Lindsey Graham’s delicate position


I found Lindsey Graham’s townhall meeting very interesting. While I disagree with him substantively about the subject at hand — health care reform — it’s always interesting to listen to him because he’s a smart guy who has a lot to offer to any policy question. In other words, while he clings loyally to support of Joe Wilson as a fellow Republican, he’s not a guy who’ll ever reduce his objections to a shouted “You Lie!”

Let’s dispense with the disagreement first — Sen. Graham fails to persuade when he says his crowd-pleasing things (Republican voters got calls at home asking them to come) about how we don’t want the gummint taking over any more of our lives. The argument that we can’t have a public option because the private sector can’t compete only condemns the private sector in my mind. The senator’s replies to the student who objected that private companies compete quite successfully with the Postal Service were weak. He got the crowd to cheer by mentioning the huge public subsidy the Postal Service needs to keep going, which to ME argues that its private competitors do just fine. He then argued that competition doesn’t work the same way in health care, which is true, which is why we can’t expect the market to solve our problems. (Lindsey agrees at least with that. He’s for regulation, not a new government entitlement program.)

But the senator repeatedly stressed how we should find things on which we agree and work from there — he talked about areas of agreement between him and Russ Feingold (who agrees with me that the way to go is single-payer) — and I know he means it, so I listen all the harder to what he has to say.

And I was fascinated with his central argument. It was this: It would cost too much. And he doesn’t trust the American people, including all the anti-gummint types in that room, to prevent the program’s costs from going out of control. He kept doing an interesting thing… he kept getting the crowd to cheer with assertions about how inept the gummint is, and how we don’t want it intruding any more into our lives, and then he’d ask how many people there were on Medicare (quite a few) and how many would voluntarily give it up (no one).

So basically, he repeatedly demonstrated that this crowd that was so willing to moan at the awful gummint and laugh ironically when Lindsey referred to Obama’s promises to control costs LOVES its gummint-provided health care — at least, those who have it do. He even said it fairly direction once: “Everybody clapping (at one of his shots against government), half of them are in a government plan.”

And the costs of that government plan, Medicare, are so out of control that he doesn’t want to create another program that would be JUST as popular, even among people who THINK they don’t like government programs, and that therefore would be just as costly, if not more so.

That’s what I heard, and it was interesting.

As he alluded more than once, Lindsey Graham walks a fine line, trying to be a moderate as a Republican from a beet-red state. Another time he said many who were applauding had tried to rip him a new one over immigration reform. He referred to having voted to confirm Justice Sotomayor. So it was fascinating to see him use populist techniques to get a crowd to support him on something where his position is that essentially, he doesn’t trust them, the people, not to support a program that would bankrupt us.

This, by the way, is why I won’t jump to run for office. I’m not sure I could maintain that balance between stroking people and leveling with them that you’re taking a position they may not love. I think I’d get fed up with it pretty fast.

Lindsey Graham doesn’t. And while I can see the contradictions inherent in what he’s doing, I can also respect him for being willing to wrestle with those contradictions — even when I believe that, substantively, he’s wrong on the issue.

50 thoughts on “Lindsey Graham’s delicate position

  1. Randy E

    “He’s for regulation, not a new government entitlement program” but he’s against expanding the gummit? Who will provide the regulation he wants?

    The whole “keep the government away from my medicare” stance of the angry (and intellectually wanting) mob exemplifies the problems in the GOP. They are playing to an anti-intellctual, bumper sticker mentality. The more they do this the deeper in the mud they fall.

    Brad, I question your support of him when he shows sign of moderation but also shows a willingness to play right wing nut politics.

  2. doug_ross


    I know you don’t like to hear facts once you’ve made up your mind, but do a little research on the state of the Postal Service and tell me its anything but on its last legs financially. They are already talking about cutting delivery on Tuesdays. The only way they stay solvent now is through junk mail deliveries. That business isn’t growing.

    And the whole Medicare is great theme is a joke. Those who are on it have no other choice. Those who are on it are not paying anything close to the real value of the coverage they get. No wonder they don’t want to give it up. It’s another unsustainable Ponzi scheme that will be bankrupt when the Baby Boomers enter the system.

  3. martin

    I don’t understand why you don’t appear to want to see through him. He’s just another opportunistic, manipulative politician.

    Instead of playing to voters’ worst instincts, he should be trying to foster some understanding and moderation, educating them about issues. That would make him a real leader.
    Your description sounds like he might be trying to do some of that, but very ineptly.
    He doesn’t seem to be willing to risk being sent back home to be as honest as he should be.

    In retrospect, Fritz and Strom were a lot more honest with the people about what they were and believed in. You might not like all their positions, but could understood them. They were able to keep their jobs.

    DeMint and Graham, to a lesser degree, appeal to the worst in South Carolinians. Just like way too many and more and more of our politicians do.

  4. doug_ross


    You have it exactly right. Brad has his favorites and he ignores every thing they do that he hammers the politicians who are not on his favorites list.

    When Lindsey was a pure partisan Republican during the McCain campaign, it was ignored.

    There’s a word for saying one thing and doing another.

  5. Santee

    The Cash for Clunkers article cited above presents several points of view. Some people say business has dropped off since the program ended. On the other hand, the article quotes people who say that September is always a low point for sales. They close with the quote that “The clunker sales . . . will help the Upper Peninsula dealership network to keep going if times get even worse. Because the CFC program was there, we were able to squirrel away a nut for winter. . . .” Reading this as documentation of poor management, wasted tax dollars, and a giveaway to people who didn’t deserve it requires a pretty jaundiced reading of the article.

  6. Brad Warthen

    First, Doug, you reinforce my point. If the Postal Service is suffering, that demonstrates that the private sector CAN compete successfully with a government agency.
    As for Lindsey’s partisanship. First, he happens to be McCain’s best friend in the Senate. He loyally supported him, as did Joe Lieberman. I don’t see what partisanship has to do with that.

    That said, I was thinking about something as I typed this… There was a time when I would lionize anyone for holding his own party in contempt. The fact that he obviously did so was one of the things I liked about Mark Sanford. But I’ve outgrown that. By the time Sanford was accepting the help of out-of-state moneybags to try to defeat incumbents of his own party in primaries, and Lindsey was expressing his loyalty to those same officeholders, I began to doubt my own previous contempt for party loyalty. Even though I despise parties, perhaps there is something admirable in one who exhibits such loyalty. My mind’s not totally made up on the subject.

    Interesting, though: Lindsey always qualifies his support of Joe. He says Joe will be a reliable vote for winning the war in Afghanistan, and he’d be loath to see him replaced on that account. Lindsey mentions his own willingness to support the president if he asks for more troops in Afghanistan, and expresses his doubts about Democratic support, frequently. So basically, he has a policy-based rationale for wanting that seat to stay in Republican hands.

    Bottom line: I respect Lindsey Graham deeply because he is one of the few politicians I’ve ever met who, each time I meet him, makes me think, “This guy’s smarter than I am.” And on MOST issues, I think he’s right. He’s just wrong on health care.

  7. doug_ross

    You really need to stop commenting on the Postal Service if you don’t know what you are talking about. There is no competition for the Postal Service except in one very small niche – packages.

    Did you know it’s against the law to even put something into a person’s mailbox? If that isn’t anti-competive, I don’t know what is.

    The reason for the Postal Service’s failure is because they cannot run it like a private business (i.e. smartly) – they run it like a government entity (i.e. politically). The unions kill it on one side and the management kills it on the other. They pay post masters in some small post offices several times more in salary than the post office takes in for the entire year. That’s how a government system runs. No interest in efficiency, just protect the government jobs.

  8. Birch Barlow

    And I was fascinated with his central argument. It was this: It would cost too much. And he doesn’t trust the American people, including all the anti-gummint types in that room, to prevent the program’s costs from going out of control. He kept doing an interesting thing… he kept getting the crowd to cheer with assertions about how inept the gummint is, and how we don’t want it intruding any more into our lives, and then he’d ask how many people there were on Medicare (quite a few) and how many would voluntarily give it up (no one).

    There seem to be two arguments against the current health care reform. The first has to do with the quality of the government health care. The second has to do with the cost.

    On that first argument, the quality of government health care, Senator Graham’s points about the ineptitude of government ring hollow. This is evidenced by the fact that most are happy with their Medicare.

    The argument against this health care reform based on its cost, however, is where the real issue lies, in my opinion. After all it’s not the quality of health care service in America that has the nation engaged in this debate; it’s the cost. It’s true that those on Medicare seem to be pleased, but the debt it is creating should not be pleasing to the rest of us — especially those of us directly in the financial path of the looming Baby Boomer retirement. We have an entitlement problem in this country. We need major reform with Social Security and Medicare as it is. And this is already a difficult task in a political environment where Democrats and Republicans refuse to cut entitlement spending, President Obama refuses to raise taxes on the middle class, and Republicans refuse to raise taxes at all. And now it appears this health care reform bill will pile on to the mess.

    For me, that’s a problem. Health care reformers need to find a way that will not be adding to our debt.

  9. Mike Toreno

    Birch, it’s easy to find a way to pay for health care that won’t add to the debt. One of the primary ways insurance companies make money is be refusing to pay for care they’re obligated to pay for, driving patients into bankruptcy and making them eligible for medicaid. The government then steps in and pays for the care the insurance companies should pay for. For people on a public plan, the public plan will be taking the premiums the insurance company would have taken. Insurance companies devote about 65% of their premium dollars to health care, so what you do with the public plan is, you jettison the costly infrastructure devoted to denying care. With that done, there’s easily enough money to provide needed health care, and you relieve the burden on medicaid by actually dedicating premiums to pay for health care, rather than having insurance companies consume the money and then throw the burden on the government.

  10. Mike Toreno

    Doug, the Postal Service struggles financially because it’s mission is to provide service to everyone. It’s easy to be profitable if you cherry pick who you’ll serve. It’s got nothing to do with poor business practices, or overpaying workers. Health insurance companies are profitable because they collect premiums and then avoid paying for care they’re obligated to pay for. If the Postal Service was run the way health insurance companies were run, they’d take the mail, collect the money for postage, and then dump the mail in a river or something.

  11. Lee Muller

    The fact that Brad and others cannot speak plainly and honestly about their supporter for a socialist model for medical care, shows that they know it is immoral.

    They talk in deceptive euphemisms, like “single payer sytem”, or “public option”, or “government-run co-ops”.

    There are only 8,000,000 Americans chronically without medical insurance. We don’t need to destroy the rest of the private sector in order to better serve those few people.

    The 1,400 private insurance companies, which are barred from competing across state lines, earned combined profits of $12.6 billion in 2008. At the same time, Medicare, serving 1/5 the number of people, LOST $50.2 billion to waste and fraud.

    The Post Office voluntarily gave up the package business because they said they were losing too much money on it. So UPS, owned by the Teamsters, took it over and made billions in profits. FedEx, DHL and others came out of nowhere to make billions of dollars where the Postal Service was losing billions.

  12. Lee Muller

    September 12 rally opposing socialist corruption was the largest protest in U.S. History.

    DC Police estimate crowd at over 2,000,000

    Roads cut off – perhaps 1,000,000 more on the highways unable to get to the Capitol mall.

    Images of crowds up Constitution Avenue, the entire Mall, and all the side streets.

  13. Karen McLeod

    Part of the difference between medicare and the proposed “public option” is that medicare by definition covers the elderly who have more medical bills than the young and healthy. That’s why having a large pool that includes the healthy greatly reduces or eliminates the cost problem. And the Postal Service did just fine until UPS and email came along. Now it can’t compete because it still has to cover the same territory, but has much less income (from postage). That’s why reform with a “trigger” for a public option sounds good to me. I think that the private companies can do better, but won’t unless there’s threat of real competition, which a public option would provide.

  14. Bart

    The “wingnut” contingent has already exposed the photo as being one from another event and saddly, expressed regrets for the error.

    However, estimates run from 600,000 to over 1 million, chose your own.

    Now that official numbers cannot be released after the Million Man March count fiasco, calling someone a liar over supposed crowd numbers is hypocrital.

  15. Lee Muller

    The misinformation put out by “politifact” can be easily debunked by the photos of the crowds carrying signs about the 9/12 rally.

    The photos of the other rallies, demonstrations, and Obama inauguration have been shown for comparison – the 9/12/2009 patriot rally was much larger than the Obama inauguration crowds. The police said so. The US Park Service estimates the crowd at more than 1,200,000

  16. Lee Muller

    Medicare used to be optional.
    A few years ago, the government made it mandatory.

    That is how Progressive Socialism works.

  17. Mike Toreno

    Bart, real estimate of the number of teabaggers are not anywhere close to 600,000 to 1 million. The real number is around 60,000 – about 30 times smaller than the number who showed up to celebrate Obama’s inauguration. Look at it this way. If the number was half a million to a million, the teabaggers would use real pictures of the real event, they wouldn’t misrepresent photos of other events.

    What I want to know is, where do the teabaggers get their sense of entitlement? They go on and on and on about how Obama and the Congress need to listen to them, they point to their kind of average turnout as some sort of groundswell, they talk about how the fact that policies are being undertaken that they don’t like somehow represents the death of freedom.

    But what makes them entitled to have their wishes respected over those of the majority? They got blown out in the election. They mustered a crowd that’s respectable, but that is about 30 times smaller than the 1.8 million who showed up for Obama’s inaguration? Why are the 60,000 more important than the 1.8 million?

  18. Lee Muller

    Here is how the D.C. Police estimated the crowd at 1,500,000:

    “If the National Mall is densely packed from Third Street to the Washington Monument, and if the area from the monument to the Lincoln Memorial has an average density, the space could contain 1.5 million people, Barna said. Average density is one person per 5 square feet. A tightly packed crowd has a density of one person per 2.5 square feet, an area slightly larger than this newspaper.”

  19. Lee Muller

    Time lapse aerial photo of the mall filling up and backing out to fill Constitution Avenue all the way to the Capitol

  20. Lee Muller

    Taxpayers vs deadbeats

    Just look at the photos after the event – almost no litter. No fighting with cops, no flag-burning, and no vandalism.

    Compare that with the truckloads of garbage left by his mob, and the hundreds of arrests of his rowdy supporters.

  21. Burl Burlingame

    What if the teabaggers are really fat? They’re already full of Twinkies and bile, and they’re unlikely to stand close to each other, because that might seem gay.

  22. KP

    “Just look at the photos after the event – almost no litter. No fighting with cops, no flag-burning, and no vandalism.”

    And by the way — ick.

  23. Lee Muller

    The Obama mob made more mess in one day than the hippies at Woodstock did in a week.

    KP, Burl and the rest of you can just keep own showing your contempt for the taxpayers who built this country… they are coming to take it back.

    Liberal news is the only business that thinks the customer is always wrong, always too unsophisticated to appreciate the nuanced interpretations fed to them instead of facts.

  24. Lee Muller

    Of course the socialist drones are eager to accept the ridiculously low crowd estimates from National Socialist Radio…. instead of the official D.C. Police count of 1,500,000.

  25. Birch Barlow

    Birch, it’s easy to find a way to pay for health care that won’t add to the debt.

    If it’s easy to find a way to pay for health care reform in a way that won’t add to the debt, then what that does that say about those pushing a health care reform bill that will add to the debt?

    To me, it says what we already knew. The Democratic and Republican parties don’t give a shit about fiscal responsibility.

  26. BillC

    Hey Burl, why do you care so much about what goes on in South Carolina? Don’t you have anything to talk about in Hawaii? Aren’t the homosexuals and Asians doing anything noteworthy?

    “Lindsey Graham” and “delicate”… so appropriate. I won’t even go into “position”… I bet he’s a catcher.

  27. BillC

    Burl – What did you write today about the 2.1 million marchers on Washington over the weekend? Or are you playing the liberal media blind eye on this too?

  28. Lee Muller

    The sad thing is, Burl is supposed to be a professional journalist, and here he is on a 9th tier local blog, insulting people for posting facts, with the imagination of a third grader.

  29. Bart

    Mike, we will have to disagree on the count but I think the numbers I come up with after my original post is closer to being right than the 2 million or the 65 to 75,000 reported by the networks.

    I did study the time lapse and along with the physical attributes of the streets, etc., and none of the other numbers made sense. FYI, part of my background is in design build which did entail density calculations and projections. Using some of my previous experience and making allowances, I feel comfortable with a 300k plus crowd count.

    Using the time lapse traffic video at 14th located on top of the Marriott Hotel, just the crowd in front of the hotel at the 10 second mark appears to be between 35k and 45k.

    Burl, at least the language you used to describe the good people who took time to attend the rally is a true manifestation of just how contemptous you and the press really are toward Americans who don’t agree with your views. The only positive that can be said is at least you are honest in your disdain for those who are concerned and worried about the massive debt that keeps piling up with each passing day. Finally, the truth about how you feel towards the men and women of America who go to work, pay their taxes, raise families and when they get upset over what is obvious for most Americans, you and your ilk attack them with accusations of racism, homophobia, and anything else your elitist mind can comprehend.

    I dare say no less than 95% of those who attended the rally were there, attending a political gathering for the first time. Yet, you attack their right to assemble and protest with comments like “What if the teabaggers really are fat? They’re already full of Twinkies and bile, and they’re unlikely to stand close to each other, because that might seem gay.”

    Way to go guardian of the Fourth Estate! I think the wrong person is unemployed. It should be you instead of Brad. No damn wonder newspapers are becoming obsolete.

  30. Randy E

    BillC, there are anger management courses available online. Of course, this means you may have to interact with people who are not white, heterosexual males.

    2.1 million? You inflated the inflated numbers. LOL, you are hyperbole personified.

  31. Lee Muller

    The official DC Police estimate of 1,500,000 is still far larger than any other gathering in American history.

    If 50,000,000 people showed up, the wannabe-elites would dismiss them, because they don’t think these folks should be voting, much less speaking in public.

    What scare greedy leftists is that these 9/12 demonstrators all vote, and for every one of them that came, 20 more wanted to come.

    Enjoy your government checks while they last, moochers! Your party is almost over.

  32. doug_ross

    Looking at the photo above, I was wondering if it reflects the distance that Senator Graham kept between himself and the audience?

    Was there really a velvet rope separating him from the great unwashed?

  33. doug_ross

    From the AP just now:

    “Republicans object to a public plan, which they say will eventually crush private insurers because of the government’s negotiating power. “I think the public option is dead, it’s probably been dead for a long time,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Fox. ”

    So at what point, Brad, will you take the same tone with Graham as you do with Sanford.? Graham is against the one thing you want the most out of the !!!!GOVERNMENT!!!!

  34. Mike Toreno

    Bart, forgive me if I ignore your estimate and stick to reality. If reality were anywhere close to your estimate, of course, we wouldn’t be seeing faked up pictures.

    And Bart, my contempt for you teabaggers doesn’t stem from my disagreement with your views on policy – if you actually have any views on policy, that is. It stems from the fact that you are a bunch of whiners and crybabies who don’t believe in elections.

    And what is this about “the men and women of America who go to work, pay their taxes, and raise families”? We do that. We pay our own taxes for our own services, plus we pay taxes to prop up the conservative states, who mostly get significantly more in federal handouts than their citizens pay in federal taxes.

    The foundation of the teabagger mentality is that you’re the only real Americans, that when they lose an election it’s somehow illegitimate. That we are “drunks” and “drug addicts” who shouldn’t be allowed to vote. That’s the mentality for which I have contempt.

    The teabaggers got blown out in the election. You got a crowd that was 30 times smaller than the crowd Obama drew to his inauguration, the misrepresented photos and your made up numbers notwithstanding. There’s no reason we should give their views the weight they want us to give them. We are Americans, and our votes count. The teabaggers are a small minority, you’re not entitled to dictate to the rest of us.

  35. Lee Muller

    You ignore the DC Police estimate of 1,500,000 protesters on 9/12.

    That’s reality.

    Obama beat McCain 52% to 48%, that is a 2% swing. The illegal votes were probably more than that.

  36. Bart

    And Mike, your response is exactly why there will never be common ground with you and yours. I tried to be reasonsible and used actual math to come up with a fair number but your blind hatred of anything not left of center won’t allow you to do anything but call others names and hurl accusations of racism.

    You are the worst of the worst on this blog and your immature rantings are boring and inane to say the least but you have Randy to wipe your nose when it gets bloodied. You take everything out of context and your responses are nothing more than temper tantrums, much like those of a spoiled child.

    I was not addressing you about teabaggers, I was addressing Burl but considering the response you so violently spewed from your hate filled heart, two peas in a pod is more like it, you and Burl.

    Keep your contempt for me up as long as you can. It is a badge of honor to be villified by you. I know I am right because you validate everything I say by your actions and attitude and “liar, liar” responses.

    By the way, call Randy, your nose just got tweaked again!!!

  37. Burl Burlingame

    Your South Carolina politicians are far more entertaining than ours.

    I’m curious about this so-called “DC Police estimate.” Is there an actual statement by the District of Columbia police department? These estimates used to come from the National Park Service’s park police, but lately they actually come from the DC fire department. “Lee Muller” states flatly “that’s reality.” Is it? Is there an official statement from the police department that can be accessed? I haven’t been able to find one yet.

  38. Lee Muller

    The Park Police have not yet issued an official estimate. They had not issued one on any crowd since 1996 until the Obama inauguration, but told the Daily Mail that this 9/12 rally appeared to be much larger.

    Burl, you should try reading the news before commenting on it, especially to me.

  39. Burl Burlingame

    Park police or DC police? Please decide.
    Glenn Beck himself estimated the crowd at 60,000 — which is respectable.
    There is NO official figure that I can find, only rumor repeated as gospel.

  40. Karen McLeod

    KP, I don’t read Lee’s stuff. I have seen to much that convinces me that he is hopelessly deluded. Just because he believes his voices doesn’t mean I have to.

  41. Lee Muller

    Karen and Burl are afraid to read what I said, much less read the eyewitness reports and look at the photos.

    Typically, the conversation stops while we have to give remedial education to those who don’t keep up with current events, much less history.

    1. The US Park Service stopped giving official estimates after the “Million Man March” was estimated at 400,000, and they were denounced as “liars” and “racists”.

    2. When the Promise Keepers rally obviously dwarfed the Million Man March, the Park Service remained silent. DC Police did give estimates.

    3. At the Obama inauguration, the Park Service relented and put out estimates of the various days’ crowds. Total count = 984,000.

    4. DC Police and the Park Service have, so far, not released official estimates of the 9/12 rally, but traffic engineers, using the USPS grids, estimate the crowds, which were moving between speakers, as 1,200,000.

    5. Traffic engineers and police in DC, knowing how many people it takes to fill each block, say the lowest figure is the 450,000 people on Pennsylvania Avenue at one moment.

    6. Both the DC Police and the USPS told reporters from the Daily Mail and the London Times that the crowds were the largest ever, period.

  42. Burl Burlingame

    Is there anything like an official estimate yet? I don’t mean “Lee Muller’s” wishful-thinking estimate passed on rumors from British tabloids, but something substantial.

  43. Burl Burlingame

    Speaking of Numbers 9/12:

    “They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it.”


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