KEENE, New Hampshire—Speaking at a town hall meeting here yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham said one element of his national security policy would be to merge the Department of Defense and the State Department to create the Department of War Diplomacy, which he would appoint Arizona Senator John McCain to lead.
In this first stop of a 10-day barnstorming campaign through New Hampshire, Mr. Graham unveiled components of his national security plan, foreign affairs policy, and military actions to stop ISIS, a Koran-inspired, brutal terrorist organization that controls large swatches of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria as it seeks to establish a so-called Islamic caliphate.
Senator McCain joined him at the Keene town hall meeting.
Mr. Graham told the crowd that America’s foreign policy needed an “emergency, urgent, drastic, immediate, and thorough overhaul.”
“I am the only candidate who has a plan to defeat ISIL and restore stability in the Middle East,” Mr. Graham said. “If we don’t change, it’s only a matter of time before we get hit hard.”
The recently retired Air Force Reserves colonel touted his 33-year military career, which included service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as unique experiences that make him more qualified than any presidential candidate in recent history to create effective and strong national security and foreign policies.
“We will correct the mistakes of the past and provide steady leadership. We will take care of ISIS from Day 1,” he said.
Mr. Graham reminded the crowd that as a senator he has traveled to the Middle East more than 20 times and acquired “boots-on-the-ground” intelligence and knowledge about “ISIL, the Taliban, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups.”
“You want to know how this war with radical Islamic extremists ends? We win, and they lose. I lay down every night and wake up every morning determined to protect this country. We must fight them over there to keep them from coming here.”
He said he had total, unequivocal confidence that Mr. McCain would be an extraordinary, brilliant Secretary of War Diplomacy. Mr. McCain echoed his confidence.
Mr. McCain told the meeting: “I’ll put the country on a war footing because we’ve got a lot of catching up to do so that we take care of all the terrorists and rogue countries that don’t fear us anymore.”
He said President Obama’s foreign policy bears the blame for the rapid deterioration of “American might and military exceptionalism” around the world.
“Since we’ve had the American Neville Chamberlin in the White House, tin-foil-hat dictators and wannabe terrorists from every godforsaken piece of dirt and nook and cranny of the world have been pushing us around like we’re a bunch of San Francisco sissies.”
Mr. Graham told the crowd he would restore American prestige worldwide.
“The United States is still the leader and best hope for a free and safe world. And as President I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes to defeat ISIL.”
Mr. Graham also said he was “aggressively politicking” to have his campaign endorsed by the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Annis Minor-DeMinimus reports from campaign trails of Republican presidential candidates.
Lindsey Graham Photo: Allegra Boverman for New Hampshire Public Radio.