Long-Shot Lindsey Graham Thinks He Has a Chance
Sen. John McCain's protege enters the Republican presidential primary from the left.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, considered a liberal Republican on almost everything except foreign policy, announced today from his hometown of Central in South Carolina that he was entering the GOP presidential primary. A military veteran, his speech emphasized foreign policy and a muscular military stance abroad. Presently, “radical Islam is running wild,” is “large, rich and entrenched,” he said, but if he is elected president, “I will make them small, poor and on the run.”
The 59-year-old Graham is known for being John McCain’s closest friend in Congress. (McCain is barely recognizable and not identified in Graham’s announcement video, below.) McCain is considered the least liked politician in the Senate and in part due to that relationship, Graham hasn’t made many friends in the Republican Party. He may be the most peculiar Republican candidate to enter the race, as the most liberal one and one without a strong base, being rather disliked in his home state.
Graham grew up living with his family in the back of their liquor store, beer joint and pool hall. He’s fond of saying, “Everything I know about politics, I learned in the pool room.” After getting his law degree, he spent more than 30 years serving in the U.S. military, beginning with six years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, followed by service in the S.C. Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserve.
According to The Hill, Graham has stated on his website that he is a veteran of both Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, but during those operations he was actually in South Carolina. He practiced law privately after leaving the military and was elected to the South Carolina legislature in 1992. He served there until being elected to the House of Representatives in 1995 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002.
Graham is known for his criticism of the Tea Party and willingness to cross the aisle and compromise with Democrats. Part of the Gang of 14, he believes global warming is real and manmade, and has worked with Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman on global warming legislation and drafted cap-and-trade bills. He has suggested amending the Fourteenth Amendment to allow the children of illegal immigrants to receive automatic U.S. citizenship and assisted the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Chuck Schumer on amnesty legislation.
Graham voted to confirm both of President Obama’s left-leaning Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. And he favors campaign finance reform and supported the 2002 McCain-Feingold finance reform bill.
The left-leaning New Republic fawned over his entry into the race: “compared to most of the Republican candidates, he looks downright progressive.” However, he has a lifetime score of 87 from the American Conservative Union, though in 2013 it dropped to a low of 68. His 2014 score rose to 74, making him 35th among Republican Senators and far below fellow candidates Ted Cruz (100) and Marco Rubio (96).
Among his more conservative positions are opposition to the Common Core curriculum, the repeal or defunding of Obamacare, banning abortions at 20 weeks and support for a flat tax, though he also favors some tax increases to reduce the deficit. He also has opposed gun control, though this too comes with an asterisk, his having described gun laws as “broken” after a woman attempted to shoot President George W. Bush.
The Pulse 2016, which rates the presidential candidates on issues, gave him an F on the Indiana religious freedom bill controversy. “Senator Graham hasn’t deemed religious liberty a fit or important subject on which to speak.” When it became public that the NSA had been spying on Americans’ phone records, Lindsey said he was “glad” the government was doing so and “we don’t have anything to worry about.”
Graham wants to send 10,000 American troops to fight ISIS, strongly opposes a nuclear deal with Iran, and supports Israel’s policies in the West Bank. His aggressive, interventionist foreign policy doesn’t distinguish him much from the other candidates, who are mostly as hawkish.
Some of his positions on military interventions have been questioned over concern he has covert ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least a cozy relationship. After Eqyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government were ousted, Graham and Sen. McCain visited Egypt and asked the new government to open talks with the Muslim Brotherhood. Graham advocated for the takeover of the Gadhafi regime in Libya, telling Congress to “shut up” and not challenge Obama. Since Gaddhafi’s removal, radical Islamists have taken over parts of the country, but Graham has not addressed his failure to see the danger.
His home state of South Carolina is home to one of the early primaries, but many Republicans there don’t like him. At least three county GOP parties have censored Graham, and he is booed at townhall meetings due to his support for amnesty, earning the nickname “Lindsey Grahamnesty.” Brad Warthen, a political blogger and former editorial page editor of The State newspaper in Columbia, observes, “You can’t call him a favorite son, since so many people hate him.” Many speculate that he won’t even win his home state’s primary. He has been able to fend off primary challenges to his Senate seat by copying the ruthless, take-no-prisoners style of his mentor John McCain.
He’s polling at 2% or less in national polls. By afternoon two days into his official campaign, his announcement video was recording only a little over 2200 views. As arguably the most liberal Republican in the race, Graham will take votes away from Jeb Bush, but probably not enough to make his candidacy viable. He may be no match for Hillary Clinton, but at least there is little risk he is running his own private email server — he said on Meet the Press in March that he has never sent an email.