Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is drawing criticism for suggesting he would use drones to kill Americans who would consider joining Islamic State radicals – but the likely Republican presidential candidate has a history of making fear-mongering statements to justify war and unconstitutional abuses.
"If I’m president of the United States and you’re thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL, I’m not going to call a judge," Graham said Saturday at the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner. "I’m going to call a drone and we will kill you."
Graham, who has said he will announce June 1 whether he’ll join the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, pretty much constantly warns that the world is at the brink of destruction – and only policies supported by Lindsey Graham might pull humankind back to safety.
“The world is literally about to blow up,” Graham warned following President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address.
The senator said more drone strikes and increased troop presence were needed in the Middle East to keep it from descending into chaos, just as he did nearly a year earlier, in May 2013.
"Our allies are more afraid than I have ever seen,” Graham yelped at the time. “I support the concepts that the president talked about in many ways, but if he does not change his policy, the Middle East is going to blow up and we are going to hit again here at home to matter how hard we try."
He demanded military action to prevent Islamic State radicals from taking over Iraq.
"This is another 9/11 in the making," Graham told CNN in June 2014. "The FBI director has warned us in Congress that Syria and Iraq present a direct threat to our homeland.”
That chaos would be visited upon American cities unless Obama followed his recommendation last year for a sustained air campaign in Iraq and Syria, Graham warned.
“I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq,” Graham said in August.
A few weeks later, Graham said "boots on the ground" would be necessary to fight Islamic State militants in Syria -- or all of his dire predictions would surely come true.
“They will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world,” Graham said in September. “This is not a Sunni versus Sunni problem. This is ISIL versus mankind.”
Graham said AR-15 rifles would be necessary in such a post-apocalyptic environment, which he said had existed following Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy -- and would surely happen again.
“It existed in New Orleans, to some extent up in Long Island, it could exist tomorrow if there’s a cyber attack against country and the power grid goes down and the dams are released and chemical plants are — discharges,” Graham warned in March 2013.
“What I’m saying is, if my family was in the crosshairs of gangs that were roaming around neighborhoods in New Orleans or or any other location, the deterrent effect of an AR-15 to protect my family, I think, is greater than a double-barrel shotgun,” he added.
He has been a vocal proponent of launching a pre-emptive military strike on Iran.
"So my view of military force would be not to just neutralize their nuclear program, which are probably dispersed and hardened, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard,” Graham said in November 2010. “In other words, neuter that regime."
Graham said the Senate should authorize war with Iran in fall 2013 if it did not give up its nuclear program.
“We live in the most dangerous times imaginable,” Graham told Fox News in July 2013.
He was also one of the most vocal cheerleaders for launching the disastrous Iraq War, arguing that Saddam Hussein's denial of having weapons of mass destruction were a "flat-out lie."
“Saddam Hussein has been hard at work trying to secure chemical, biological and nuclear weapons," Graham warned in September 2002. "He’s trying to upgrade his mass-destruction arsenal that will be used against us and our friends. Iraq is a self-defense issue, and we need to aggressively engage Saddam Hussein. We don’t need the blessings of the world to defend ourselves. A regime change is the only alternative in Iraq."
Graham proposed a military solution to domestic legislative problem earlier this year, saying that -- if he were president -- he would order the military to force Congress to reverse cuts in defense spending.
“I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to,” Graham said in March. “We’re not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts. We are not leaving town until we restore the intel cuts.”
Graham warned that the United States would go bankrupt unless Democratic senators supported his tax code proposal that called for cuts in Medicare and Social Security.
“If you will help me reform entitlements, I’ll help you reform the tax code, because we’re becoming Greece if we don’t do this,” Graham said in September 2013.
The South Carolina Republican, who has a reputation as a centrist, threatened to block Senate appointments until Benghazi survivors testified before Congress -- even though lawmakers have been given access to their testimony.
"Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view," Graham said in January 2013. She said they had a clear-eyed view of the threats. How could you have a clear-eyed view of the threats in Benghazi when you didn’t know about the ambassador’s cable coming back from Libya?"
He also suggested the First Amendment "has limits," especially when it comes to public safety.
“If I thought censoring the mail was necessary, I would suggest it, but I don’t think it is,” Graham said in June 2013.
He defended the collection of cell phone data by the National Security Agency, saying he was "glad" the government was monitoring suspected terrorists.
“I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government’s going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States," Graham told Fox News in June 2013. "I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists -- I know you’re not, I know I’m not -- so we don’t have anything to worry about.”
He also suggested the government should monitor Internet activity to identify potential terrorists.
"When somebody in a database like this begins to openly interact with radical Islamist websites, an FBI agent should knock on his door and say, ‘You told us before you wanted to be an Olympic boxer, that you love this country -- what the hell is going on here? We’re watching,'” Graham said in April 2013.
Graham, unlike nearly all of his Republican colleagues, believes that climate change is a real phenomenon -- but he faults alarmists for overstating the risks.
"The problem is Al Gore has turned this thing into a religion,” Graham said in March. “Climate change is not a religious problem for me, it is an economic problem, it is an environmental problem."
Even so, he's expressed some scientifically shaky, religion-based views on the environment.
"We need to use the coal that God has given us," Graham said in October 2009.