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Ahead of President Obama’s address to the nation Sunday night, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the president is “overwhelmed by radical Islam” and called for him to “change his strategy” in the fight against ISIS.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Graham also said he wants the White House to “come up with a regional army to go in and destroy the caliphate in Raqqa, Syria.”
Sen. Graham warned, “there’s a 9/11-style attack coming to America, and I can tell you who’s planning it: the leaders of ISIL (ISIS). And I can tell you where they’re at: they’re in Raqqa, Syria.”
Appearing separately on “Meet the Press.” fellow Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said “We have to be very careful about who comes here from the Middle East.”
He recently introduced legislation to limit refugees from so-called “high-risk countries.” When asked if that was a version of profiling, Sen. Paul responded, “People who want to come to this country don’t have constitutional rights, once they get here they do. But coming here is not a constitutional right.”
Of San Bernardino attacker Tashfeen Malik specifically, Paul said, “I don’t think she was properly vetted. I think she came here, and I don’t think we adequately knew enough about her.” Sen. Graham raised the question of whether Malik was part of a “terrorist-arranged marriage.”
The South Carolina Republican was also highly critical of his Kentucky colleague. Asked what his plan is to defeat radical ideology, he replied, “You build up others. You reject Rand Paul. This flirtation with isolationism in the Republican party is over.”
For his part, Sen. Paul attacked a different member of the GOP presidential field: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. On Sen. Rubio’s recent comments in favor of re-instating the NSA’s bulk data collection program, Paul said, “If Sen. Rubio were doing his job and in Congress more, he might know that the program continues, it’s been ongoing for the last six months. So the Paris tragedy, this tragedy, happened while we were still doing bulk collection.”
Sen. Paul, known for being outspoken on this issue, asked “How much liberty do we want to give up for a false sense of security?”
He further claimed “no terrorist case has been thwarted” because of bulk data collection.
Taking the opposite view, Sen. Graham said he would “reinstate the NSA program as robust as possible, within Constitutional limits.” He also criticized budget cuts that he says are “gutting” the FBI.
Both senators also reacted strongly on the question of increased gun regulations in the wake of the San Bernardino attack. Sen. Graham responded, “Gun control is not part of a strategy to defeat radical Islam or take (ISIS) down.”
But it is, Graham continued, “a problem back here at home” and said he wants to be able to “detect people who are mentally ill before they buy a gun. That is a real problem.”
Sen. Paul meanwhile noted, “Every gun regulation President Obama has advocated for, California has already, and it didn’t stop this.”
He continued by criticizing “gun-free zones.
“Almost all these shootings, including this shooting, happened in a government building where people aren’t allowed to defend themselves," said Paul. "While it’s not the ultimate answer — the ultimate answer would be no violence — part of the answer is saying, we need to allow people to defend themselves.”