U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stumps for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in South Carolina. (Photo: Randall Hill/Reuters)
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Donald Trump is currently one of the leading contenders in the Republican presidential contest, but the businessman has reserved many of his sharpest attacks for a man who dropped out of the race in December 2015, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Trump has ridiculed Graham as a “nut job” and a “disgrace.” He has relentlessly mocked the fact that Graham’s poll numbers never rose beyond single digits in the national race. Trump has even made schoolyard physical boasts, suggesting he could “push” Graham “over with a little thimble.” Graham discussed Trump’s jabs with Yahoo News on Wednesday. He also answered the question of whether he could “take” Trump.
Since leaving the race, Graham has endorsed another Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Graham has been traveling with Bush on the campaign trail. Yahoo News caught up with Graham at an event in Myrtle Beach on Wednesday, at which Graham included shots at Trump in his introduction of Bush. In his own appearances, Trump has slammed Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush. Trump has also suggested he could best negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Graham began the Bush event on Wednesday with an indictment of Trump’s foreign policy positions.
“Donald Trump couldn’t be here. We’ll take a foreign policy test. Now, how many of you believe that George W. Bush did not cause 9/11?” Graham asked.
The crowd cheered their agreement.
“OK. That’s a good thing. How many of you believe that Putin’s not our friend?” Graham asked. “How many of you believe that it’s not smart to let China take care of our national security regarding North Korea?”
The crowd clapped.
“All of you passed,” Graham said.
Graham then launched into his critique of Trump.
“Here’s the bad news: The frontrunner of this primary was 0 for 3; he didn’t get any of them right,” Graham said. “Can you imagine nominating somebody for the Republican Party nomination for president who thinks George W. Bush lied to the American people about the Iraq War? Can you imagine nominating somebody who believes President Bush is responsible … for 9/11?”
Afterward, Graham talked to Yahoo News about Trump’s attacks on him.
“He’s not used to criticism,” Graham said of Trump.
Graham went on to lament the Republican National Committee “polling system” that prevented him from participating in the top-tier debates with Trump and the other leading candidates.
“I’d have loved to have been on the stage with him, but I could never get there,” Graham said, adding, “This polling system the RNC came up with really punishes a guy in a small state who’s never run before.”
Nevertheless, Graham said his experience as a veteran would easily outpace Trump’s, who never served in the Armed Forces.
“Here’s the deal: I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan 36 times. I spent 33 years in the Air Force, 140 days on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Air Force reservist,” Graham said. “I think I have a good understanding about the military needs. … At the end of the day, Donald Trump, his foreign policy is gibberish. His understanding of the world is bizarre, and his insults toward George W. Bush will haunt him.”
Yahoo News also pointed to Trump’s comments about being able to “push” him over. Asked whether he could “take” Trump, Graham alluded to the fact Trump went to a military academy and did not actually enter the armed forces.
“I know military high school made a warrior out of Donald Trump. I don’t know how his bone spurs…” Graham said before trailing off and beginning again. “It’s not about me and Donald Trump. It’s about my country and having a commander in chief worthy of the sacrifice of those who joined the military. … I think Donald Trump would be a pathetic commander in chief, unequal in temperament, judgment and understanding of who our friends are.”
Graham concluded with a direct message to Trump.
“To the Donald — it’s not about you, it’s about those who serve,” Graham said. “And I would do everything I can to make sure you’re never their commander in chief, ’cause you’re not worthy of the title.”