Graham launches White House bid

Central native Lindsey Graham was back in his hometown on Monday to announce to the world he is running for president. Graham said he would be ready to be commander in chief “from day one.” Kerry Gilstrap/Courier

Central native announces

candidacy in hometown

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

CENTRAL — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham returned to his hometown of Central on Monday, telling a throng of supporters gathered on Main Street his reason to run for U.S. president is simple.

“I owe a debt to my family, my friends, to you, South Carolina and my country,” Graham told those in the attendance and television viewers around the world. “I’m running for president to pay those debts and fight as hard for you as you did for me. In the end, that’s the only promise I can make and the only pledge I will sign — it’s the only one that matters.”

Graham, who began his political career in the S.C. House of Representatives in 1993 and served until entering the U.S. House in January 1995 following his election the previous November, succeeded Strom Thurmond in the U.S. Senate in 2002.

He has been known primarily for his stand on a strong national defense, with a military background that consists of a 34-year career of active and reserve duty in the U.S. Air Force that concluded with his retirement last week.

“I’ve got more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race,” Graham said, adding, “That includes you, Hillary.”

The senator said he “knows the players, our friends and enemies alike, but most important, ladies and gentlemen, they know me.”

If elected, Graham said he wants “to defeat the terrorists that are trying to kill us” — something former President Ronald Reagan emphasized through his “peace through strength” policy that kept America safe throughout the Cold War.

But Graham said he is afraid many political leaders — including some of his fellow Republicans — have given up on fighting radical Islam.

“I’ve got some bad news — radical Islam is not afraid of fighting you,” he said.

That, Graham said, includes Iran. He said the U.S. must take a firm stance against the nation that is seeking to produce nuclear weapons because, otherwise, having such weapons in the hands of a volatile nation would be harmful to Israel.

“Our greatest ally, Israel, is at risk because of (President Barack) Obama’s failed leadership,” Graham said. “To our friends in Israel, I will never abandon you. I will always stand firm and support the only Jewish state. I have the experience, the judgment and will work to deny the most radical regions the most dangerous weapons.”

But Graham said radical Islam isn’t the only threat to America. Because of what he says is weak leadership by the Obama administration, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other adversaries “are seizing opportunities to challenge our interests” — specifically through what he called Putin’s bold move to annex Ukrainian territories into Russia. Graham said enemies consider the United States weak, putting allies in grave danger.

“Our allies feel the absence of American leadership, and our adversaries that are taking advantage of American weaknesses anywhere hurt us everywhere,” he said. “Our enemies are emboldened, our allies are going it alone and both actions are detrimental to our national security.

“We must come back and we will, and the way you do it is to make sure your next president is a decisive and informed commander in chief. I am ready to be commander in chief from day one.”

Though Graham said he couldn’t promise — even as commander in chief — that lives wouldn’t be lost fighting for the country, the senator did say he could assure service members will have “the leadership to defeat our enemies.”

He said sacrifices “won’t be wasted” and “they won’t fight with their hands tied behind their back.”

But while Graham’s talk dealt primarily with national security and the need for stronger leadership from the commander in chief, it also included Social Security and Medicare.

Because senior adults are living longer and fewer workers are supplementing the system, he said things are unsustainable and must be fixed.

“We need to fix entitlement programs so people who need them the most will receive them, and that’s going to take determined leadership,” Graham said.

Graham said he and his sister, Darline, were fortunate to receive Social Security benefits when their parents died. As the years have gone by, the Central native said he has been fortunate to have “done better than I ever imagined” and is willing to do his part to help others receive the benefits they deserve.

“If I and others like me have to pay a little more and take a little less, that’s fine with me,” he said, adding, “Young people, you may have to work a little longer.”

The senator said he also believes there are ways to reduce America’s dependence on oil from other countries through resources that already exist in the U.S. in a way that is environmentally friendly.

In addition, he said both Democrats and Republicans must start working together and emphasize their common love for the U.S. rather than continue the divisiveness that exists and prevents moving the country forward in a positive manner.

“I will fight each day harder than the day before to keep this country great, safe and prosperous as the people who died (in service to the country),” he said. “I will work every day to make you proud.”