Question: How would you solve the problems facing our nation?
Lindsey Graham: Three things I would do if I were king, one, I’d be benevolent, but firm, and I don’t expect to be king. But I would like the country to look at entitlement reform in a serious way. Now, what do I mean by that? When I look at America, I don’t see an under-taxed nation, I see a nation struggling to create jobs in a global economy that’s changed forever and we’re over-promising as a nation. We made promises to future generations we can’t keep.
So what would I do if I could? I would sit Republicans and Democrats down and fix social security, because that is eminently doable. I would change the age of retirement. We’re living longer, that’s the good news. The bad new is these entitlement programs haven’t had the age adjusted. So I would move the age somewhere in the 69 range, slowly over time, for people under 55. I would not affect people on social security or near retirement.
I would also ask people of my income level to take less in benefits, because the promises we’ve made to future generations of Americans are unsustainable. We’ve got 3 workers for every social security retiree today; in 20 years we’ll have 2. When I was born in ’55, we had 16 for every retiree. So we’re having less people and more retirees living longer. So I would adjust the age and I would recalculate benefits for people in my income level.
The second thing I would do for the country is I would create a legal infrastructure that would allow our country to be at war, but within our values. The CIA no longer interrogates terror suspects. I’m not for waterboarding, but I’m also not for taking the CIA out of the interrogation business. The Army Field Manual is the only document we have now to interrogate enemy combatants, people suspected of terrorism. Somewhere between the Army Field Manual, which is published online, and water boarding, which I think is a bad way to interrogate people, we should find a middle ground, allow the CIA to do enhanced interrogations within our values, but not tell the enemy what’s coming their way.
I would make sure that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11 is tried in military commissions. He’s been held under the law of war for six or seven years, I think it’s a mistake to put him in civilian court. We’re at war, we’re fighting a war, not a crime.
Which leads me to energy policy. We use more Mideast oil today, we’re dependent on Mideast oil today, than we were before 9/11. That’s a national security nightmare. So what I’d like to do, is the third thing, is to become energy independent, create jobs in low carbon technologies, like wind, solar, and nuclear, and the third thing is clean up the air. If my generation of political leaders could break our dependency on foreign oil, create a low-carbon economy that would allow America to develop technology and create new jobs for future generations, and pass on to the future generations cleaner air, that would be a pretty good use of my time.
Recorded December 1, 2010
Interviewed by Alicia Menendez