FT Politics

Graham Pushes Military, Economic Security in Columbia Speech

By Dan Cook
Monday, August 25, 2014 |
In an Aug. 25 speech that touched on numerous issues — immigration, sequestration, terrorism, transportation infrastructure, Social Security and more — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham consistently linked the country’s military security to its economic policies, arguing that such difficult changes as entitlement reform and tax reform are crucial elements in supporting the military and maintaining security for the United States.

Speaking to the Columbia Rotary Club, Graham made connections between military and economic policy that he hopes voters will agree with as they head to the voting booth on Nov. 4. He said voters are ready to make sacrifices in programs like Social Security and Medicare — and that they need to do so in order to pay for the nation’s military and infrastructure needs.

Responding to an earlier speech by Graham in Charleston, Libertarian challenger Victor Kocher dismissed Graham’s calls for entitlement reform. “Once again, Senator Graham tried to use scare tactics to convince his constituents to accept his solution to the problem he wishes to solve,” Kocher said in a press statement. Rather than adopting entitlement reform and immigration reform, which Graham also supports, Kocher proposes a national sales tax to fund Social Security.

Graham, a Republican, defeated numerous opponents in a June primary — all of them coming at him from the right. In November, he faces Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto, Kocher and political wildcard Thomas Ravenel, a disgraced former state treasurer who now stars in the reality show Southern Charm and supports both gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana.

Graham, though, is focused elsewhere — on the Middle East and cybersecurity, among other things. His speech did not touch on either gay marriage or marijuana reform.

The recent murder of U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria by an Islamist extremist should serve as a wake-up call, Graham said.

Graham said he is more concerned about “another 9/11” than he has ever been, and that the U.S. — no matter how war-weary its citizens might be — needs to take the fight to ISIL (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in order to avoid ISIL taking the fight to the U.S.

On the matter of Iran, Graham said he was concerned that the U.S. might cut a bad deal that would eventually lead to that country being able to build nuclear weapons. And if that happened, he said, he fears those weapons would find their way to terrorists.

“Of all the things that are not being talked that should be talked about, the nuclear threat from Iran is number one and cyberattacks on our nation is number two,” Graham said.

“Remember when we were hacked into in South Carolina and they got personal information from the Department of Revenue? The threat we face from cyberattacks grows by the day. There are literally billions of attacks a day in America from organized crime and from nation states.”

Graham wants to develop a national plan that incentivizes businesses to adopt best practices to protect the nation’s infrastructure. One incentive, Graham said, would be to grant liability protection to those businesses that adopt strict cybersecurity measures.

Graham repeatedly blasted the forced military budget cuts stemming from the policy of sequestration and said that entitlement reform and tax reform should be pursued as a way to avoid those cuts.

If sequestration isn’t changed, Graham said, “We’re going to have a 420,000-person Army — the smallest Army since World War II.

“Will Fort Jackson be affected? Hell yeah. There is no way to keep two training commands in business with that small of an Army.”

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