Lindsey Graham has announced that he is running for president. Whenever a Senate “old bull” with very little support in the polls (e.g., Orrin Hatch, Arlen Specter, Chris Dodd) makes such an announcement, the question always asked is: why?
The answer is easy. Long-time Senators who have achieved distinction in that body naturally consider themselves well-suited for the next step up. Moreover, they have taken the measure of the “upstart” contenders and deem themselves a better fit for the Oval Office.
Graham, for instance, must be thinking that if Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and first term Senators like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, are running for president, then why not me?
Moreover, Graham saw John McCain, the Senator he most closely resembles, win the GOP nomination against the odds in 2008. To be sure, McCain is an American hero. But in Grahams’s mind he is too, having stopped the Bush administration from “torturing” terrorists.
Finally, Graham has a niche he believes he can occupy — long-time security hawk. Marco Rubio has made gains by focusing on the progress of ISIS, the impending nuclear deal with Iran, and the general chaos in the Middle East and North Africa. Graham, though, has been on the case much longer, and he has served in the military. On the other hand, Rubio has never crusaded for terrorist rights.
In some ways, Graham is right to consider himself suited for the White House. He is intelligent; he has mastered the issues; he speaks well; and he is cunning.
Cunning is probably Graham’s leading attribute. On issue after issue, he has, by reaching across the aisle, thrust himself into the limelight — often as a dealmaker and/or swing vote.
The Gang of 14 is a great example. Graham used it to to secure the confirmation of the Bush judicial nominees that he liked and to defeat the nominee, Jim Haynes, whom he had it in for. And let’s not forget the Gang of 8 that pushed comprehensive immigration through the Senate.
If there’s a bipartisan gang trying to commandeer the legislative process on a given issue, Lindsey Graham is almost certain to be a ringleader.
Unfortunately, most of the time Graham is commandeering process for bad purposes. Defeating Jim Haynes — done at the bidding of his pals the JAGs — didn’t just deprive a good man of a judgeship; eventually it helped swing control of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals away from conservatives.
Forcing our intelligence agencies to eschew harsh interrogation techniques reduces our ability to obtain valuable information from hardcore terrorists. Confirming doctrinaire leftists to lifetime appointments on high courts leads to decades of irreversible mischief. Granting amnesty and a path to citizenship to illegal aliens makes a mockery of the law and encourages more illegal immigration.
Reaching across the aisle to assist liberals isn’t the only attribute that makes Graham a poor choice for president. Graham has a penchant for telling his conservative opponents to shut up. He seems to work better across the aisle than on his own side of it.
If I wanted a nominee who specializes in showing contempt for conservatives, I’d prefer Jeb Bush. He seems to take less pleasure in it.
All of this said, I’m glad Graham is running for president and I hope he can find enough support to participate in all of the GOP debates. If he does, he’s sure to be entertaining. His back-and-forth with Rand Paul, if permitted, should be highlight reel material.
I also confess that I’ll take pleasure in seeing Graham consistently finish near the bottom of the pack in primaries and caucuses. If he doesn’t do well in his home state’s high profile primary, that will be the icing on the cake.