Avoiding potential White House rivals’ recent stumbles, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham declared in a nationally televised interview Monday he would have been unlikely to invade Iraq in 2003 if he’d known Saddam Hussein’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction was based on faulty intelligence.
“Would I have launched a ground invasion? Probably not,” Graham said on CBS’ “This Morning.”
The Iraq war and rise of the militant ISIS after the American pullout has become a live grenade for Republicans on the campaign trail. Jeb Bush has found it difficult to distance himself from the unpopular war launched by his brother, former President George W. Bush, while maintaining family loyalty.
Another Republican, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, dug himself a hole by calling the invasion a mistake and not a mistake, depending on how the question was asked.
Graham said he agreed Saddam “needed to go,” but that the question has since moved years forward, to what to do now that the militant Islamic group known as ISIS is threatening to overrun Iraq.
“What do we do today and tomorrow and the day after?” he said. “We have to reset Iraq.”
During his five-minute appearance, Graham all but confirmed he would be entering the crowded Republican field seeking the nomination to run for president in 2016. Graham said he would be making an announcement June 1 in his hometown of Central, in the Upstate.
“I’m running because of what you see on television; I’m running because I think the world is falling apart,” he also said.
“I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy,” Graham told co-hosts Gayle King, Nora O’Donnell and Charlie Rose.
Since announcing he was considering making a White House bid several months ago, Graham has made several trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first caucus and primary are held. South Carolina’s primary in February is the first in the South and seen as a key test of any candidate’s staying power.
Asked if he was running because of the GOP field’s relative lack of experience in foreign policy, Graham, 59, and a 21-year veteran of Capitol Hill, instead touted his own resume as a defense hawk.
“It’s not the fault of others, or their lack of this or that makes me want to run,” he said. “Is my ability in my own mind to be a good commander-in-chief and to make Washington work.”
Graham also noted the criticism he has received for his willingness to work with Democrats in Washington. He said he wanted more cooperation with the other party, not less.
“The reason I had six primary opponents in my last election is that I’ve been accused of working with Democrats too much,” he said.
“In my view, Democrats and Republicans work together too little, and I would try to change that if I got to be president.”
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