ST. PAUL, Minn. — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close friend of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, took on the duty of going after Sen. Barack Obama in a speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention bristling with denunciations of McCain’s Democratic opponent as a man who “cannot appreciate that our troops are winning in Iraq” and “supported retreat and would have accepted our defeat.”
On a night when McCain accepted the Republican presidential nomination, Graham nailed the party’s flag to the mast of President Bush’s “troop surge” in Iraq last year, saying it had tamed violence in Iraq. Key to that success, he said, was McCain’s support from the very beginning.
“We know the surge has worked. Our men and women in uniform know it has worked. And I promise you — above all others — al-Qaida knows it has worked,” Graham said. “ The only people who deny it are Barack Obama and his buddies at moveon.org.”
Graham’s characterization of Obama’s position was at odds with Obama’s own statements. In an interview Thursday on Fox News Channel, Obama told host Bill O’Reilly that the infusion of tens of thousands of new U.S. troops had, in fact, “ succeeded beyond our wildest dreams .”
Nonetheless, Graham insisted that Obama “refuses to acknowledge [the troops’] success.”
“They have worked too hard and sacrificed too much for a patronizing pat on the back,” Graham said. “... He should not be their commander-in-chief.”
New speakers added at last minute
Graham was a late addition to the roster of speakers, inserted into the lineup Thursday along with former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Both are close to McCain; Ridge was considered a finalist for the No. 2 spot, and Graham has appeared frequently with McCain on the campaign trail.
Ridge championed McCain as a courageous leader willing to take risks.
“Where some people see adversity, John McCain accepts a challenge. Where some people see a crisis, John McCain creates an opportunity. Where some people see defeat, John McCain insists on victory,” Ridge said. “John knows the purpose of elections is not merely to win. You run to win, but you win to govern.”
Ridge, who has not been known as a particularly inspiring speaker, managed to rouse the delegates to chant “That’s John McCain!” as he recounted his friend’s qualifications for the presidency: “artful leader ... diplomat ... tenacious legislator ... consensus builder ... reformer ... patriot.”
By contrast, Graham did not have to labor to get the crowd on its feet, providing the partisan red meat of the night.
“Not once was Barack Obama’s eloquent voice ever raised in support of victory in Iraq. Not once was it used to rally our troops in battle,” Graham charged. “Instead, he inspired those who supported retreat and would have accepted our defeat.”
“The surge was a test for Barack Obama,” he added. “He failed miserably.”
By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com.
© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints