Lindsey Graham Establishment Avenger

The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger Strikes Again)

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

It is so worth paying attention to Lindsey Graham.

The senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina continues his trek through the Republican presidential contest, quietly posturing himself as the only sane candidate in the room.

The Establishment Avenger strikes again:

Instead of joining the other candidates in jockeying over whose pro-Israel credentials are the greatest, underdog candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took an unusual approach. For the first 20 minutes of his remarks, he eviscerated rival candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for what he described as Cruz’s alienating stance on abortion and other social issues.

“How many of you believe we’ve got a problem with young women as Republicans?” Graham asked the RJC crowd, which was largely old, white and male.

“How about abortion?” continued the anti-abortion senator. “I believe that you can be pro-life and win an election. But if you are going to tell a woman who has been raped she has to carry the child of a rapist, you’re losing most Americans,” he said to a cheering room. “Good luck with that.”

“Not the speech you thought you were going to hear?” Graham asked the audience. “[It’s] not the speech I thought I was going to give.”

(Schulberg)

While Donald Trump went about his signature brand of uniquely awful spectacle, and other Republican candidates pitched their pro-Israeli bona fides, Mr. Graham “found his purpose”, according to Jonathan Easley and Jonathan Swan, of The Hill; we might beg to differ insofar as the Establishment Avenger is simply following his purpose, having wanted a piece of Sen. Cruz (R-TX) from the outset.

Really, what are the chances that Lindsey Graham, playing the role of Sane Republican in the Room, can endure long enough to emerge as the last viable contender to unseat the insanity gripping the season two months before the voting begins? Nonetheless, it is so worth paying attention to the Lindsey Graham Show.

This is the GOP’s only hope.

I know, I know. It slays me, too.

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Image note: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Easley, Jonathan and Jonathan Swan. “Five takeaways from Republican Jewish Coalition presidential forum”. The Hill. 3 December 2015.

Schulberg, Jessica. “A GOP Presidential Candidate Just Told A Room Full Of Donors To Get Real About Rape and Abortion”. The Huffington Post. 3 December 2015.

Clowntastic

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The truth is that Republicans are at a crossroads. What we are seeing is a surrogate battle to determine whether the GOP will be a sort of populist/protectionist party, or a more cosmopolitan and compassionate one. And if those are the two world views that will eventually clash, Cruz and Rubio are much better representatives than, say, Trump and Bush.”

Matt Lewis

Conservative stalwart Matt Lewis offers an intriguing commentary considering the real potential of a marquee showdown between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The junior U.S. Senators from Florida and Texas respectively enjoy competitive positions in the polls, and thus stand out as leading candidates to ascend as Dr. Ben Carson tumbles and pretty much everyone else wonders when Trump will follow. The Roll Call op-ed opens:

“The two people to watch are Cruz and Rubio,” Charles Krauthammer declared on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ “Special Report.” Call it wishful thinking or conventional wisdom (or both), but there is an assumption that this clash of titans might eventually occur—and I, for one, am rooting for it.

And we can skip ahead to the ending, a pretense of obvious afterthought―that both Cruz and Rubio can win the general against Hillary Clinton―long enough to remember that Lewis is, after all, a conservative pitch man. Cruz can’t win; Rubio has a chance if he can overcome the deer and headlight air of youthful inexperienceα he often demonstrates so aptly when rattling through talking points that thoroughly defy his comprehension. That is to say, we can attend the pretense of afterthought long enough to dismiss it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lewis offers an insightful analysis that includes the benefit of also sounding reasonable:

Most people I know think a Trump candidacy would be disastrous, but there is division regarding just how freaked out we should be. Some, like statistician Nate Silver, argue that we are putting too much stock in these early polls showing Trump ahead for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Others argue that this is fantasy. All the previous predictions about a Trump collapse were premature, and besides, he’s a paradigm-shifting candidate; the old rules no longer apply.

Having said all that, it’s not absurd to believe that voters will finally come to their senses, and that Cruz and Rubio might eventually emerge as representatives of their various “lanes” to face off in a sort of championship battle to determine who will represent the GOP in the general election.

(more…)

The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger Sequel)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), in uncredited photo circa 2013.

It is true that if This Is actually issued candidate endorsements, you know, pretending that our opinion actually meant anything significant, we would at this time seriously consider endorsing South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham for the Republican nomination.

Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right – and presidential contender Sen. Lindsey Graham is wondering how the heck he’s not doing better in the polls.

The hawkish Republican, who’s spent nearly 13 years in the U.S. Senate, shared these gripes today on Morning Joe.

‘On our side, you’ve got the No. 2 guy, tried to kill somebody at 14, and the No. 1 is high energy and crazy as hell,’ Graham said of Ben Carson and Donald Trump, respectively.

‘How am I losing to these guys?’ Graham asked.

(Schwab)

The Daily Mail article really is near to hilarious, but that’s the thing. For all the show Lindsey Graham is putting on, it is not as if his politics exactly―or, you know, remotely―match up with the issues and perspectives covered here, but once again the American right wing has become so ridiculous that, yes, the South Carolina Republican becomes so moderate by comparison that one might stand shoulder to shoulder. Mr. Graham seems to have some reasonable perspicacity about the magnitude of the spectacle we are witnessing in the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest; he is enough of a Party stalwart to bear some caution in his heart toward the future. For now, unfortunately, the serious candidates are judged by popular ratings, not the content of their campaigns. Or, you know, maybe we’re wrong about that. Maybe this really is about the content of their campaigns.

It is, after all, undeniable that Trump and Carson alike seem to prosper by bigotry and potsherd insanity. And as Republicans seem to be at least going through the motions of pretending to prepare themselves for resigning with heaving sigh to the reality of a Donald Trump nomination―over two months before voting begins and delegates gather―we might reasonably wonder at the power of such toxic content.

And all Lindsey Graham wants is to save the Republican Party from itself. And, yeah, you know, if we could get back to former valences of moral bankruptcy of what once counted for dignified conservative politicking in the Republican Party―you know, heartless capitalism and authoritarianism that rolled its eyes at having to occasionally accommodate the disdainful adventures of its rabid social conservative wing―we might at least call it some degree of progress.

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Schwab, Nikki. “Lindsey Graham says he’s shocked he’s losing to ‘crazy as hell’ Trump and Ben Carson after retired neurosurgeon admits trying to stab someone when he was a teen”. Daily Mail. 26 October 2015.

The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger)

No, seriously, people need to start paying attention to Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey Graham has told colleagues he launched his implausible presidential campaign, in part, for two reasons: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

(Everett)

The senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina has not even a tattered map fragment with a shadow of a line that might have once been there that could possibly be something resembling a pathway to the presidency. Yet to consider a personal context, he is also the kind of Republican who it is much, much easier to respect, even if we don’t like the guy. And if it is true that he is in this for the long haul regardless of the outcome, Lindsey Graham suddenly becomes one to watch:

Graham said in an interview he’s prepared to confront Cruz directly as the chamber braces for a rhetorical assault from the Texas senator, with Graham arguing that a shutdown would be futile and politically damaging. It’s an opportunity, Graham says, “to tell my side of the story here.” And, the senator with the syrupy Southern drawl admits, it won’t be because he thinks it’s going to give him a bounce in the polls.

“I’m running to be the president of the United States. And a certain amount of honesty comes with that,” Graham said in an interview. “Shutting down the government, I think it hurts our overall cause and I don’t mind telling people that. If I’m going to be a good nominee and a good president, I’ve got to tell you what I believe” ....

.... Still, Graham has little to lose at this point in his campaign. He can’t sink any lower in the polls, and fighting a pitched battle against the conservative wing of the party could help boost him in the eyes of moderate Republicans.

In fact, Graham was thinking about squaring off with Cruz and Paul from the very beginning of his campaign.

No, really, this could be interesting. Like Jeb Bush and John Kasich, Mr. Graham will have some difficulty navigating the turbulent waters of the preseason feeding frenzy as voters chomp down on platform and principle; later, when serious questions of how to actually win the White House rise (we hope) to their proper prominence, America’s most eligible bachelor hawk might find himself well positioned to not only shore up the establishment Republican guard, but compete for the nomination. Steve Benen noted, in reflection on Scott Walker’s early withdrawal:

Many observers – inside the Republican Party and out – simply assume as a matter of course that the Inexperienced Three will eventually fizzle, leaving a race featuring only a handful of credible contenders. The list will likely include two establishment governors (Jeb Bush and John Kasich) and two very conservative senators (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio).

In this scenario, is this a contest that could elevate Rubio to the GOP nomination? Of course it is.

The weird thing about the Rubio pathway is that it is not so far-fetched. But how does the political calculus change if another establishment Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is also in there peeling votes from the insurgents?

This could be entertaining, indeed. It should certainly be interesting. As to the question of whether or not it is real, we need only keep our eyes and ears open. Perhaps something is about to happen.

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Image note: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). (Detail of photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Everett, Burgess. “Graham itching to confront Cruz, Paul”. Politico. 24 September 2015.

Benen, Steve. “As GOP field shrinks, Marco Rubio gets the spotlight”. msnbc. 22 September 2015.