This Wall Street Journal criticizes Sen. Lindsey Graham for offering the White House a deal whereby it would send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to a military tribunal instead of a New York courtroom, and Graham, in exchange, would rally Republican support for closing the prison at Guantanamo. The editorial notes that KSM isn’t going to be tried in New York in any event, and concludes that the administration is playing Graham by taking advantage of his quest for bipartisanshp:
In the March 14 New York Times profile of Mr. Emanuel, reporter Peter Baker quotes a “senior administration official” as telling him that “Rahm thinks bipartisanship is a way to get what you want–to fake bipartisanship to get what you want.” What part of “fake” doesn’t Mr. Graham understand?
I may have written the “Graham as sucker” piece before myself, but this isn’t what’s going on. Instead, I think Graham’s bipartisanship is as fake as Rahm Emanuel’s, the main difference being that the folksy Graham is a much better faker.
Consider the potential KSM/Gitmo deal. Graham wants KSM tried before a military commission, he wants Gitmo closed, and he wants some kind of new arrangement regarding detainee adjudications in general. The “compromise” Graham reportedly is offering would give him each of these items. The White House wouldn’t necessarily get everything it wants (it might still like to see KSM tried in federal court somewhere) and most conservative Republicans would be unhappy to see Gitmo closed. But Graham would get everything he wants.
The same was true with the Gang of 14 deal on judicial nominees, Graham’s best-known piece of bipartisanship. Graham wanted to see the bulk of Bush’s blocked selections get confirmed (and to be able to take credit for it). But he didn’t want Jim Haynes confirmed, essentially because Haynes was unpopular with Graham’s JAG corps pals.
If the status quo had prevailed, a large group of Bush nominees would have remained blocked. If the Republicans had instituted the “nuclear option” Haynes likely would have been confirmed. The Gang of 14 deal avoided both outcomes and enabled Graham, and only Graham, to get exactly what he wanted. 13 Senators engaged in bipartisanship; Lindsey Graham engaged in manipulation.
Looking ahead, Graham now finds himself in a perfect position to engineer these types of “compromises,” to the detriment of conservatives, because he currently represents the potential 60th vote for liberal programs. But this situation isn’t likely to persist beyond 2010. For if the Republicans pick up, say, five Senate seats, Graham will no longer be able to count on being the decisive vote. Moreover, Graham is five years away from facing the South Carolina electorate, an ideal time to strike deals with liberals on those matters where he himself is left of center.
In short, expect mischief from Senator Graham in 2010 on issues like immigration, cap and trade, and whatever else captures his fancy. And don’t attribute it to naivety and/or the spirit of bipartisanship. Think of it as tripartisanship, in which the party of Lindsey Graham — probably the most clever member of the Senate — comes out on top.