Political Animal


February 01, 2013 9:52 AM The Predictable Wrath of Lindsay Graham

By Ed Kilgore

Having watched the nasty little trick Sen. Lindsay Graham pulled on a hapless Chuck Hagel during yesterday’s confirmation hearings (asking him to “name” senators who were “intimidated” by the “Jewish Lobby,” a question that has about four reasons for being impossible to answer), I have to say Charles Pierce really called it earlier this week:

I know that all is cool reason in Republican circles, and nobody’s listening any more to the old people on the Medicare scooters who mistake bags of Earl Grey for millinery, but if you want to see the walking, living, sweating, mewling manifestation of still runnin’ a’skeered, take a gander these days at Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. This is a man with the gallows in his eyes, Because he hasn’t been entirely insane, and because South Carolina’s wingbits have been deprived of their real campeon de loco, Jim DeMint, and because of, you know, that conspicuous longtime bachelorhood issue, Graham has become something of a target.

Pierce quotes some of Graham’s more inflammatory recent utterances and predicts:

I mention all this because he’s going to get a crack at Chuck Hagel on Thursday, which may bring about the mother of all public tantrums. Somebody give him a cookie and then primary him, just to put him out of his misery.

Hillary Clinton cannot, of course, speak in as uninhibited a fashion as us writers who ain’t running for anything, but she provided AP with a take on her recent tormenters that was probably aimed at Graham more than anyone else:

Clinton faced a barrage of hostile questions about Benghazi from Republican lawmakers when she testified before Congress recently in appearances that were delayed from December because of illness. Afterward, some lawmakers continued to accuse her and the administration of withholding evidence. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., told a television interviewer that he thought Clinton was getting “away with murder.”
In the interview, Clinton had little patience for such allegations.
“There are some people in politics and in the press who can’t be confused by the facts,” she said. “They just will not live in an evidence-based world. And that’s regrettable. It’s regrettable for our political system and for the people who serve our government in very dangerous, difficult circumstances.”

None of this would for a moment deter Graham, who is a highly experienced practitioner of the art of buying himself space for the occasional act of independence from his party’s “base” by behaving as poorly as possible in partisan dust-ups. It’s the same number Rudy Giuliani used to work to death, and it was Chris Christie’s main asset until he threw it away (temporarily, I would suspect) by praising Barack Obama during the Sandy relief and recovery effort.

Graham used to be pretty adept at this game, as noted by Geoff Earle in a 2005 Washington Monthly profile of him as a “swing conservative” in the Senate. Indeed, Earle mentions Hillary Clinton as someone Graham liked to work with selectively.

But now it takes more smoke in the air to cover for, say, participating in a comprehensive immigration reform effort. Until the coast is clear down in South Carolina, I think we’ll see a lot more tantrums from Graham. He’s probably saving an Obama impeachment effort as a trump card. It worked for him in the 90s.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • CharlieM on February 01, 2013 10:15 AM:

    When asked that question by Graham, he should have answered "Lindsay Graham" so the rest of the time would have been spent with Graham trying to defend himself.
    Graham comitted the cardinal sin of a hearing - asking a question he didn't already know the answer for. Hagel should have pressed it home by throwing it right back at him.

  • c u n d gulag on February 01, 2013 10:25 AM:

    Well, Ah do declahe...

    After Rhett McCain had vented his ample fury at Mr. Hagel at the cotillion that was organized in his honor, little Scarlett O'Graham felt jealous of all of the attention he'd gotten, and, after deciding that another fainting spell was out of the question, since everyone had tired of that act of hers years ago, she felt that she needed to have one of her patented epic hissy-fits, and screamed at poor Mr. Hagel, treating him like one of 'the help,' further ruining his cotillion - and after she was done berating him, declared, "Tomorrow, is another nominee!"

  • mellowjohn on February 01, 2013 10:34 AM:

    Ms. Lindsey: ...“name” senators who were “intimidated” by the “Jewish Lobby”...

    Sen Hagel: Ummm, you.

  • biggerbox on February 01, 2013 10:40 AM:

    Hagel's performance during that hearing was atrocious, and whoever prepped him needs to be fired. It's amazing he wasn't ready for that question, and didn't have an answer ready.

    That said, I am soooo tired of Graham, and would prefer he be replaced by a DeMint-class South Carolina looney. At least then we wouldn't have this faux-reasonable, bi-partisan pretense half the time.

  • boatboy_srq on February 01, 2013 11:09 AM:

    I'm not all that thrilled about Hagel as SecDef, but it's informative that someone formerly on the righthand-side of the GOTea would get so thoroughly blasted by his erstwhile colleagues. Graham and McCain were stains on the Senate record.

    Graham, for all his to-us nutty behavior, is very shrewd - at least in terms of his own political survival. Conduct a hearing/interview as the Teahadist equivalant of the Mad Hatter, and the base won't whinge so loudly when he's up for re-election. Having experienced fullblown Palmetto State cuh-ray-zee firsthand, I can say he's probably less rabid than most of the carpetbaggers -er, contenders - who would be available to challeng him in the primary.

    @biggerbox: True, Hagel wasn't all that impressive, but exactly how many of what grade of insane questions was he supposed to be prepared for? "Mr. Hagel, Can you name the Communists currently in the US Senate? Sir, if we allow that psychiatry is a legitimate branch of medicine, how many in this chamber would you recommend for immediate counseling? When al-Qaida in Mali starts launching its nukes at us, what are you prepared to do? How do you intend to protect the United States from the growing threat from Eurasia -er, the EU? How soon do you think will we be able to go to war with the entire rest of the planet and bring about Armageddon and the Second Coming?" C'mon.

  • SYSPROG on February 01, 2013 11:18 AM:

    Ms. Lindsay is from SOUTH CAROLINA for Pete's sake. This 'tantrum throwing' is what passes for campaigning. The rest of the country is tired of his antics but I'm not sure in his state. Hagel was NOT impressive but I wonder if I'm saying that because he is not as glib as Hillary or as well liked as Kerry. His credentials are impressive but his uh uh uh was painful. What was embarrassing was the Senate 'questioning'. Why can't they DO THEIR JOBS and ask questions that pertain to the POSITION?

  • boatboy_srq on February 01, 2013 11:25 AM:


    Why can't they DO THEIR JOBS and ask questions that pertain to the POSITION?

    Because they want a SecWar, not a SecDef (just like they want a Decider-in-Chief and not someone actually committed to responsible governing), and because all the DoD expenditures are geared toward not toward defending the United States but causing global chaos and thus Summoning Teh Messiah - but since they can't actually say that on the record, this is the best they can do.

  • schtick on February 01, 2013 11:40 AM:

    Teapubs can't handle the truth or facts. So why should they ask questions that pertain to the job in question? They would lose their support from Faux Fake and BS Gnewz and it's low IQ viewers.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 01, 2013 11:57 AM:

    I think boatboy and biggerbox might be on to something: with GOTea Crazy being the political stance du jour, I think it may be worth someone's while start a political consulting firm that specializes in defensive campaigning against right-wing nuttery.

    Of course, said consultant would either be batshit crazy himself or have an extremely active imagination. But I think it could work. Teaching unsuspecting candidates how to expect the unexpected. Kinda like crisis management.

  • Vicente Fox on February 01, 2013 12:20 PM:

    I think it may be worth someone's while start a political consulting firm that specializes in defensive campaigning against right-wing nuttery.

    That this hasn't already been done kind of illustrates how lame the Democrats are.

  • rrk1 on February 01, 2013 12:48 PM:

    It's unfortunate that Hagel came across as so unprepared for the drama he should have known was coming. Everyone else knew it was coming so why didn't he?

    How fickle the Rethugs are. They certainly have no problem eating their own, and if there is a filibuster, successful or not, Hagel should afterwards announce he's now a Democrat.

    The greatest fear among his former colleagues is that he will preside over big cuts in the defense budget, which is inevitable no matter who becomes SedDef. All those defense contractors in their districts making all those generous campaign contributions are wetting their pants with worry. Let's remember the defense budget is heavily invested in keeping the corporate world fat, rich, and happy, and by-the-by making war on the planet, as the neocons see fit, is secondary. Let's keep our priorities in the right order.

    Hagel can certainly get revenge on those who torture him the most by targeting cuts to their districts after he's confirmed, but the whole cesspool system is so corrupt and flooded with money his ability to bring some measure of sanity will be heavily circumscribed. Hagel also has to know that Obama nominated him because he wanted a Republican hatchet man in the Pentagon to do the dirty work of cutting out the fat. Good luck with that.

    Here's hoping Hagel gets confirmed.

  • Brian B. on February 01, 2013 1:00 PM:

    c u n d gulag; I like this post so much I posted in on ye olde facebook page, credited, of course.

    with my follow-up opinion 'Graham is letting his self-loathing affect his behavior too much.'

  • c u n d gulag on February 01, 2013 1:27 PM:

    Brian B.
    I feel honored!!!

  • RT on February 01, 2013 1:31 PM:


    "Ms. Lindsay is from SOUTH CAROLINA for Pete's sake. This 'tantrum throwing' is what passes for campaigning."

    I'm often reminded of the quote: "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."

  • j on February 01, 2013 1:33 PM:

    Perhaps when McCain said in 2000 that Hagel would make a great secretary of defense (if McCain were elected) chuck Hagel took him at his word, after all they were best friends.McCain and his handmaiden Graham are so twisted inside with rage that a democrat is in the White House they cannot see straight.
    On another website I have read comments made by people who are truly concerned for McCain's health, they think he is still in the beginning stages of dementia.

  • Fully Caffeinated on February 01, 2013 1:45 PM:

    I'm often reminded of the quote: "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."

    Ha! You get to proclaim a case of GMTA with whoever does the Facbook posts because I got here from there, and they made the same point: "Lindsey Graham can posture and preen all he wants. He's still going to get primaried because South Carolina -- too small to be a republic, too big to be an insane asylum -- has been robbed of their crie de crazy, Jim DeMint."

  • JohnH on February 01, 2013 1:58 PM:

    After Rhett McCain had vented his ample fury at Mr. Hagel at the cotillion that was organized in his honor, little Scarlett O'Graham felt jealous of all of the attention he'd gotten

    c u n d gulag, that's hilarious, but I think you give Ms. Graham too much credit. Scarlett may have been a drama queen, but at least she had some class and, eventually, some self-awareness. What we're dealing with here is nothing less than South Carolina's own Miss Pittypat. All Ms. Lindsay was missing in that farcical hearing was the tin of smelling salts and a hand fan.

  • Bokonon on February 01, 2013 1:58 PM:

    The GOP is trying a multi-layered political hat trick here. They are punishing Hagel for his apostasy against their party over Iraq and Israe. AND they are setting the stage to claim that Hagel's future actions as SecDef are driven by him being a radical, unstable loose cannon - so that the GOP can render him personally controversial, and undermine him in the court of public opinion now, and in the future, and forevermore, so that Hagel will be handicapped in the defense fights to come.

    On top of that, the GOP is trying to please the wingnuts and talk radio moguls, AND give themselves tough guy cover for their collapse over the Debt Ceiling.

    AND the GOP needs to please Sheldom Adelstein personally, and show he is getting his money's worth for all his contributions and radio attack ads and phony advocacy groups.

    Plus, Senators Cruz, Rubio, and Graham are all posing for the camera and trying to outdo each other as the biggest SOB in the room, for various reasons.

    Wonderful parade, isn't it?

  • c u n d gulag on February 01, 2013 2:12 PM:


    Or, as Prissy, played by the great Butterfly McQueen - in white face, of course.

    "Ah don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies - or confirmin' no nominees!"

  • Wally on February 01, 2013 2:18 PM:

    Great thread. If may so bold as to summarize:
    GOP Senators are a little crazy but there are some reasons for their antics: 1) Some, like Graham have to defend against being primaried by the Tea Party; 2) many do actually believe the U.S.'s int'l role is what Dick Cheney thinks it is: a righteous empire that smites its enemies no matter the humanitarian, strategic, political or economic fallout; and 3) - by far the most important - salvos at Hagel now put DOD on notice that any cuts to weapon systems or bases related to the their districts or PACs will draw more blood from Hagel.

  • JohnH on February 01, 2013 2:24 PM:

    And I wouldn't have blamed Hagel if he'd finally just lost it and barked at Ms. Graham: "For God's sake woman, this is a Senate confirmation hearing, not a garden party!"

  • RT on February 01, 2013 3:44 PM:

    @Bokonon: "The GOP is trying a multi-layered political hat trick here."

    A high degree of difficulty there.

    On the same principle that every foreign war is started for domestic political reasons, every one of these GOP domestic political "wars" is started for intra-party reasons.