Lindsey Graham Show

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.

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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.

The Lindsey Graham Show (Sad Polly)

Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 9 September 2015.

It is almost enough to feel sorry for Lindsey Graham:

PPP’s newest South Carolina poll finds a clear message for Lindsey Graham from Republican voters in the state: drop out. 78% of GOP primary voters think Graham should end his Presidential bid, compared to only 15% who think he should continue on with it.

(Jensen)

Ouch.

The South Carolina Republican won’t even make the main stage for the CNN debate in his home state.

Which is, in turn, it’s own bizarre debacle.

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Image note: Detail of frame from The Rachel Maddow Show, msnbc, 9 September 2015, depicting results of a Public Policy Polling survey of South Carolina Republican voters, showing they would prefer their U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham, drop out of the 2016 GOP presidential race.

Jensen, Tom. “SC Republcans to Graham: Drop Out”. Public Policy Polling. 9 September 2015.

Maddow, Rachel. “Let’s play gutterball! A dive to the bottom of 2016’s primary polling”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 9 September 2015.

—————. “Rick Perry drops out, leaving only 16 Republican presidential candidates”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 11 September 2015.

The Donald Trump Show (Strangers in Cars)

Donald Trump.

There is plenty about this morning’s report from Niall Stanage of The Hill worth considering:

Republican insiders are reconciling themselves to the idea that Donald Trump won’t be exiting the stage anytime soon — and their main concern now is limiting his damage to their party.

The GOP establishment is almost universally hostile to Trump, who has soared in the 2016 polls on the back of his celebrity, his outspoken statements on immigration and trade deals, and media coverage of his antics.

Many party strategists believe Trump did himself serious damage with his recent remarks denigrating Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) experiences while a prisoner of war in Hanoi, Vietnam — but there is not yet conclusive polling evidence available.

Meanwhile, Trump has made clear that he has no serious intention of reining in his rhetoric — or curbing his propensity to tweak the nose of anyone who displeases him. On Tuesday, shortly after fellow White House contender Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had referred to the businessman as a “jackass,” Trump read out Graham’s cellphone number on live television during a campaign event in the senator’s home state.

During that appearance, Trump also called Graham “a stiff” and an “idiot,” and took shots at another critic and 2016 hopeful, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying he’d begun wearing glasses to make himself look smarter.

Among Washington Republicans, the hope is that voters will tire of such comments and that Trump will have to push his boat out into ever-murkier waters to continue to command attention.

Well, okay, sort of. There really is nothing to compare to the reality television spectacle of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Over at msnbc, last night, Steve Kornacki helmed TRMS, and pretty much made the point in the eighteen minute A-block by reminding us that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also declared his presidential candidacy yesterday. And there certainly remains a question of whether Donald Trump’s spectacularly bizarre performance in South Carolina was specifically intended to obscure the arrival of the sixteenth major Republican presidential candidate.

(more…)

The Lindsey Graham Show (Three Amigos Reunion)

From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Maggie Haberman’s entry for First Draft, at the New York Times, actually has a really distracting quirk about it.

Surrounded by two of the “three amigos” — as former Gen. David H. Petraeus called them — Senator Lindsey Graham appeared with Senator John McCain and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday to denounce the deal to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Graham, a Republican presidential hopeful from South Carolina who is one of the most hawkish voices in his party, repeatedly invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, just over three miles from the Women’s National Republican Club in Midtown Manhattan, where the “No Nukes for Iran” forum was held.

“My friends, what we will see is a nuclearized Middle East,” said Mr. Graham of the deal’s implications, arguing it would extend well beyond Iran. “They view New York as a symbol of America. This is the place they would choose to hit us again if they could.”

Let us be clear: “Surrounded by two of the ‘three amigos'”? Sen. Graham (R-SC) is the third Amigo. This was a Three Amigo reunion. And they broke out a new version of an old classic. A nuclear nonproliferation treaty is bad because … here’s the new chorus, same as the old chorus.

But, yeah, other than the quirk, the important point is that it remains imperative to remember just how wrong these Three Amigos were.

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Image note: From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Haberman, Maggie. “Lindsey Graham and Friends Join to Denounce Iran Deal”. First Draft. 20 July 2015.

Steinhauer, Jennifer. “Foreign Policy’s Bipartisan Trio Becomes Republican Duo”. The New York Times. 26 November 2012.

The Donald Trump Show (Coattails and Kid Gloves)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015.  (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

Why is it always Donald, Donald, Donald?

Over at The Hill, it seems a fine way to spend a weekend:

Oh, yeah …: The Hill staff offer an overview of the Sunday interview shows, including notes about Donald on Trump, Lindsey on Trump, Carly trying to hop on Trump’s coattails, and a strange reminder that former U.S. Senator Jim Webb is running for the Democratic nomination.

Speaking of Sunday shows: Mark Hensch reports on Meet the Press attempting to consider a nexus of ideas: Donald Trump and flip-flop.

Imagine that: And Alexander Bolton explains why the obvious advice for Jeb Bush is to “walk a fine line” in dealing with the Donald, or, as the headline has it, “Treat trump with kid gloves”.

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Image note: Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

The Jeb Bush Show (Radical Restructure Remix)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”

Jeb Bush

This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:

For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.

The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.

For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.

(more…)

The Lindsey Graham Show (Good Advice)

"US Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham speaks during a US Senate Armed Services Committee on global challenges and US national security strategy on Capitol Hill in Washington." (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

“Well, don’t vote for me.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Way ahead of you, Senator Graham!

In truth, it won’t come up. The Palmetto longshot won’t last long enough, and I don’t take part in the Republican selection in my state.

Still, though, there is obviously more to it than Mr. Graham giving the best-practices assessment for how to respond to his presidential bid, but it has to do with Hillary Clinton and Kim Jong Un, so, you know, whatever.

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James, Brendan. “Lindsey Graham Compares Hillary Clinton To North Korea’s Kim Jong Un”. Talking Points Memo. 4 June 2015.

The Lindsey Graham Show (Liftoff)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, 1 June 2015, in Central, South Carolina.  (Detail of frame from msnbc)

Did you ever rehearse a line and then not use it, but later found yourself wondering why not, because it was a perfectly servicible line, and that is why you were working on it in the first place?

Right.

A few weeks ago I mused to a friend over the idea that when Lindsey Graham gets to make a Civil War joke while playing the adult in the room, Republicans might want to take a moment to figure out just where they are. The map is not the territory, but why are they using that map?

But as I explained to a friend, there is no mystery that I don’t really like Sen. Graham; perhaps the best thing going for the Palmetto Republican is that he is not the worst person in the state of South Carolina. I pointed out that we all know his presidential ambitions aren’t grounded in any political reality. Still, it was enough to appreciate the moment when Lindsey Graham was the sane voice in the room, and wonder if perhaps he might have tacitly ended his presidential aspirations.

And in that I was wrong.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham officially added his name to the growing list of Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 on Monday, focusing his message on the hawkish foreign policy positions that have made him a leading voice among the Senate GOP.

“I’ve got one simple message: I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary,” Graham said in Central, South Carolina, his childhood home.

The three-term senator is expected to focus his candidacy on combating Islamic militants in the Middle East, stabilizing Iraq and preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He has been highly critical of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has said U.S. intervention abroad led to the rise of ISIS.

(Rafferty)

A three-term one-trick pony who can crack wise about the Civil War at Ted Cruz’s expense.

Honestly, of all the never-been won’t-be candidates in the race, I figured Mr. Graham smart enough to stay out. Am I underestimating exploratory committees, or overestimating?

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Image Note: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, 1 June 2015, in Central, South Carolina. (Detail of frame from msnbc)

Rafferty, Andrew. “Lindsey Graham launches 2016 presidential bid”. msnbc. 1 June 2015.

Benen, Steve. “Leading Republicans differ over armed ‘insurrection'”. msnbc. 17 April 2015.