It has been clear for some time that Lindsey Graham was not going to be the Republican nominee for President. Yet it had been our hope that enough lightning would strike to propel him at least onto the main stage of the Republican debates, where his presence was sorely needed. Graham’s inability to gain visible support was as baffling and depressing to us as Donald Trump’s successes. (In our previous blog we referred to Trump, as others had, as The Teflon Don. Our friend, Suzanne Garment writing for Reuters, has suggested that Teflon doesn’t begin to capture Trump’s magical quality, “Truth is Superman, but Donald Trump is pure Kryptonite.” )
We are saddened by Graham’s departure from the presidential race, but gratified that he remains a Senator and that his voice will continue to be heard. Of all the Republican candidates, he was the most outspoken in taking on Trump, for example calling him a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot whose stance on excluding Muslims was empowering ISIS. Apart from his consistent rebukes of Trump, Graham was probably best known for his advocacy of sending 20,000 ground troops to fight ISIS. We have not endorsed that specific proposal, wanting to know more of the military analysis of exactly what role the troops would play and what that number would likely achieve. However, we have believed, along with several Republican candidates, that some substantial participation of American troops will be necessary, and the specificity of Graham’s proposal helped to advance the discussion. But Graham was not a one-trick pony as a few brief examples will demonstrate.
On behalf of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, Maya MacGuineas asked for subscribers to the following letter to Graham and we were pleased to accept the invitation:
Thank you for your steadfast commitment to fiscal responsibility and for consistently addressing our nation’s debt as you ran for president. Your rational voice was a welcome addition to a campaign that has seen too many promises and not enough substance. We are grateful that you will remain in the United States Senate and continue to speak out in support of a smart and responsible federal budget.
On another front, Senator Graham was a consistent supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. He was a member of the “Gang of Eight” responsible for drafting the reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013 but could not make it to a vote in the House. Unlike Marco Rubio, also a member of the Gang, Graham never abandoned his support of the bill.
Graham was also an iconoclast among the Republican presidential contenders in acknowledging the reality of climate change, the contribution of human activity to it, and the need to address the problem. In the GOP undercard debate in October, Graham displayed his characteristic wit, noting that he was not a scientist and had the grades to prove it. But he went on to say: “I’ve talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me that the greenhouse gas effect is real — that we’re heating up the planet. I just want a solution that would be good for the economy that doesn’t destroy it.”
A fitting close is an excerpt from the statement issued by Graham’s close friend and colleague, Senator John McCain:
With Senator Lindsey Graham’s announcement, Republicans lost our most qualified, thoughtful, fearless and honest presidential candidate, not to mention the candidate with the best (and it seemed sometimes the only) sense of humor.
Farewell, Senator, but not goodbye.