Lindsey Graham on Murkowski’s Honor

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said something odd the other day (I know, I know). CNSNews had asked him whether it was “honorable” for Senator Murkowski to run as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary. He said he will support primary winner Joe Miller. He added, “She’s doing what’s available to her under Alaska law. As long as you feel good about it yourself there’s nothing–how can I say it’s not honorable? The only person who ever won as a write in candidate was Strom Thurmond.”

I’ll assume that Graham is not saying that any legal course of action one feels good about taking is by definition honorable. It’s not clear, either, that Graham is invoking Thurmond’s example to make the case for the honorableness of Murkowski’s decision. (I would not consider the argument “Thurmond did it, so it must be honorable” intuitively appealing.) In any case, two differences between the Thurmond and Murkowski races tell against Murkowski.

First, Thurmond didn’t lose a primary; he ran as a write-in candidate in part because the Democratic party had picked a candidate without holding a primary. Second, Murkowski said before the primary election that she would back its winner. Back then, of course, she expected to be that winner. So she broke her word.

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