Speaking Wednesday before a large audience on Hilton Head, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham opened up about his recent golf-course chat with President Donald Trump, which the Upstate Republican said included a frank discussion about North Korea’s claimed efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
Graham was the keynote speaker at the 22nd annual State of the Region luncheon hosted by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. He started off his speech about his game of golf with Trump on Monday at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. Graham tweeted that the president shot a 73, which several news organizations contended was implausible.
“The idea that Trump is not a good golfer — fake news,” Graham noted to the Hilton Head audience of more than 700.
But the 40-minute address quickly turned serious. After pointing out the need for tax reform, a better healthcare plan, protecting Dreamers (immigrant children brought to America illegally) and increasing the number of men and women in the military, Graham, an unsuccessful presidential candidate who has been publicly critical of Trump on more than one occasion, ended his talk on the North Korean situation.
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“If there is going to be a war (with North Korea), it is going to be over there,” the longtime senator said. “After playing 18 holes of golf with Donald Trump, I believe 100 percent that’s what he believes.”
Trump has mocked North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un on Twitter, calling him, among other things, “Rocket Man.” The Charleston Post and Courier reported Tuesday that Graham said Trump’s tweets about the dictator are not the real threat, but rather the “threat is a regime that seems hell-bent on getting a nuclear capability to reach the American homeland.”
“So this is the last thing I told the president,” Graham told the Hilton Head crowd. “Twenty years from now they’re going to look back at your time and mine, and they’re going to make one of two conclusions: That you stopped the North Koreans from amassing missiles and nuclear weapons, and made the world safer. Or you let it go forward, and people 20 years from now, who are going to feel the effects of that decision, are going to curse you.”
Graham said he is optimistic about the future.
“I believe that with a new foreign policy and revised military, that we can turn this around before it’s too late,” he said. “I believe that if North Korea had to pick between nuclear weapons and survivability, they’d pick survivability. I believe the Iranians want or need survivability more than they need anything else. And it’s our job to make that choice for them.”
The senator received a standing ovation from the audience.