being in the Senate, things I never dreamed would be possible in my life. Anybody been to South Carolina? Come back. Spend money. I was born in a small town in South Carolina -- Central. Neither one of my parents finished high school. We owned a liquor store, a restaurant, and a pool room. That’s why I know the Iranians are lying because I ran the pool room. When I was 21 my mom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Six months later she passed. And,the bills wiped us out because we’re underinsured. So, I don’t need a lecture from a Democrat about health care. Fifteen months later, my dad died. I’m 22. My sister’s 14. My world came to an end, upside down. If it wasn’t for family, friends, and faith I wouldn’t be standing here today. We moved in with an aunt and uncle who never made over 25 thousand dollars in their life. If it wasn’t for Social Security survivor benefits we couldn’t have paid the bills. If it wasn’t for college loans and Pell grants, my sister would never went to college. I’m a proud Republican, but we’re all one-car wreck away from needing somebody’s help. If I get to be President of the United States, if that dream ever came true, I would put the country ahead of the Party and make sure people like me could make it. God Bless you.