“I’m not doing it to make a statement. I’m doing it to change the country and offer what I have to offer to the American people, and to my party. And I think I’m uniquely qualified to deal with the threats we’re talking about. So when I hear a United States Senator trying to rationalize that Iraq created the problems in France, and when I hear some libertarians on my side of the aisle associated with the Republican Party say that it is our interventionist policy that has brought people down on us, they don’t know what they’re talking about. When I hear the president of the United States and his chief spokesperson failing to admit that we’re in a religious war, it really bothers me. And I want to be somebody who can talk about the world as it really is.”
And that “somebody,” presumably, is himself. Don’t laugh. He has a heavy duty supporter, beloved by the base, cheering him on:
“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” two-time presidential candidate [Sen. John McCain] said, prompting laughter from reporters during a press conference on the prison at Guantanamo Bay. “So I am strongly encouraging Sen. Lindsey Graham, particularly with the world the way it is today. No one understands the world today in the way that Lindsey Graham does, in my view.”
McCain’s Illegitimate Son For President! Feel the excitement! Graham, needless to say, is not a favorite among grassroots conservatives, a point we’ll explore further in a moment. First, it’s worth noting that he worked awfully hard to stave off any serious primary challenge in his Senate race last year, waltzing to re-election in a very conservative state. Not an easy feat for a pol in his position. (Let the record reflect that Sen. Tim Scott won by an even larger margin). And it’d be ungenerous not to concede that Graham sometimes does excellent work from his Senate perch; his brutal cross-examination of Chuck Hagel, steadfast opposition to President Obama’s Guantanamo Bay policy, and tenacity on Benghazi come to mind. That said, in what possible universe does he think he’d mount a viable presidential candidacy, especially amid a crowded, talented field? Graham told Hugh Hewitt he’s weighing his options and seeking a “credible” and “competitive” way forward. If such a path exists, I just don’t see it. The supposed raison d’etre for his participation would be to go to bat for the hawkish wing of the party on foreign policy and national security issues, which might make some sense if the emerging field featured a strong anti-interventionist streak. But it doesn’t. Basically everyone in the mix not named “Rand Paul” will be running on a muscular foreign policy platform. If and when Sen. Paul serves up a “let’s mind our own business and not invite blowback” debate answer, virtually everyone on stage will be champing at the bit to push back. Marco Rubio and Chris Christie have already traded overt barbs with Paul on these matters, and part of me thinks that John Bolton’s potential candidacy would be launched with the primary purpose of aggressively confronting the Paul wing of the party in nationally-televised forums. The fact is that Lindsey Graham’s foreign policy worldview will enjpy ample representation among Republican 2016 contenders. In order to justify throwing his hat into the ring, Graham would have to conclude that he’s better equipped to defend that element of his platform than anyone else — which is what his “uniquely qualified” remark may have been alluding to.
Some Righties may be tempted to go nuclear on “Grahamnesty’s” prospective entry into the race in hopes of scaring him off, but they’d be well advised to keep this instinct in check. If establishment-leaning primary voters end up being forced to choose from among a wide array of center-right options (Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney and Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham and, um, George Pataki), that heavily diffused voting bloc may present the right flank of the GOP electorate with a golden opening to coalesce around a more conservative alternative (if not a Ted Cruz or Bobby Jindal, perhaps a “consensus conservative” like Rubio or Scott Walker). Hell, Tea Partiers might even consider printing up ‘Grahamania!’ t-shirts and inundating the Senator’s office with warm words of encouragement. Be the heretofore nonexistent groundswell, guys. And while we’re on the subject of 2016, I’ll leave you with a growing list of possible contenders who’ve already lined up to cast Romney as old news, with varying degrees of deference: Graham, Walker, Paul, Jeb (via supporters), and counting…