Sen. Graham emphasizes foreign policy credentials at N.H. town meeting

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MILFORD, NH — Emphasizing his foreign policy credentials, GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held an intimate gathering Sunday with supporters at VFW post 4368 in Milford, New Hampshire. Together with his friend and colleague Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a two-time New Hampshire primary winner, Graham spoke to a crowd of military veterans and local Republicans about U.S. national security and the strategic foreign policy objectives of the United States.

“If I am president, the war on terror ends this way: We win, they lose,” Graham said to great applause.

Although Graham said he is not someone who would go looking for war, he stressed that he would not shy away from using American military power to protect U.S. interests.  Senator McCain, who is widely regarded as an expert on U.S. foreign policy and military affairs, has repeatedly stated that he believes Senator Graham is the only candidate in the race qualified to be Commander-in-Chief. McCain echoed Graham’s comments about the gravity of the decision to send American troops to war.

“It’s not a light decision to send young people to war,” Sen. McCain said. “No one wants to send young people to war.”

Graham called for returning troops to Iraq and sending in troops to fight ISIS on the ground in the Middle East, but noted that, as Commander-in-Chief, his focus would be on making America’s defenses more efficient, allocating funds and personnel where they are most needed and eliminating wasteful spending. He said he would utilize special forces to decrease the total number of Americans involved in fighting overseas.

Graham said that America needs to focus on fighting radical Islamic terrorists so that peaceful Muslims can practice their religion safely and without violence. Graham spoke of the importance of cultivating pro-American sentiments among young people in the Middle East and cited the need to increase educational opportunities for women in this embattled region.

With respect to domestic policy, Graham emphasized the need to increase the retirement age for Social Security in order to keep the system solvent.  Although some of the older veterans in the audience seemed to disagree with Graham on this issue, Graham did not back down, noting that today Americans live longer, healthier, and more productive lives than they did when Social Security was first introduced.

“[Today’s young] people may have to work a little longer, but they will have decades to plan for it,” Graham said.

Graham also indicated his support for means-testing, whereby participants whose current income or assets exceed specified levels receive fewer benefits in order to help support those retirees who rely entirely on Social Security as their means of support. He told the crowd that, financially, he and Senator McCain are among the class of people whose benefits should be reduced, as their incomes are higher than most people’s.

But, perhaps the campaign promise that resonated most with the VFW crowd was Graham’s plan to “put country ahead of party.” During his 90-minute talk, Graham frequently spoke about his desire to reach across the aisle and sit down with Democrats to put his plans into action.

Supporter Wendy Hunt of Amherst thanked Sen. Graham for his campaign, calling him a candidate of common sense.

“[Sen. Graham] doesn’t tow the party line, he says what needs to be said,” she stated.

Sen. McCain cited times that he and Graham had opposing votes on bills in Congress, but noted that “[Graham] is the most honest and straight-forward candidate [in the race].

“He’s the only candidate who will hit the ground running on day one.”

McCain won New Hampshire Republican primaries both in 2000 and in 2008. He praised the crowd for being from a state where people “think for themselves.” He said that although Graham’s polling numbers may be low now, the race is far from over.

“I believe in the people of New Hampshire as much now as I did [in 2000], when people elsewhere were counting me out,” he said, calling on the group to support Graham as they had supported him.

The event was part of a 15-stop weekend swing through the granite state by Sens. Graham and McCain.