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Presidential Possibilities 2012: Why Senator Lindsey Graham Would be Credible GOP Candidate

04/07/2011 02:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2011

"Will foreign policy matter in the 2012 presidential race? It could be the issue in 2012," emphasized Senator Lindsey Graham at a speech at our Center on Politics & Foreign Relations at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Relations on April 6.

Saying that most Americans are "war weary" the South Carolina Senator stated "foreign policy could be Obama's shining moment or his disaster."

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, presented a far reaching critique of Obama's foreign policy from the Middle East to China and beyond and presented his views on how our policies could be improved.

Many times he answered questions with "If I were a Republican candidate for president," here is what he would say about this issue.

So, I asked the senator if he would like to throw his hat into the ring as a GOP candidate in 2012. He responded that he certainly had no plans or desires to run for president but he wanted to be helpful in framing the foreign policy debate for the many soon to announce Republican hopefuls on foreign policy issues.

This got me to thinking that the former Air Force colonel might actually be one of the stronger GOP presidential candidates at the moment.

He speaks his mind, is quite articulate and presents strong arguments against many of the current administration's foreign policies from Libya to Iraq to Afghanistan.

The senator knows the presidential campaign trail very well as he traveled extensively with his good friend Senator John McCain when the latter ran for the Oval Office in 2008.

So, he has been around the track on the national level so to speak and is not bombastic and shrill like many of the other potential GOP presidential possibilities.

While he is very conservative on social and economic and foreign policy topics he gives the impression of being someone you could deal with and someone who could appeal to the independent voter.

While most of the current field of Republican presidential hopefuls seem to have little or no foreign policy experience or even talk much about international relations in their speeches, Senator Graham is quite knowledgeable on foreign policy issues.

The senator who was re-elected in 2008 with 58% of the vote is worried that Republican presidential candidates running in 2012 will be speaking out for increasing isolationism by wanting to bring all our troops home and pulling back from the world.

Graham feels that would be very dangerous and calls for America to keep involved in the world. He stated, "Should we have an enduring relationship with Afghanistan? My answer is yes."
"An enduring relationship in Afghanistan with a military component will keep the Taliban out of power."

The former JAG lawyer calls for "a new agreement with Iraq to have security assistance capability" and to "keep U.S. contingent in Kurdish part of Iraq up north."

And in Libya he forcefully exclaims that "Gaddafi must go" and he would "put U.S. airpower into the fight" and use our airpower over Tripoli to "make Gaddafi crack."

Speaking about Guantanamo in his speech he stated that "Congress made Obama change his view of Guantanamo and the trial in New York City."

Graham has called for outlawing torture and says "waterboarding undermines the U.S. and I am against it."

The senator feels Iran is the main worry for U.S foreign policy today and that not enough is being done to prevent them from building nuclear weapons.

If the Republicans are looking for a candidate who actually has a chance of winning rather than merely trying to score points with various groups with tiresome and stale phrases they could look to a thoughtful and respected senator from South Carolina as their standard bearer in 2012 who could speak about a coherent foreign policy agenda that would be in contrast to the current administration's.

If the GOP is looking for a serious candidate with foreign policy credentials they might consider the senator who started many of his sentences at our breakfast with "If I were a Republican candidate for president."

They could do worse and most likely will.