Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has urged his Democratic colleagues to set aside their disagreements with President Donald Trump and support the commander in chief's aggressive posture toward North Korea. Graham has also asserted that Trump is prepared to make a preemptive attack on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's regime.
On Aug. 9, Graham criticized Democratic lawmakers during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
"I wish Democrats would take their hatred of Donald Trump and park it and realize that on Donald Trump's watch, because of everyone else's failure, he's run out of the ability to kick the can down the road," Graham said, according to The Washington Times.
On Aug. 8, Trump ignited controversy when he threatened to use unprecedented force against North Korea if the regime did not cease to expand its nuclear capability to arm an intercontinental ballistic missile it could launch into the American mainland.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States... They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before," Trump said during a press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Democratic lawmakers and some of the GOP colleagues swiftly blasted Trump for his statement, asserting that the president was raising the possibility of nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea.
"Make no mistake, North Korea is a real threat, but the president's unhinged reaction suggests he might consider using American nuclear weapons in response to a nasty comment from a North Korean despot," said Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, according to CNN.
"President Trump is not helping the situation with his bombastic comments," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
"We should not be engaging in the same kind of bluster and provocative statements as North Korea about nuclear war," said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland.
Even GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is considered one of the most hawkish members of Congress, criticized Trump's statement as a potentially empty threat.
"The great leaders I've seen don't threaten unless they're ready to act and I'm not sure President Trump is ready to act," McCain said.
Meanwhile, Graham not only supported Trump's statement but firmly believed that the president was prepared to follow through and attack North Korea.
"I think he's made a decision, long ago quite frankly, to try to negotiate the threat with North Korea... But if the negotiations fail, he's willing to abandon strategic patience and use preemption," Graham said.
"His rhetoric yesterday, I think is a change that is probably necessary," Graham added. "Everybody who spoke before him failed. Every smart person on TV who talks about what Trump should do, when it was their turn to deal with North Korea, they failed miserably. There's no place for him to kick the can down the road."
Asia director Meredith Sumpter of the Eurasia Group is skeptical that North Korea would be the first to strike in a war with the U.S.
"Kim Jong Un says a lot of things and he makes a lot of threats, but at the end of the day he knows that if he should undertake any kind of military strike against the U.S. and its allies, the counter response will likely be the end of his regime," Sumpter said.
Graham has previously asserted that Trump should wage war against North Korea instead of allowing it to achieve an ICBM capability to launch a nuclear missile into the U.S. On Aug. 1, the South Carolina senator said this would be preferable because the casualties would be contained within the Pacific region.
"If there's going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong Un], it will be over there," Graham told Today. "If thousands die, they're going to die over there. They're not going to die here. And [Trump's] told me that to my face."
On July 22, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford flatly stated that a war with North Korea would be the most fatal in decades.
"It would be a loss of life unlike any we have experienced in our lifetimes," Dunford told The Aspen Institute. "Anyone who has been alive since World War II has never seen the loss of life that could occur if there's a conflict on the Korean peninsula."
The chairman added "What's unimaginable to me is allowing a capability that would allow a nuclear weapon to land in Denver, Colorado."