Can a Hawk Be a Moderate?

Will Lindsey Graham spoil South Carolina for Jeb Bush? One of the consequences of having such a large field of GOP contenders, is that spoilers become commonplace. And it also means that unexpected changes in the race are a given. What exactly those changes will turn out to be is hard to tell. We can almost certainly say that Rand Paul will have to do a good job of defending his foreign policy positions against hawks like Graham. And it is just as likely that Rand Paul will end the campaign - whenever his campaign does in fact end - being far more hawkish than he has been on the Senate floor. But will Graham’s record of military service and his debating skills be enough to propel him significantly higher in the polls? Will it need a catalyst - some tragic foreign policy disaster like IS taking control of Iraq - to produce such a shift in the polls?

The emphasis on Graham's hawkishness is understandable of course. That's because on other issues he's a moderate Republican. On immigration he's consistently worked for comprehensive immigration reform and has reached across the aisle on the issue. And on climate change, he has backpedalled from promoting 2009's climate change bill to backing out a year later because of "alarmist" positions on the part of climate change advocates. Or he had already started to consider a run for the White House and knew his support of such a bill could be risky. On gun control he tends conservative, while he is a co-sponsor of the Healthy Americans Act which tends to give more power to states rather than the federal government but aims for universal health coverage and actually shares some goals with Obamacare. It has bipartisan support as well.

So the question is: will Graham tough talk his way up the polls on foreign policy and then worry about defending his other positions in front of conservative voters? That would be a nice problem for the senator to have, given where he is right now in the polls. But he knows how to debate, and it's early days yet.

Posted by Keeley at June 2, 2015 7:27 PM
Comment #395820

Graham is by far the most interesting GOP candidate for president. It is not because he is a hawk. His stands on defense are about as out of touch with what Americans want as any candidate out there. It is not because he has a chance to win the nomination. He does not. It is not because he is reputedly one of the nicest and most likeable people in the Senate. That is a plus, but it’s not a ticket to the oval office.

He is gay.

Graham is open about it in D.C., and because he is likeable, and because of professional courtesy, his fellow Republicans and Democrats do not bring this up in public; however, it is not widely known in his home state of S.C. If he comes out of the closet, or if he is forced to come out, he will probably lose his Senate seat. So what is Graham’s game? Why is he running this risk?

Graham exerts a lot of power in S.C. politics. He might be able to swing the state to the candidate he chooses to back, or maybe even win the state for himself, and control some delegates in a convention that might go end up depending on a closed door deal. And realistically, he is running for a position in a GOP cabinet as Secretary of Defense, rather than expecting to actually win the nomination. His backing could play a big role in deciding who wins the nomination. He could be a kingmaker.

He can also be blackmailed. While the candidates from the Senate would not do this, there are plenty of others who would do it if they saw it to their advantage. Governor Perry is known for dirty politics. Jindal has a rabidly homophobic base. Walker is corrupt- half a dozen of his administration have already been convicted, and it took a GOP judge to stop the second investigation- but is Walker dirty enough to go after Graham? And let’s not forget Jeb Bush. His brother ran one of the dirtiest political campaigns in modern history in S.C. during the 2000 primary. How different is Jeb from his brother?

Graham knows all this, of course. So what is he thinking? He will not win the nomination. He might be awarded a position as Secretary Of Defense in a GOP administration. But maybe he WANTS to be publicly outed. What kind of personal feelings must he harbor towards the social conservatives? Suppose he declares he is in love and wants to marry and demands equal protection under the 14th amendment?

This is a very, very interesting candidate. Wheels within wheels are turning within this campaign.

Posted by: phx8 at June 3, 2015 7:51 PM
Comment #410546

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