Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lindsey Graham's Big Day of Crazy

So many of his fellow Republicans have moved so far to the right in recent years that it would be easy to think of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as quaintly moderate by comparison. Indeed, Graham is a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators who yesterday released a set of proposals for comprehensive immigration reform.

Well, today Graham seemed almost frantic to remind to reestablish his wingnut credentials. Perhaps panicked by early reports that the president's proposals, announced today, would largely mirror the Senate plan, Graham was at pains to preemptively find something to criticize, lest he find himself where no Republican ever wants to be: in agreement with Barack Obama... even when the agreement is in support of the Republican's own proposal.

Reacting to leaks, confirmed by White House spokesperson Jay Carney, that the president would support inclusion of same-sex couples in his immigration reform plan, Graham was quick to declare it a mistake, intimating that it would doom the bill among Republicans. Incredulously, Graham declared "Why don't we just put legalized abortion in there and round it all out?"

Well, here's the thing, Senator: Marriage equality is supported by more Americans than oppose it, and is the law in an increasing number of states (including four that affirmed marriage equality at the ballot box in our most recent election). Furthermore, the federal Defense of Marriage Act — the only legal basis for discrimination against same-sex couples —has been ruled unconstitutional multiple times in federal court, and the administration is on record as agreeing with that determination. By the time any immigration reform could take effect, inclusion of a provision on same-sex couples may well be moot, because by then it might be settled law that discrimination against them is unconstitutional.

Oh, and as for that outburst about abortion? Sen. Graham may have missed the memo, but abortion is already legal in this country (despite his party's best efforts), and doesn't need to be "legalized" for anyone, including immigrants. Got it?

Seems like a good day's work on Graham's part reestablishing his street cred as a mean-spirited right winger, eh? But nobody could accuse him of half-measures, as it turned out he was just getting started: Commenting on outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senate testimony regarding the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, Graham told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that "Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view. [emphasis mine]"

Personally, I'm outraged by the way Republicans have appropriated the Benghazi tragedy for political advantage, beginning while the rubble was almost literally still smoking, but what went wrong there is clearly a fair subject for investigation. What is not fair — is, in fact, far beyond the pale — is the right's intimations of ulterior political motives and personal malfeasance, for which no evidence has been (or will ever be, in my judgment) produced.

Surely there were endemic organizational and operational failures, for which Clinton bears (and has without question accepted) "captain of the ship" responsibility, as the executive leader of the State Department. But the independent panel on the attack "...did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty." In particular, one finding was that among the operational problems was the failure of proactive communication of the threat to Washington... which is to say, to Clinton. In other words, she was responsible, but not to blame.

But that conclusion is arguable. What is not arguable is the nastiness of Graham's choice of words. Disputing the kind and degree of responsibility Clinton bears is fair enough; what is decidedly not fair is saying that the Secretary of State of the United States "got away with murder" in reference to an actual murder. It's a scandalous way to talk, unless you have grounds to make it an actual accusation... which, of course, nobody does in this case.

Further, Graham is too cunning (I hesitate to grace him with the term smart) not to realize that he was dogwhistling to certain devotees of aluminum haberdashery who have long thought Hillary Clinton was a literal murderer, rather than the smart, dedicated public servant most of us in the rational community understand her to be.

That Senator Graham would attack a star of the current Democratic administration, who is also quite possibly the future leader of the next Democratic administration, is hardly surprising; that he should attack her in such base, slanderous terms, and should "shout out" to the lunatic wing of his own party is... well, that's actually not too surprising, either, is it? I almost forgot.

Thanks for reminding me, Senator.

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