The Corner

Graham, Cracked

Over at The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren does his usual fine writing job, this time in a feature on Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican (of sorts) of South Carolina. It is a balanced, but ultimately somewhat sympathetic, portrait, and explains why Graham might be hard to dislodge. 

But, oh my, do conservatives ever want to dislodge him! For conservative activists with long memories, Graham is the hair shirt that never stops itching. Yours truly once wrote an entire column calling him “The Worst Republican Senator,” and laying out what Michelle Malkin kindly called a “devastating concatenation of the case against the senator.” It’s not that Graham is the most liberal Republican senator; the problem is that he’s such a nasty, even vicious, opponent to the Right when he does break ranks. Anybody to the right of him in such cases isn’t just wrong; we’re “bigots,” or some other epithet. And, as I laid out in that column and several others, the underhanded way in which he carried out a private vendetta to block the superbly qualified Bush judicial nominee W. James Haynes II — by falsely accusing Haynes of promoting “torture” while serving as the Pentagon’s general counsel — was abominable. (In short, Graham, an Air Force JAG officer, was carrying the water for JAGs in an intra-service feud with the civilian line of legal counsel in the Pentagon, and was willing to smear a good man — and, in the long run, hand over the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to the Left — in order to gain an edge for the JAGs’ private battle.)

Graham’s penchant for intramural nastiness goes back a long way — and his political judgment can be wildly off. Graham was a leader, for example, in a horribly ill-advised mid-session coup attempt against Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1998. To jettison a speaker mid-session, of course, would be to create unprecedented chaos and send a signal to voters that the incumbent party is incompetent and immature. 

In recent months, two of Graham’s primary challengers have reached out to me to interview them, hoping for some support. But Republican voters in South Carolina need no Gulf Coast columnist to help them choose among conservative challengers. Right now, any vote for any of the challengers is a vote to force Graham into a runoff — and in that runoff, one of those conservatives will have a clear shot if he/she makes a good case.

Michael Warren’s article serves as confirmation that Graham will not get a free ride this time. Only South Carolina’s voters can decide if his public ride should end.

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