Tags: Lindsey Graham

‘Sunnis and Shiites don’t need guns from us. They need the truth.’


The first Morning Jolt of the week offers some eye-opening news about Hillary Clinton, an attempt to understand the appeal of the World Cup, and some terrific personal news, but it begins with this awful update from developments overseas:

‘Practically Speaking, [Iraq] Has Broken Apart’

You know the news from the Middle East, and Iraq in particular, is usually bad. Today is no different:

Fighters affiliated with an extremist Al Qaeda-inspired faction seized control Monday of another town in the northwest of Iraq, beating back pro-government forces scrambling to stop the group’s advance

Tal Afar, an ethnically diverse town of Sunni Muslims and Turkmen, was overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, after heavy clashes with Iraqi army units and Turkmen tribal fighters, according to Turkey’s semi-official Anatolia news agency. Pro-government activists in Tal Afar, however, asserted on social media that the fight was continuing, with heavy airstrikes against the militants’ positions.

Eli Lake:

American presidents and Iraqi strongmen have been trying for decades to keep the country intact. But that effort is now failing under pressure from the Islamic extremists who are taking over more and more of Iraq’s cities. “Practically speaking, the country has broken apart,” a top official in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government told The Daily Beast.

On the Sunday shows, Washington politicians aren’t downplaying the danger:

The bloodthirsty Islamist group hellbent on overthrowing the Iraqi government claims to have massacred 1,700 soldiers and posted a series of gory pictures of executed captives that kicked off a chain reaction of fear from Baghdad to the Beltway.

And in further evidence of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, terrorists killed more than 20 people with four bombs on Sunday in Baghdad, and the State Department moved to protect the U.S. Embassy and its employees.

“This is as dangerous as it gets,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers said on “Fox News Sunday.” He was one of several GOP lawmakers who called on the Obama administration to act aggressively against the Sunni militants who call themselves the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Iraq War proponent, echoed Rogers with a dire caution of his own.

“Iraq and Syria combined are going to be the staging area for the next 9/11 if we don’t do anything about it,” the South Carolina Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If Baghdad falls . . . a disaster awaits us of monumental proportions.”

Thomas Friedman is sounding . . . almost isolationist, or at least noninterventionist:

Hence my rule: The Middle East only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them — when they take ownership of reconciliation. Please spare me another dose of: It is all about whom we train and arm. Sunnis and Shiites don’t need guns from us. They need the truth. It is the early 21st century, and too many of them are still fighting over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad from the 7th century. It has to stop — for them, and for their kids, to have any future.

There are a lot of people who don’t know what to do now, so they’ll spend a lot of energy arguing about what should have been done in March 2003.

Tags: Iraq , Thomas Friedman , Mike Rogers , Lindsey Graham

Good News for Jeb: ‘No Republican In South Carolina Today More Popular than George W. Bush’


Jeb Bush might like to hear that his brother is the most popular Republican in South Carolina, the early primary state where George W. Bush won a key victory in his bid to secure the presidential nomination in the 2000 cycle.

An aide to Senator Lindsay Graham, who defeated several challengers in his Tuesday primary, shared this detail from their internal polling. “There’s no Republican in South Carolina today more popular than George W. Bush,” Kevin Bishop told NRO. “He is incredibly popular in South Carolina.”

That’s a far cry from where Bush was at the end of his presidency. “Bush fatigue was real in South Carolina,” Bishop said. ”But now, six years later, after President Obama, every day his star looks brighter.”

That might be good news for Jeb Bush, given the worry that voters would resist the idea of another Bush in the White House. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar pointed out that Jeb Bush’s “vulnerabilities in a Republican primary would be remarkably similar to those [Eric Cantor] faced,” but George Bush supported immigration-law overhauls disliked by the base (and Lindsay Graham wrote one) so it’s not guaranteed that the issue would be toxic for him in the early-primary state.

It’s also not certain that George Bush’s approval rating would transfer to Jeb Bush in a 2016 primary. Another South Carolina Republican suggested that Jeb Bush’s difficulty wouldn’t be that he is another Bush, but that South Carolina voters think of him as the wrong Bush — less George W., more H.W.

“Around here, George Bush is a real, big-time conservative and Jeb is a moderate,” the campaign consultant, tying Jeb Bush to the Chamber of Commerce, said. “George Bush is the guy that you’d have beer and pretzels with and Jeb Bush is the guy that you’d have wine and cheese with.”

Tags: Jeb Bush , Lindsey Graham , George H.W. Bush , George W. Bush , 2016

Why This Week May Not Be So Bad for Lindsey Graham and Eric Cantor


A busy morning with a busy Morning Jolt. I’m scheduled to appear on The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd on MSNBC today, discussing the book, and chat with WLS-AM in Chicago at about 8:15 or so. Today’s Jolt includes warnings about how amnesty/”comprehensive immigration reform” could derail the GOP’s midterm hopes, Leon Panetta’s thoughts on the Bergdahl deal, what it’s like to appear on Real Time with Bill Maher, and then this look ahead to Tuesday . . . 

Looking Ahead to Tuesday’s Primaries

Tomorrow is primary day in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.

In South Carolina, incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham faces his primary challengers — Nancy Mace, Lee Bright, and Richard Cash among them. Graham needs 50 percent to avoid a runoff, and a recent Clemson poll put him at 49 percent. Bright is the leading challenger . . . at 9 percent.

Turnout is expected to be low.

So it’s likely that Tuesday night, Graham either avoids a primary or enters a runoff with a gargantuan lead over his runoff opponent. The anti-Graham Republicans have pledged to unite behind any challenger in a runoff, but . . . we’ve seen conservative factions fail to unite before.

In a sign that South Carolina Democrats aren’t paying attention, that same poll found 74 percent of Democrats were undecided between their primary candidates, state senator Brad Hutto and Columbia’s Jay Stamper.

Virginia Republicans won’t be picking their Senate nominee with a primary; Ed Gillespie won the nomination, as expected, this weekend at the GOP party convention. As much as I’m a fan of Ed, and his victory was never really in doubt, I think Virginia Republicans would be wise to shift to primaries, allowing more Republicans to be involved in selecting the party’s nominee.

Still, I have to give Virginia Republicans credit on other fronts; BiasedGirl called my attention to this maneuvering:

Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The news prompted outrage among Democrats — and accusations that Republicans were trying to buy the Senate with job offers in order to thwart McAuliffe’s proposal to expand health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

In Virginia’s seventh congressional district, GOP challenger Dave Brat has run heavily on the immigration issue against incumbent and House majority leader Eric Cantor. The Daily Caller commissioned a poll and found Cantor up, 52 percent to 38 percent. (The Caller characterized this as Cantor “struggling.”) If Brat finishes in that neighborhood, he can claim credit for a solid performance against a long-time, well-funded incumbent, but chances are Cantor will be celebrating a win Tuesday night.

One other hitch:

Former congressman Ben Jones (D-Ga.), better known as “Cooter” from Dukes of Hazzard, has a plan to knock Eric Cantor out of the House. He’s urging his fellow Democrats to cross over and vote for a tea party-backed candidate in Virginia’s primary election.

Cooter, who ran against Cantor in 2002, has penned an open letter calling upon Democrats in his former Virginia district to vote in the open primary next Tuesday for tea party opponent Dave Brat in order to defeat U.S. House Majority Leader Cantor.

In Virginia’s eighth congressional district, Democrats complete their scrum in the race to replace Jim Moran. Micah Edmond is the GOP candidate.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , Eric Cantor

Group Pushes for Delay in South Carolina’s Primary Runoff


As noted in today’s Morning Jolt, Bruce Carroll, Ben Howe, and the guys at Carolina Conservatives United are challenging the existing schedule for the South Carolina primary.

Currently, South Carolina holds its primary election on June 10. If no candidate reaches 50 percent, there is a runoff, currently scheduled for June 24. The group filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, contending that the existing system violates the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, passed in 2009, which “requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to service members no later than 45 days before a federal election, when the request has been received by that date, except where the state has been granted an undue hardship waiver approved by the Department of Defense for that election.”

Ben Howe elaborates:

We believe we’ve found an iron clad way to extend the run-off period in the South Carolina primary. Right now it is at a paltry 2 weeks and we believe we’ve discovered something that will extend that to 60 days . . . we believe there is a hope that the time for South Carolina voters to pick, the time needed for candidates to up their game, could be longer than anyone had expected. And that could be a game changer.

A 60-day window would put the runoff on August 12 or so.

This is all aimed at two-term senator Lindsey Graham, of course. Graham faces at least three significant challengers at this point: State senator Lee Bright, Richard Cash, and Nancy Mace. Graham is likely to take the largest share on primary day, but he could easily end up with less than 50 percent and the top challenger would face the difficult task of unifying the anti-Graham factions — a task easier to achieve in two months than in two weeks.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , South Carolina

‘Carolina Conservatives United’ Pledges to Take Down Graham


Bruce Carroll, friendly blogger, has a new project down in his home state of South Carolina:

Carolina Conservatives United launched today with a grassroots effort to Defeat Lindsey Graham in the 2014 Republican Primary. Carolina Conservatives United is a non-profit political organization based in South Carolina whose mission is to support political candidates who support conservative values and oppose those who do not.

“As residents of South Carolina and grassroots activists in the conservative movement, we are concerned not only about Lindsey Graham’s voting record on important issues but also the contempt he regularly displays toward small-government conservative citizens,” said Bruce Carroll, Chairman of CCU.

“Lindsey Graham is part of the DC culture that is crippling our nation.  We believe that he’s been there long enough and we are going to spend time outside our normal day-to-day jobs & lives to bring him home,” said Breeanne Howe, CCU Board Secretary. “Fellow conservatives who would like to join us can donate to the cause and also send us leads on Graham’s record through our email: [email protected].”

 For more information, visit

Bruce tells me, “Our board is expressly NOT supporting any candidate.  We are only working to force Lindsey Graham into early retirement.  I do not expect we will endorse a candidate for the GOP 2014 Senate Primary…  We are starting from scratch and the investment of our time and personal money.  We are starting with about $10,000 at kickoff tomorrow.  I have some promises of donors once we launch, but I never count my chickens in advance. Our goal is to raise enough money to start running TV ads in South Carolina by the fall.”

Here’s their first web video:

That’s the good news if you want to see Graham replaced. Here’s the bad news: these folks will need a candidate, and preferably only one candidate. Nancy Mace, Lee Bright, and Richard Cash have all been discussed as potential candidates, but only Cash has jumped in  – and they’re not likely to be able to afford an anti-Graham primary fight amongst themselves.

Meanwhile, Graham begins with a huge headstart; $6.3 million in cash on hand.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , Bruce Carroll , Lee Bright , Nancy Mace , Richard Cash

Okay, Fine, No Privacy for Anyone, Including the Elites!


The final Morning Jolt of the week examines whether pundits ought to be evaluated by their appearance, further discussion of what, if anything, the U.S. should do in response to a five-figure, soon to be six-figure, death toll in the Syrian civil war, and then this bit of useful mischief . . . 

Come On, Senator, Fair Is Fair. If the Government Can Read Our E-mails . . . 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said two days ago he believed that the National Security Agency’s PRISM domestic surveillance program was appropriate for our times. He added:

“In World War II, the mentality of the public was that our whole way of life was at risk, we’re all in. We censored the mail. When you wrote a letter overseas, it got censored. When a letter was written back from the battlefield to home, they looked at what was in the letter to make sure they were not tipping off the enemy,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “If I thought censoring the mail was necessary, I would suggest it, but I don’t think it is.”

Now FreedomWorks is asking Graham to disclose his e-mail passwords.

Speaking of disclosure, Debra Heine sends along word . . . 

Enter Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) who figured out away to insinuate White House involvement in the IRS targeting scandal and needle the president about the NSA spy scandal at the same time.

Stockman sent a letter to Chairman Darrell Issa of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on Tuesday, asking him to subpoena all NSA records of phone calls between employees of the White House and the IRS.

“Obama assures the public he only collected this information to uncover wrongdoing and protect civil liberties. Clearly he would want us to use it to investigate this case, because otherwise he’d be lying,” said Stockman.

“If Obama has nothing to hide he has nothing to fear,” said Stockman.

“This case must be investigated fully, given admitted wrongdoing by the IRS, its potentially criminal implications and revelations the White House has been less than honest about what they knew and when,” said Stockman. “Obama says the PRISM program is perfectly legal, so there should be no problem whatsoever in providing the information on White House and IRS phone calls.”

“The only possible scenario in which the administration refuses to comply would be if it would reveal unconstitutional or illegal behavior,” said Stockman.

I have a feeling this will end up generating an exchange along the lines of this legendary one from Serenity, featuring Twitter star Adam Baldwin:

Mal: You want to run this ship?

Jayne: Yes!

Mal: (trying to think) Well . . . you can’t.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , Steve Southerland , NSA , Barack Obama

To Beat Lindsey Graham in a Primary, You Need a Candidate


In the comments section, a reader laments:

I guess you guys are going to do nothing to stop Lindsey Graham from being reelected. Buckley Rule does not apply in Red South Carolina? Multiple jokey posts about Stephen Colbert’s sister instead?

(I tend to think highlighting her inability to specify how she’ll balance the budget besides eliminating “waste and fraud” is more than a “jokey post,” but then again, I’ve always been a big fan of my own work.)

You can’t beat someone with no one. At this point, the only Republican who has declared interest in running against Graham is Keith Blandford, who suspended his Senate bid to run in the special House election in South Carolina’s first district. Blandford received 195 votes in the primary, out of 53,793 cast. Blogger Bruce Carroll contemplated a bid, but decided against it.

Senator Lindsey Graham has $4.4 million in cash on hand right now. That doesn’t make him impossible to defeat in a Republican primary, but it does make it tough. A December poll showed him 47 percent approval and 39 percent disapproval among all voters, and a 66 percent approval among self-identified Republicans.

Tags: Bruce Carroll , Keith Blandford , Lindsey Graham

A New GOP Challenger for Lindsey Graham in 2014?


Bruce Carroll, who blogs at GayPatriot, is stepping down from GOProud to explore a primary challenge to South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham.

If Carroll goes forward with this, he will have to complete a Statement of Intention of Candidacy (SIC) form with the state GOP and a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) form with the State Ethics Commission. The filing period does not begin until March 16, 2014, and closes March 30.

He will have to submit a filing fee of 1 percent of the annual salary of the office multiplied by the number of years in the term of office (or $100, whichever is greater). This year the salary for a U.S. senator is $174,000, so if it remains the same for 2014, the filing fee will be $10,440.

However, the difficulty of beating Graham in a primary should not be underestimated, as Shawn Drury notes:

Last month, Winthrop University published a poll that showed Graham with an approval/disapproval rating of 71.6/17.4 among Republicans. Among all voters it was 58.4/41.6. Those poll numbers came out after the Club For Growth named Graham its top target in 2014.

. . . no South Carolina Senator who served a full term has lost a re-election campaign since Coleman Bease in 1930.

Being the incumbent is not a small advantage, chiefly when it comes to raising money, something that Graham is very good at. Before he’s even officially declared that he’ll seek re-election Graham has at least $4.4 million in his campaign coffers.

Of course, challengers tend to make an impact whether they win their primary or not, as some GOP senators shift to the right in the presence of a declared conservative challenger in their state primary:

After receiving an 88 percent rating from the Club for Growth political action committee in 2009, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah jumped to 100 percent in 2010 and then 99 percent in 2011.

Tags: Bruce Carroll , Lindsey Graham , South Carolina

What Benghazi-Related News Is About to Drop?


Well, this . . .

. . . certainly seems intriguing, and the timing suggests that Senator Lindsey Graham’s threat to place holds on the confirmations of John Brennan and Chuck Hagel may have spurred someone to be more cooperative in answering questions about Benghazi.

Tags: Susan Rice , Lindsey Graham

Obama: Did I Say the Economy Recovered?
I Meant I’m Still Working on It!


The first Morning Jolt of the week features the shocking news of Pope Benedict’s resignation, a discussion of whether our culture is even capable of the earnest valorization depicted in the Paul Harvey ad, and then these two developments that will shape the political news in the week ahead:

Lindsey Graham: Until the Benghazi Truth Is Told, Your Nominees I Will Hold

A slogan that Johnny Cochran could approve:

Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday he’ll block President Barack Obama’s nominees for Defense secretary and CIA director if the White House isn’t more forthcoming about its response to the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

No confirmation without information,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Graham said he wants to know if Obama himself phoned his Libyan counterparts during the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi and what the results of such a call might have been. Without cooperation, Graham said he’ll try to put a hold on Chuck Hagel, the Defense nominee, and John Brennan for CIA.

“I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go forward to the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of Defense, until the White House gives us an accounting,” Graham said. “Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks?”

Rick Moran points out this is something of a symbolic maneuver, and one that isn’t likely to work, as long as Senate Democrats remain unified:

The hold is a senatorial courtesy, and threatening to use it is just about all the Republicans have left when it comes to leverage on the White House to get more information about Benghazi. It would be unprecedented to place a hold on a cabinet nomination, and it is likely that Majority Leader Harry Reid would demand a cloture vote in order to lift the hold and bring the nominations to the floor. Several Republicans would probably join the 55 Democrats in voting for cloture, and the president would get his up or down vote on both nominees.

Graham would probably not go along with a filibuster. Hagel and Brennan’s other major critics in the Senate would be equally reluctant. And what he’s asking for from the White House, he is not likely to get. The administration has successfully stonewalled, obfuscated, and brushed off requests for information until Benghazi now seems a distant memory — a bad dream that the president would like the American people to forget.

Obama: Did I Say the Economy Recovered? I Meant I’m Still Working on It!

Our old friend Byron York is a pretty even-keeled guy, but I think he finds it pretty audacious for the president to spend his State of the Union address insisting that he’s relentlessly focused on the economy and job creation, after his lone reference to the economy in his inaugural address was the declaration “an economic recovery has begun.”

You know, somewhere, just not here.


White House spinners are working furiously in the final 72 hours before President Obama’s State of the Union speech. Their job: Convince the recession-scarred American public that economic recovery is Obama’s top priority — after everything he has said and done to suggest otherwise.

The unemployment rate is 7.9 percent — one tenth of a point higher than it was when Obama took office in January 2009. But the true toll of joblessness is far higher. The Labor Department’s so-called U-6 rate, which includes people who want a job but have become so discouraged they have quit looking, is 14.4 percent. And a new study, by Rutgers University scholars, shows that 23 percent of those surveyed have lost a job sometime in the last four years, while another 11 percent have seen someone in their household lose a job. That is one-third of the American people who have experienced unemployment during Obama’s time in office, along with many more who have experienced other hardships of the economic downturn.

Elsewhere, Byron points out that the president has “pivoted back” to the economy at least six times since taking office.

Actually, back in 2011, the RNC identified at least nine times the White House was telling reporters that their energies would be “pivoting” back to jobs.

When the administration recycles its talking points, you’ll forgive me for recycling my reaction:

Keep in mind that inherent in the pivot-point talking point is an inherent excuse: the reason the administration hasn’t seen much success in bringing down the unemployment rate, or is perceived to be useless in bringing down the unemployment rate, or hasn’t communicated its message about its efforts, is always a lack of time and focus. I think most of us would argue the problem isn’t really an administrative attention deficit disorder or chronic focus on other issues; the problem is the policies stink . . . “Alright, now we’re really going to pivot to jobs, just you wait and see” sounds like the oft-heard pledges of dieting and exercise and saving money and cleaning out the basement and flossing; the idea that all it’s going to take is a bit more attention to the problem and it’s going to be solved.

Tags: Barack Obama , Susan Rice , Economy , Lindsey Graham

Conflict-Hungry President Picks His Next Big Fight


From the first Morning Jolt of the first full week of 2013…

The Hagel Hullabaloo: Conflict-Hungry President Picks His Next Fight

It’s official: “President Obama plans to nominate former senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and Vietnam veteran, to be secretary of defense on Monday, according to a person close to the process and a senior administration official. The White House informed the Hagel camp over the weekend that Obama intends to announce the nomination at the White House on Monday.”

So, how does that confirmation fight look?

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman from Texas elected with strong backing from the tea party, said on “Fox News Sunday” that it was “very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support (Hagel’s) confirmation.”

“It’s interesting, the president seems bound and determined to proceed down this path despite the fact that Hagel’s record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel,” Cruz said. “He has not been a friend to Israel. And in my view the United States should stand unshakably with Israel.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, was softer in his tone toward Hagel, saying the former senator from Nebraska would receive a “thorough vetting” just like any other presidential nominee.

Robert Reich: “Wonder why the President is willing to spend his precious political capital getting Chuck Hagel confirmed as Defense Secretary.”

Because ever since he won reelection, he’s eager to pick fights to prove he can win them? Peggy Noonan summarized it this weekend:

I doubt now he has any intention of working with them on big reforms, of battling out a compromise at a conference table, of having long walks and long talks and making offers that are serious, that won’t be changed overnight to something else. The president intends to consistently beat his opponents and leave them looking bad, or, failing that, to lose to them sometimes and then make them look bad. That’s how he does politics.


Here’s my conjecture: In part it’s because he seems to like the tension. He likes cliffs, which is why it’s always a cliff with him and never a deal. He likes the high-stakes, tottering air of crisis. Maybe it makes him feel his mastery and reminds him how cool he is, unrattled while he rattles others. He can take it. Can they?

 Lindsey Graham seems to concur with that theory:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday expressed dismay at reports President Obama would tap former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for Secretary of Defense, calling it an “in your face” selection.

“I like Chuck Hagel. He served with distinction in Vietnam as an enlisted man — two Purple Hearts. But quite frankly Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy,” said Graham in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“He has long severed his ties with the Republican party. This is an in your face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” he added. “I don’t know what his management experience is in regards to the Pentagon or global if anyway, so I think it’s an extremely controversial choice.”

Say, John Aravosis, how will gays welcome Hagel’s nomination? “Hagel’s public record on gay rights is abominable… I’m willing to believe that the man has changed in the past two years (though it seems awfully opportune). but I’d like some proof, or at the very least, a convincing explanation. We’re received neither.”

(sigh) …Here we go again.

Tags: Barack Obama , Chuck Hagel , Lindsey Graham , Ted Cruz

The Contenders to Replace DeMint


Jim DeMint’s sudden resignation from the Senate to head up the Heritage Foundation makes a lot of sense for him (the preeminent position at one of, if not the, most preeminent conservative think tanks, his to enjoy for perhaps decades) and a lot of sense for the organization.

But there’s reason for a lot of conservatives to feel disappointed. There’s been an accusation – sometimes fair, sometimes not – that some conservative lawmakers want to take a pure and uncompromising stance, but who prefer to do so safely from the metaphorical sidelines. Conservatives complain that they never get one of their own in leadership in the House or Senate, but any conservative who did would run the risk of acknowledging the hard truth of the job: sometimes the best deal you can get is half a loaf. And once you became the guy who negotiated the “half a loaf” deal, you lose your “true conservative” street cred.

I’m hearing some folks say DeMint will be able to fight for his causes better at Heritage than from within the U.S. Senate, and that strikes me as debatable. He’s going from a position where he can influence the writing of legislation to a position where he can influence the writing of white papers. Is he really going to have more success persuading lawmakers as a head of a think tank – even one as respected and well-regarded as Heritage – than as a colleague?

In the meantime, this sets up a free-for-all in the sharp-elbowed world of South Carolina Republican politics, and greatly lessens the chance of a serious conservative challenge to Lindsey Graham.

Governor Nikki Haley is going to have a lot of options to choose from in the coming days or weeks:

  • Congressman Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in Congress starting in January 2013. CNN is reporting that DeMint has indicated he would prefer Scott as his successor.
  • Congressman Mick Mulvaney, a Tea Party favorite who pulled off an upset victory over longtime incumbent Democrat John Spratt in 2010.
  • Congressman Trey Gowdy, who beat incumbent Bob Inglis in the 2010 primary in his district, who has proven a tenacious fighter on the Judiciary Committee and Government Reform Committee and sometimes feuded with the House Republican leadership.
  • Former State Attorney General Henry McMaster, a former U.S. Attorney under Ronald Reagan who ran for governor against Haley in 2010 and endorsed her in the runoff.
  • State Sen. Tom Davis, popular in his Low Country district and once frequently-mentioned as a possible challenger to Graham; surprised some Republicans by backing Ron Paul in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.
  • State Attorney General Alan Wilson, the son of Rep. Joe Wilson. The younger Wilson was just elected in 2010 to a four-year term, and he may not be eager to leave so soon.

Rep. Joe Wilson has been asked about running for statewide office many times and indicated he’s happy with his role in the House.

Keep in mind that any of the above figured who are not picked as DeMint’s interim successor could very well challenge the picked successor or Graham in the 2014 primaries.

I can’t begrudge DeMint or Heritage this decision, but a lot of headaches are going to flow forth from this…

Tags: Henry McMaster , Jim DeMint , Lindsey Graham , Mick Mulvaney , Tim Scott , Republican National Convention , Trey Gowdy

Sen. Jim DeMint to Resign, Take Over Heritage Foundation



South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint will replace Ed Feulner as president of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. DeMint will leave his post as South Carolina’s junior senator in early January to take control of the Washington think tank, which has an annual budget of about $80 million.

Sen. DeMint’s departure means that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, will name a successor, who will have to run in a special election in 2014. In that year, both Mr. DeMint’s replacement and Sen. Lindsey Graham will be running for reelection in South Carolina.

That’s fantastic news for Lindsey Graham, as any conservative Republican who was contemplating challenging him in the primary may either be picked by Haley as the interim senator, and/or challenge the interim senator in the other primary instead.

Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, issued the following statement:

“Jim is not just a colleague; he is a friend and a mentor, and his departure will be a tremendous loss for the U.S. Senate and for the conservative movement. In eight years, he has personally led the effort to change the composition of the Senate for the better, and provided consistent and principled leadership in the fight for liberty and limited government. He will be missed. I’m confident he will continue to play an important role in the ongoing public debate about the future of this country, and I wish him the best in his new position.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund, which DeMint founded, responds:

Senator Jim DeMint has been one of the strongest voices in Congress for American taxpayers and we thank him for his outstanding service to this nation,” said SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins. “Senator DeMint has consistently fought for conservative policies and he’s helped elect a new generation of conservatives who will continue this legacy.We fully support Senator DeMint’s decision to lead The Heritage Foundation. As a citizen legislator, he was set to leave the Senate at the end of this term, but this new role puts him in a powerful position to fight for conservative principles for many years to come. And we’re confident Governor Haley will select a good replacement who will continue DeMint’s principled leadership in the Senate. This is a win-win for the conservative movement.

Senator DeMint founded the Senate Conservatives Fund and helped it raise over $25 million to help elect eight outstanding candidates to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2012. These leaders include Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) as well as Senators-elect Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Deb Fischer (R-NE).

DeMint cut his formal ties to SCF earlier this year, making it a non-affiliated, multi-candidate PAC. SCF will carry on DeMint’s vision by working to elect even more principled leaders to the U.S. Senate in 2014 and beyond.

Tags: Jim DeMint , Lindsey Graham

Don’t Worry, World. Fire Marshal Reid Is on the Case.


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Don’t Worry, World! Harry Reid’s on this Koran-Burning Thing!

Ah. Swell: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday that some members of Congress were considering some kind of action in response to the Florida Quran burning that  sparked a murderous riot at a United Nations complex in Afghanistan and other mayhem. ‘We’ll take a look at this of course . . . as to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know,’ he added.”

This pastor, Terry Jones, has a jones for media attention that makes the Kardashians look like J .D. Salinger. He knows that there’s a good chance that tossing the Koran on a pile of charcoal briquettes will make the easily-enraged in far-off lands lash out in that time-tested tradition, killing aid workers, and he doesn’t give a damn. He knows there’s a chance that the Muslim tantrums might put our men and women in uniform at greater risk. He still doesn’t give a damn. He has never given a damn. What, he’s gonna go weak-kneed at the thought of a unanimous Senate resolution?

To quote the wise philosopher Alfred, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Or they want to watch Korans burn and see what else catches on fire, too.

Anyway, Reid is bad, but perhaps Lindsey Graham is even worse. He added, “I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During World War II, we had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy. So, burning a Koran is a terrible thing but it doesn’t justify killing someone. Burning a Bible would be a terrible thing but it doesn’t justify murder. Having said that, anytime we can push back here in America against actions like this that put our troops at risk we should do it, and I look forward to working with Senators Kerry, and Reid, and others to condemn this, condemn violence all over the world based on the name  of religion.”

Hey, er . . . what did the U.S. government limit that could “inspire the enemy” during World War Two? Weren’t we singing off-color parodies of “Whistle While You Work” about the malfunctioning genitalia of the foreign leaders we were fighting? If that and, say, our societal existence in absolute opposition to all of their values wasn’t sufficient to motivate them, wouldn’t say, the Dresden bombing be enough to give them at extra get-up-and-go? Were these guys really that “inspired” by anything we did? Isn’t that like arguing that our forces’ primary motivation in the Pacific War was to go get Tokyo Rose?

Where is this notion coming from that our actions can “motivate” homicidal maniacs? What, if we button up our pyromaniac pastors, the Taliban will stop trying to stir up Afghanis against outsiders? Isn’t that like trying to stop Son of Sam by banning dog food?

Doug Mataconis can’t believe the direction Reid and Graham are headed in: “Here’s your answer Senator. No, you don’t need to hold hearings and you don’t need to be looking into ways to limit the free speech rights of American citizens because of the insane reaction of people thousands of miles away who were obviously ginned up by demagogues. War or not, Terry Jones had every right to do what he did.”

. . . Jim Treacher put this well: “The President of the United States bombs a Muslim country, and some nobody in Florida burns a Koran. Guess which one’s to blame for rioting in Afghanistan?”

Tags: Afghanistan , Harry Reid , Lindsey Graham , Pastor Pyro

Nikki Haley & Lindsey Graham, Teaming Up Against Obamacare


One of the favorites of South Carolina conservatives, Gov. Nikki Haley, and one of their least favorites, Sen. Lindsey Graham, are teaming up to promote legislation that would permit states such as the Palmetto State to “opt out” of Obamacare.

Graham mentions the value in putting every senator on record as to whether or not their state should have the option of opting out of Obamacare.

In South Carolina Republican circles, there’s still a lot of talk about a conservative challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham, but it’s worth noting he’s not up for reelection until 2014.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , Nikki Haley

Just Win, Baby, and Be Careful With Your Draft Picks


I chatted with Will Cain of “Off the Page” this morning about the National Republican Senatorial Committee and its recent troubles — Murkowski, Specter, Crist.

He offered the question of whether you would rather have 60 Lindsey Grahams or 40 Jim DeMints. That’s a pretty stark difference, and thankfully life rarely gives us such wildly disparate options. Any GOP Senate caucus is going to have some moderates, some conservative stalwarts, and some lawmakers who fall somewhere in between.

Will lays out his love for ideologues here. As I tried to say, and I’m not sure how well it came across, I want the most conservative electable official I can get in every district and in every state. If Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are about as far right as you can get and still win a statewide race in Maine, then I want the two of them. If Scott Brown deviating from his party on every third vote is what it takes for him to win reelection in Massachuetts, so be it; Martha Coakley would be voting against the GOP position three out of three times.

A guy who checks all the boxes and holds all the right positions but who can’t win is good for some debate entertainment and not much else. That kind of a candidate is Alan Keyes. That kind of a candidate lets the other side not even have to sweat winning the election. It’s odd; the people who talk the most about how they want to stand for principle, and how they oppose conceding any ideological positions find themselves conceding many winnable House and Senate seats.

If you want to influence policy, you need the votes in the legislature to do it. If you want that, 99 times out of 100 you’re going to need a coalition, and that means having some folks who aren’t with you 100 percent of the time on every issue. If we get big Republican majorities in the House and Senate, we’ll find ways to get conservative ideas enacted into law. If we have big Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, our ideas are effectively dead.

Interestingly, both Will and I referred to the “just win, baby” slogan attributed to Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, a now-ironic comment considering how terrible the Raiders have been for so long.

Show me a principled, dedicated, and noble loser and you know what you have? A loser.

UPDATE: Our chat is up:

Tags: Jim DeMint , Lindsey Graham , Scott Brown

What’s the Political Strategy Behind the Immigration Push?


Has anyone seen any polls of Arizonans that significantly contradicts the Rasmussen poll showing 70 percent of likely voters in the state support their tough new law on illegal immigration, and only 23 percent oppose it?

I see the Democrats beating the drum about this law quite a bit; is the idea that voters in other states will find it xenophobic, horrific, etc.?

Do opponents of this new law really think that Americans will change their minds if confronted with “refried bean swastikas?” (I didn’t know Godwin’s law came as a side dish.) Is the electorate supposed to recoil in horror at an MSNBC headline declaring that “law makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant”?

Sure, illegal immigration is a bit less of a hot-button issue than the last big push in 2007; since then we’ve had a horrific multi-year recession that has probably persuaded some illegal immigrants that there aren’t as many opportunities in the United States as there used to be. But we can’t count on the administration’s abysmal economic policies to act as a de facto border control forever. And as many have noted, this isn’t exactly a roaring recovery.

The last immigration bill couldn’t get through, even with some sense of bipartisan support, with backing from President Bush, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, etc. How much more appetite will we see nationally in a poorer economy, and with no real Republican support, on the heels of defying public opinion on health care.

Tags: Barack Obama , John McCain , Lindsey Graham

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