Courtesy of Federal News Service
NBC "TODAY" INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) INTERVIEWER: MEREDITH VIEIRA
7:08 A.M. EDT, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2008
MS. VIEIRA: Senator Graham, good morning to you.
SEN. GRAHAM: Good morning.
MS. VIEIRA: What happened yesterday, Senator? At one point, by late afternoon, we were being told we were close to a deal on this bailout; by the evening, total chaos.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. As I understand it, about 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning, I was in the House, meeting with House Republicans to talk about what we could do. You had three senators, I think, from the Republican side and several senators on the Democratic side meet by themselves, have a news conference -- "We've got an agreement."
I never heard about it until I went to the Republican lunch. And if you were in the lunch, it was clear that there was not a consensus about this agreement. There was never an agreement that had buy-in by the House and the Senate.
I appreciate their efforts. But 20 percent of the money that would be collected back to retire the debt we're going to incur would have went to housing programs, programs like ACORN that have been very fraudulent in nature. So nobody on the Republican side was going to sign up to that.
MS. VIEIRA: Meanwhile, Senator --
SEN. GRAHAM: So let's start over. (Laughs.)
MS. VIEIRA: Yeah. Meanwhile, Senator, you had this summit meeting at the White House in the afternoon.
SEN. GRAHAM: Right. Yeah, yeah.
MS. VIEIRA: And that was really convened on the urging of Senator McCain the day that he suspended his campaign. He's the one who said to the president, "We need this summit." Yet Republicans and Democrats who came out of that meeting said that McCain was largely silent. He really didn't take a position on how to handle the crisis. So where is his leadership right now, sir?
SEN. GRAHAM: His leadership is to try to stop us from yelling at each other, announcing deals that don't exist, to actually talk to the House and Senate and get agreement, then go to the press, try to create organization out of chaos. Three days ago Harry Reid said, "There will be no deal without John McCain's support." Nothing happened for three days. John comes back to town. Now he's being criticized for coming back.
The point is, it's not about John McCain. It's about the country. And the way you get agreement is that you get all parties in a room. You talk it out. You go to the colleagues before you go to the press. You hold hands and you do this for the good of America.
MS. VIEIRA: But then why was he silent during that summit meeting, sir?
SEN. GRAHAM: I wasn't in the meeting. All I can tell you, that John McCain has been anything but silent. He suspended his campaign. He said, "This is more important than the election. Let's get something done." Yelling at each other is not going to get something done. Announcing deals to the press that you don't check out with your colleagues before you make the announcement doesn't get anything done.
We've got a chance today to get something done. It won't be done by yelling and it won't be done by press conference. It's going to be done by hard work in a room where reasonable people try to find middle ground. And that's why John is here.
MS. VIEIRA: Senator Graham, do you believe --
SEN. GRAHAM: John is here to solve the problem that hasn't been solved yet.
MS. VIEIRA: Do you believe that there will be a debate tonight in Mississippi, and do you believe that McCain will be there?
SEN. GRAHAM: (Laughs.) I think -- I hope we'll have a debate. But here's what's more important than anything -- that when we go to Mississippi tonight, both candidates can say that the Congress is working, back in business, that we have an outline or proposal that will protect the taxpayer and save the country from financial Pearl Harbor, as Warren Buffett called it. We're not there yet, but we'll get there. But we'll never get there by press conferences that are not checked out by people before they get them.
MS. VIEIRA: All right, Senator --
SEN. GRAHAM: And we'll never get there by yelling at each other.
MS. VIEIRA: Senator Lindsey Graham, I appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.