Lindsey Graham: Congress Should Give Trump Authority to Use Military Force in North Korea

Lindsey Graham: Congress Should Give Trump Authority to Use Military Force in North Korea

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pauses as he speaks about the Iran nuclear agreement at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, Tuesday Sept. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was on Hugh Hewitt’s show this morning. Naturally, the subject was North Korea. You can hear the interview here.

These are some highlights:

Growing increasingly dangerous, because the policy has changed from strategic patience, which is a code word for weakness, to denial of the capability to hit the American homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile. …[W]e will not allow North Korea to have an ICBM with a weapon on top to hit the American homeland. We’re not going to contain the threat. We’re going to deny that capability, and our policy has changed dramatically, and we’re trying to make sure that our allies and our enemies know that.

This is exactly what the administration has been saying over a period of weeks. Back in April, Nikki Haley said that North Korea having a nuclear ICBM would be a cause for war.

HH: Now everyone in the chain of command – the president of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, I haven’t heard from Admiral Harris, who is the combatant commander in the Pacific, but Chairman Dunford, the Joint Chief, General McMaster told me personally, the Army Chief of Staff Milley said it, I’m sure Pompeo and Rogers from the intel community agree, and you’re out there speaking on behalf of the Armed Services Committee. Everybody is on the same page on this, but the press seems to make this a Trump story.

LG: Yeah.

HH: What are they missing?

LG: Oh, most everything. So commentators on another network said last night that North Korea was a rational actor, a former CIA chief who I admire a lot. Look at the Human Rights report on North Korea. Rational people do not do what Kim Jung Un has done to his own people. I don’t believe it’s in our national security interest for anybody to need to put nuclear weapons on top to hit America. They’ve got uranium bombs today. They’ll have hydrogen bombs tomorrow. The last 25 years have failed. This is not a Donald Trump problem. He inherited this mess. Everybody before him failed to stop North Korea, and now there’s no place to kick the can. This is a Kim Jung Un problem, not a Donald Trump problem. And one commentator said well, they’ve got nuclear weapons. They just need to act responsibly and welcome to the club. The last person I want to have the capability to strike the American homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile is the leader of North Korea, because he is crazy.

Hewitt and Graham have this exactly right. The media is out carrying water for the failure of the Obama administration. They have tried to make this an issue of Trump, not of North Korea. The same people are also making the case that we should offer North Korea the same deal we offered Iran, while failing to mention we did that in 1994.

HH: Senator, would you characterize for the audience the President’s grasp of the situation, his knowledge, his approach, his consultations so that they have more than the shout-fest we see on cable that speculate as to his approach to this issue?

LG: Deadly serious, very curious. I think he’s made a decision long ago, quite frankly, to try to negotiate the threat with North Korea, to try to find a way through negotiations to end the threat to the American homeland. But if negotiations fail, he is willing to abandon strategic patience and use preemption. I think he’s there mentally. He has told me this.

And finally, this:

Only Congress can declare war. There’s nothing in the Constitution limiting the ability to use force to protect America. Having said that, it would be very smart if the Congress could come together and tell the President you have our authorization to use military force to stop the threat to the homeland as a last resort. That would send a signal to North Korea and China that would probably do more good to avoid war than anything I can think of. And to accomplish that task, our Democratic friends would have to park their hatred of Donald Trump and put the country first.

This is an interesting gambit. Congress giving Trump an authorization for the use of military force under certain circumstances would certainly raise the stakes and it might be what it takes to force China make that hard choice between a non-nuclear North Korea and a war and refugee crisis on its border.

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