CHAPIN — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said he told President Barack Obama Monday that he wants to be supportive of an attack on Syria but that he cannot vote for a limited military strike that has no purpose or strategy attached to it.
I want to know what happens after the strike. Im looking for a strategy, Graham said before riding in the annual Chapin Labor Day parade Monday morning. Are we ready for reprisals? You say (Syrian President Bashir al-Assad) must go; how do we get him out?
Graham was scheduled to meet with Obama at 2 p.m. Monday in Washington. Graham left the parade early to catch a ride with a police officer to the airport to make the meeting on time. Graham said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Secretary of State John Kerry also would be at the meeting.
Saturday, Obama said he believes the American military should intervene in the Syrian Civil War after U.S. intelligence reports confirmed Assads government used devastating chemical weapons on civilians. Assad told the French newspaper Le Figaro on Monday that the United States and France have no proof his military has used chemical weapons, according to a translation by Politico.
Obama said the strike would be limited, with no boots on the ground. But Obama said he would seek congressional authorization before ordering the strike.
Its always good to consult (Congress). But the way hes done it is just bizarre, Graham said. You know, you announce the attack weeks ago, get everybody all fired up, but (say), I want to go to Congress. Its really just been so poorly handled.
Re-election bid looms
The vote comes at a delicate time for Graham, a Republican seeking re-election in 2014. He already has attracted three Republican primary challengers and some negative advertising from out-of-state groups, including the Senate Conservatives Fund, the political action committee founded by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of Greenville.
But Chapin is one of the most Republican areas in the state, and Graham has been participating in the parade for years. In 2008, Graham won 75 percent of the vote here. Still, the parade which often serves as the unofficial start to campaign season in South Carolina got off to an ominous start for Graham when a man walked up to the Chevrolet convertible Graham was riding in to yell at him: Lindsey Graham! Im a Republican and Im not voting for you. Youre a liberal! ... Give up now! The man declined to give his name to a reporter.
Graham did not respond to the man. Grahams campaign aides have often countered claims of liberalism by pointing out the senator was named an ACU Conservative from the American Conservative Union with a rating of 92 out of 100 in 2012.
Elsewhere along the parade route, dissidents were more polite. Chad Dickert, 41, told his two young children they could accept candy from Grahams campaign volunteers, but not campaign stickers.
I think hes a weak man, Dickert said. I would like him to take a truly conservative stance. He seems to be all over the board on stuff.
Specifically, Dickert said he did not like Grahams support of the immigration bill the Senate passed earlier this year that would eventually allow up to 11 million undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain standards. Dickert called the bill amnesty.
Sentiments on Syria
Others said they support Graham, including 76-year-old Gary Marco, who described himself as an independent voter. Marco wasnt so sure about taking action in Syria, though. From his folding chair, Marco yelled Say no to Syria! to politicians as they made their way along the parade route.
Why should we do this when we cant get commitments from our own allies? Marco said, referring to the British parliaments decision last week not to intervene in the Syrian conflict. We get involved in Vietnam, we get involved in Afghanistan and Iraq, and everything turns out bad.
Graham said he has been hearing similar sentiments from voters recently.
Public support of this operation is not very great yet because the president has not made any effort to convince people, Graham said. Why is it important that we deal with Assad in Syria? I can give you 10 reasons why its important. But it needs to come from the president.