LOS ANGELES, June 2, 2015 — Lindsey Graham is not going to be president. For those looking for wiggle room, there is absolutely no way under any circumstances that Lindsey Graham will be president. It will not happen.
The South Carolina senator stated that, if he fairs poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will drop out before the Palmetto State primary rather than try to survive as a favorite son. Deep down the man who inherited the late Strom Thurmond’s seat knows that he is anything but a favorite son.
Many states look at their own elected officials with a combination of indifference, contempt and mild toleration. South Carolina is a very conservative state. Most of its elected officials are very conservative. Sen. Tim Scott, former Senator Jim DeMint, and Congressmen Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan and Joe Wilson are rock stars. They appear at Republican events to loud cheering throngs. The GOP outlier is Graham.
At the annual Silver Elephant dinner a few years back, DeMint and Graham were the speakers. After DeMint finished, half the room walked out in protest rather than listen to anything Graham had to say.
Graham is simply one of the most frustrating Republicans in the country. He has repeatedly and loudly defied his own party in the same way Arizona Sen. John McCain has. Graham is seen as too quick to surrender to Democrats. He claims to be bipartisan, but his conservative critics note that he seems to get very little in return for his unilateral concessions. He undermined other Senate Republicans when he quickly announced support for President Obama’s liberal Supreme Court nominees. His stance on illegal immigration has earned him the pejorative moniker Lindsey Grahamnesty.
His frequent breaks with the GOP are all the more maddening to conservatives given his absolutely magnificent history on other issues. He more than any other senator has obsessively pursued the truth surrounding the deaths of four United States heroes in Benghazi, Libya. His willingness to take a tough stand on Iran places him to the right of even many hawks. He defends the Iraq War and is a staunch and unapologetic supporter of Israel. On most foreign policy issues, Graham is among the very best of the best.
As a House impeachment manager in 1998, he had the best line skewering the behavior of President Bill Clinton. Graham calmly intoned, “The White House is a bully pulpit, but it should never be occupied by a bully.”
While solid on foreign policy but reviled on other issues, there is still one reason why Graham is running a race he cannot win.
Graham is running to keep foreign policy is the spotlight and to eradicate the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party. Another Republican presidential contender is determined to move the libertarian Paleocons in and kick the Neocons out. Graham is a Neocon. He can stay in the Senate and let his views be mocked and discredited. His alternative is to fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Graham does not need to win. He just needs to hammer the libertarians every day until they are reduced to nothing.
Graham has been criticized for many things, but this quixotic presidential run seems to be a noble calling based on policy, philosophy and issues. Graham wants his ideas to matter. Former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater knew he was going to lose the 1964 presidential election, but his lost cause led to the Reagan Revolution. Like Goldwater, Graham wants his ideas to survive, regardless of who champions them.
Unleashing Graham to obliterate the libertarians will allow other candidates to stay above the fray. Graham does not need to win the White House. As long as he defeats the Paleocons, he will have already won. Since Graham has virtually nothing to lose, the libertarians would be foolish to underestimate his commitment and zeal to crushing them. The Neocons have had enough of their names being dragged through the mud. Now one of them is fighting back, and he is prepared to hit very hard.