When Lindsey Graham is right, he’s right.
And when he’s wrong, well, it’s usually not that simple.
These days, there’s barely a national topic the ever-quotable South Carolina senator isn’t asked to comment on. When his answers reflect mainstream thinking, the moment passes quickly.
But when he says something contrary to conventional wisdom — or his past comments — the controversy drags on for days.
This week gave us examples of both.
On Tuesday, South Carolina’s senior senator laid into his colleague, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, for suggesting that prison inmates should be allowed to vote.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more offended than I am right now about the idea that Dylann Roof could vote in the next election,” Graham said.
He didn’t look more offended than he did at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, but you get the idea. And he has a valid point. “Go tell the people of Charleston that you think this man needs to have a voice about the future of South Carolina, that this man should have a say about who should be president of the United States,” Graham said.
In 2015, Roof killed nine people in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, a crime for which he currently resides on Death Row. The idea that this guy should be allowed to cast a ballot is ludicrous.
Criminals forfeit certain constitutional rights when they’re convicted, and Sen. Sanders should know that. After all, not even the NRA lobbies for the Second Amendment rights of inmates.
But don’t give them any ideas.
Also this week, Graham — chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — caught flak for his unwillingness to further investigate the special counsel’s report on Russian election tampering and White House obstruction of justice.
He told Charleston reporters that he was all for Robert Mueller finishing his investigation, but declared it had showed no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Graham also claimed there was “insufficient evidence of obstruction of justice.”
As such, he said, Congress has no need to follow up with further inquiry. Some people would beg to differ. Including this guy: “If this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role, then impeachment is warranted, because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”
That sounds like a sentiment Democrats could latch onto these days. So, who said it? Graham did, two decades ago … when he was leading the impeachment of President Clinton. Now everyone is dragging out that video clip, saying Graham’s a hypocrite. Is he?
Clearly, both Clinton and Trump have lied; Clinton about an extramarital affair and Trump, well, there aren’t enough column inches to list all his whoppers.
The difference is, Trump didn’t do it in a legal proceeding. His lawyers knew the president under oath would make the Hindenburg look like a fender bender.
That seems like a partisan technicality. But Graham has said another difference is that Clinton’s infractions were serious enough that he had to relinquish his law license for a few years after he left office.
True, but Trump could still face legal trouble from the Southern District of New York after his term.
So, is that hypocrisy? If it is, both sides ultimately get smeared. Back when Graham called on Congress to cleanse the Oval Office of Clinton, no Democratic senators voted for impeachment. Just as no Republicans would likely do so now.
Well, except maybe Mitt Romney.
The point is, in Washington most perspectives depend on whose ox is getting gored. That includes Graham’s seemingly different ideas on the standards for impeachment.
Agree with him or not, Graham is always worth listening to. Because he has good perspective. Earlier this week, he made another point that’s gotten lost.
On Fox, the senator predicted impeachment efforts, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has thus far avoided, won’t turn out the way some Democrats hope.
“They’re going to be stampeded to impeach Trump because they hate him so much, and I hate it for the country, I hate it for the president, but it’s going to result in him getting re-elected,” Graham said.
Democrats had better hope Graham isn’t right this time. If he is, there won’t be enough votes to save them.
Even if prisoners could vote.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.