Trump and Graham

U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday, July 10, 2019, that President Donald Trump should "admit that climate change is real" File/Evan Vucci/AP

Poor Lindsey Graham.

Just when he’d reached the peak of his popularity among Republican primary voters, practically assuring himself of another term, our senior senator had to mouth off and sound all reasonable.

Last week, Graham announced plans to start a conservation caucus — and had the audacity to say President Donald Trump should “admit that climate change is real.”

“I would encourage the president to look long and hard at the science and find a solution. I’m tired of playing defense on the environment,” Graham said. “When nine out of 10 scientists say emissions are creating a greenhouse gas effect and the planet is warming up, I believe the nine and not the one.”

Unfortunately, a good number of GOP primary voters choose to believe the one. Even if the one is a scientist on OPEC’s payroll and their houses flood every time it rains at high tide these days.

Totally a coincidence.

Now, Graham did go out of his way to toss some red meat to the base. He bashed the “crazy” Green New Deal and the right’s latest fetish-crush, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But the senator should know that’s not enough to make up for defending the veracity of science — not if he’s trying to woo primary voters.

Especially when one of his fringe opponents is promising to “Make Machine Guns Great Again.” Now that’s a sexy sentiment with some folks Lindsey needs to win.

What’s even more disturbing, Graham has been trying to fix immigration again. He’s said that he would like to end the humanitarian crisis at the border, and traveled there Friday with Vice President Mike Pence and other senators to check out living conditions at detention centers.

Why in the world would he do that? He’s just inviting contradictory facts to creep into the party’s narrative.

Now, Graham has proposed a system to prohibit asylum claims at the border and make people from Central American countries apply from their own countries. Although that might possibly stem the flow of people to the border, and Democrats apparently oppose the idea, it’s bound to inspire someone to dust off that “Sen. Grahamnesty” label.

Because, you know, it’s not nuclear-option enough. Also, because one of his ideas to get Dems to come around on his idea is to offer increased aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Democrats actually want that since Trump has threatened to cut all aid to those countries.

Graham should know that supporting anything Democrats like is wrong — at least among people whose support for him is shakiest.

Already one of the four largely unknown candidates running against Graham has suggested he’s not really a conservative. Which is just pulling out the greatest hits from 2008 and 2014 … but still.

Lindsey was doing so well. He’s become one of Trump’s best buddies in Congress and won over conservative Republicans when he pitched a fit last fall in support of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As a result, polls showed he’s never been more popular with primary voters.

Even if he did alienate many of the moderates who’ve kept him in a job.

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All he needed to do was hold it together until after the filing deadline in the spring, and he was assured of another term. Unless 10% of Republicans abandon him in the November 2020 election. Which is unlikely.

Now, Graham isn’t likely to have any trouble dispatching most of these announced primary candidates; many of them will be lucky to raise the cash needed even to get on the ballot. Michael LaPierre of Pickens County, however, already has his filing fee — and the experience, business and otherwise, to beat Graham. But he is not yet widely known outside of the Upstate.

The trouble is, if Graham starts looking less than solid among primary voters — that is, the most conservative voters — it could invite a well-known candidate to join the primary. He certainly doesn’t want that because it will force him to raise more money and actually campaign through the spring.

But claiming climate change is real and looking for a solution to immigration that doesn’t include punitive measures, or abject cruelty, is a sure-fire way to get in trouble.

Of course, perhaps he’s right — the climate is changing. After all, most forecasts predicted the Mavericky Graham wasn’t expected to return for another year.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Correction: Earlier versions of this column suggested some Graham opponents could not raise the filing fee to join the U.S. Senate Republican primary.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

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