South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is more hawkish than you, and probably most of the country. And he wants to make sure you are aware of that.
Joining radio host Hugh Hewitt on his program on Wednesday, Graham was probed about a stunt involving a postal worker who was so distraught over post-Citizens United world in which he lives that he decided to land a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn in protest. The vehicle landed harmlessly, the individual was taken into custody, and everyone went about their daily lives. Not good enough, Graham insisted. In this interview, he wondered why the anti-air defenses amassed around the Capitol did not spring into action and blow this disturbed individual out of the sky.
Oh, you think I’m being dramatic? There’s no way he actually said that he believes this rogue 61-year-old postal worker should have been shot out of the sky, no? “Yes,” Graham said. “He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky.”
“I don’t know why he wasn’t, but our nation is under siege,” Graham continued. “Radical Islam is a threat to our homeland. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already. And if somebody is willing to, you know, approach vital government infrastructure, they should do so at their own peril.”
Graham later conceded that his zero tolerance approach to enforcing no-fly regulations over the Capitol would probably have resulted in significant embarrassment for the federal government and the nation as a whole.
“I don’t know if he’s mentally ill,” he said. “I’m glad he’s alive in that regard, if he’s mentally ill, but we’ve got to be more serious about our national security.”
It’s an attitude more than anything. These are episodes or instances of just poor security, not taking the situation as seriously as we should. But President Obama has done a miserable job of explaining the threat, marginalizing the threats we face, explain away and excusing the behavior of our enemies like Russia and Iran to the point that people have had a false sense of security. The beheadings change everything, but if you left it up to our president to inform us as a nation to threats we face at home and abroad, he has been a miserable failure. And that does take a toll on the country.
If Graham does run for the White House, and he’s seriously considering it apparently, the biggest obstacle he will face is the crowded field of Republicans and his relative low profile in comparison. Striking out a position as the most hawkish bird of prey in a field of raptors is one way to get your name out there. Though it’s unclear at this stage whether the GOP electorate would truly smile on the summary execution of a troubled soul who it turns out was only harmlessly seeking attention.
According to a lengthy Yahoo News profile of the senator via reporter Jon Ward, Graham plans to draw a clear distinction between himself and the other notable hawk in the race, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, by linking him to the president by making note his lack of experience in the federal government.
Graham’s argument that there is a path for him in the incredibly crowded primary depends on two key assumptions. The first is that Jeb Bush will not get enough traction because of his last name and that his expensive and personnel-heavy campaign will collapse under its own weight. The second is that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is not ready to be president and that his inexperience will be exposed whenever he gets a turn in the spotlight. Graham doesn’t believe any of the other candidates are built for the long haul like either Bush or Rubio.
When I asked Graham how he matches up against Rubio, he said, “Here’s what the next president’s got to do: rebuild our defenses and reset the world. The next president of the United States needs to be a commander in chief ready to go on day one.”
The clear implication is that Rubio is not. On the stump, Graham often talks about Obama’s lack of experience as a leader before becoming president and argues that’s been to America’s detriment on the world stage. It also lays the groundwork for people to question why Rubio would be any different.
Graham also made a hash of Rubio’s aborted attempt to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. “He’s a good guy, but after doing immigration with him — we don’t need another young guy not quite ready,” Graham said. “He’s no Obama by any means, but he’s so afraid of the right, and I’ve let that go.”
Graham isn’t afraid of anything; not the Russians, not a gyrocopter-operating eccentric, and definitely not conservative immigration hawks. Unlike that pushover Rubio. This appears to be Graham’s central pitch. Presuming the South Carolina Republican runs for the presidency, it will be interesting to see if it lands with the Republican Primary electorate.