Graham may not vote against Rice for SecState

I thought this was interesting. After several days of being the point man on criticism of Ambassador Susan Rice, one might think (by the news coverage) that at the very least, Lindsey Graham would vote against confirming her were she nominated for secretary of state.

Well, on “Meet the Press” Sunday, he kept up the heat on the ambassador, but refused to say he’d vote against her:

GREGORY:  Senator, can Susan Rice– can Susan Rice be confirmed of Secretary of State if nominated by the president?

SEN. GRAHAM:  I– I don’t know.  You know, I’m deferential to the president’s picks.  I voted for Kagan and Sotomayor.  President, oh– Senator Obama voted against John Bolton, Elido and Roberts.  He had a very high bar for confirmation.  I have a very low bar.  I’m going to listen to what Susan Rice has to say, put her entire record in context, but I’m not going to give her a plus for passing on a narrative…

GREGORY:  But your…

SEN. GRAHAM:  …that was misleading to the American people…

GREGORY:  You wouldn’t filibuster her nomination?

SEN. GRAHAM:  ….and whether she knew it was misleading or not.  I’m going to wait and see what the State Department’s review has, but I’m very disappointed in– Susan Rice…

That may sound, to people who like a simple, dichotomous, partisan world, to be be inconsistent. But it’s actually completely consistent with the senator’s oft-expressed maxim that “elections have consequences” — which means you let the president have the people he chooses, barring some gross disqualification.

And bottom line, Graham indicated, it’s not Rice he really blames anyway. He seems mostly ticked that the administration put forward someone who didn’t know squat about Benghazi to speak publicly about it:

I’m saying that the ambassador that had nothing to do with Benghazi– why would you choose someone who had nothing to do with Benghazi to tell us about Benghazi?  That’s kind of odd.  The president said, why pick on her?  She didn’t know anything about Benghazi.  She was the most politically compliant person they could find. I don’t know what she knew but I know the story she told was misleading….

(W)hat about the months before this attack?  What about the rise of al Qaeda in Benghazi?  What about the British ambassador closing the consulate in Benghazi because it was too dangerous for the British?  What about the Red Cross leaving?  What about all of the warnings come out of Benghazi?  Did the CIA tell the president that Benghazi is falling into the hands of al Qaeda?  And I blame the president more than anybody else.  Susan Rice is a bit player here.  Was he– was he informed of the June attack on our consulate where they blew a hole where 40 people could go through?  Was he aware of the August 15th cable where Stevens was saying we can’t withstand a coordinated al Qaeda attack?  There are 10 militia groups all over Benghazi.  I blame the president for… making this a death trap.  I blame the president for not having assets available to help these people for eight hours…

Still, even with blaming the president, the Lindsey Graham who likes to work across the aisle asserts himself if Angry Graham lets his guard down for a moment:

I’m just not here to pick on the president.  I look forward to working with him on immigration and solving the fiscal cliff problems.  But I’m going to get to the bottom of Benghazi and hold him accountable for a national security breakdown…

He might find it’s tough to do both of those things, but we’ll see.

One other interesting thing from this interview was the senator’s musing on what’s wrong with his party:

We’re in a big hole.  We’re not getting out of it by comments like that.  When you’re in a hole, stop digging. … We’re in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration.  And candidate Romney and the primary dug the hole deeper.  You know, people can be on public assistance and scheme the system.  That’s real.  And these programs are teetering on bankruptcy.  But most people… on public assistance don’t have a character flaw.  They just have a tough life.  I want to create more jobs and the focus should be on how to create more jobs, not demonize those who find themselves in hard times…

30 thoughts on “Graham may not vote against Rice for SecState

  1. Phillip

    OK, I admit I’ve given Sen. Graham a hard time about a lot of stuff, but those last three sentences beginning with “most people on public assistance don’t have a character flaw.” ? That’s one of the most remarkable and heartening things I’ve heard any Republican say in the last 20 years. Why, why, why is it so hard for Republicans to say something like that? Why can’t Republicans running for national office speak in those terms and champion the middle class and those struggling to get to the middle class, instead of this kind of equating of wealth level with moral standing.

    I hereby declare a personal moratorium on saying anything bad about Sen. Graham. I tell you one thing, you’d never hear those sentences come out of Jim DeMint’s mouth.

  2. Doug Ross

    If you don’t like Lindsey Graham’s opinion, just wait until the next time he’s on tv.

    I think there’s a market in South Carolina for weathervanes in the shape of Lindsey Graham’s face.

  3. Karen McLeod

    Phillip, There is a strain of Christianity that equates doing well with being one of “God’s chosen.” The puritans brought it over with them, and it’s been a subset of American Christianity ever since.

  4. Steven Davis II

    @Phillip, if the Republican party is the party of the rich, why do people living in trailers in Pelion and Red Bank vote overwhelmingly Republican?

  5. Scout

    I agree, Phillip. We record Meet the Press and This Week every Sunday, and that statement jumped out at me when Graham said it.

  6. Juan Caruso

    “Why, why, why is it so hard for Republicans to say something like that? Why can’t Republicans running for national office speak in those terms and champion the middle class and those struggling to get to the middle class, instead of this kind of equating of wealth level with moral standing.” -Phillip

    In case it slipped your mind, SC is a “Red” state, which Sen. Graham appreciates. While the nonsense of identifying with Dem or Rep is beyond the recognition of most Carolinians, it has not escaped our savvy senator.

    Officially Republican, Graham like 90% of lawyers is liberal by profession (a R.I.N.O.)

    If Graham’s remarks are merely transparent posturing to the astute, they are acceptable hallmarks of conservatism to unwary voters.

    Your question is certainly apt; only your conclusion is naive.

  7. Bryan Caskey

    This is typical Graham. He’s great at cross examining the nominees, and after he eviscerates them, he votes for them. Nothing new here.

    We should have Susan Rice as SecState, John Kerry as SecDef; and Pelosi and Schumer can join SCOTUS. In totally unrelated news, I’m looking for a good book on Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. Any sugestions?

  8. BJ

    The name has changed from Demo to Repub but the motivation hasn’t changed. You may want to study SC political history.

  9. die deutsche Flußgabelung

    @Steven, the same reason a bunch of multimillionaires that live in Hollywood and Manhattan vote overwhelmingly Democratic. People regularly vote against their economic self-interests. What can you say? People tend to be irrational when it comes to ideology and politics.

  10. bud

    Not to be too cynical but Doug has a point. Lindsey was not sounding this way prior to the election. Still, if he really means this and is not simply making a political gambit then kudos to the senior senator from South Carolina.

  11. bud

    Phillip, if the Republican party is the party of the rich, why do people living in trailers in Pelion and Red Bank vote overwhelmingly Republican?
    -SD II

    The GOP does a very good job of marketing their bad product. Given the huge number of Pintos sold in the 1970s you just can’t discount the power of a strong message. Even if it’s bogus.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    Research has also repeatedly shown that we overestimate our ability to control events. Healthy people do, anyway. Depressed people are usually right on the money.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    People in Lex Co vote Republican because either they are social conservatives or because they are deluded about how high they can go with the American Dream……

  14. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – “Depressed people are usually right on the money.”

    Don’t forget such a joy to be around.

  15. Bart

    Maybe I live in a bubble but most of the conservatives and Republicans I know and associate with have the same opinion Graham does as stated in his comment. Most of the people I know who are on public assistance do not have character flaws any greater than people who are not on public assistance.

    Circumstances are different for each individual and each one must be considered on individual merits. To paint all with the same brush is irresponsible and quite frankly, an act of absolute ignorance and a sign of a non-thinking person.

    There will always be a segment of the public assistance dependents who have major character flaws and purposefully game the system to their advantage. On the other hand, there are just as many who have major character flaws who enjoy the benefits of wealth and privilege. The same for the middle class as well.

    Lets face facts. BOTH sides are guilty of character assassination when it suits their political purposes. Over the years, meeting rich and poor from both sides of the political spectrum, stingy, self-centered, judgmental, racism, lack of class, and every negative aspect of human nature can be found at all socio-economic-political levels. Conversely, the same can be said for the positives, neither side can claim higher moral grounds.

    Personal experiences generally do have an impact on how we view others. Many years ago when I was struggling to support my family as an independent specialty contractor, a client, a highly respected educator who was very liberal and had a reputation for being a fair and generous person screwed me out of my fee over one minor flaw that was corrected immediately once it was brought to my attention. She claimed that it caused her to be “embarrassed” in front of her friends (only after she pointed it out because the flaw was not obvious) and I didn’t deserve payment for any of the work. My family went without any income for the week. I couldn’t afford an attorney at the time and considering her social position, there were no alternatives for me to pursue.

    So, would it be fair for me to paint all liberals with the same brush? Obviously the answer is no.

  16. Brad

    Actually, Kathryn, I once thought that depressed people were simply more realistic than other people.

    Someone explained to me (I forget who; it was a long time ago) that I was wrong, that a person who is clinically depressed is actually, sort of by definition, seeing things as darker than they are. Not seeing the positive aspects that actually exist in a situation is sort of a symptom, if I remember correctly.

    Basically, we’re not just talking about seeing a grim situation as grim. We’re talking about a chemical imbalance in the brain that inhibits one’s ability to perceive the situation accurately, and to cope with it.

  17. Jesse S.


    “Depressed people are usually right on the money.”

    I’d say the tendency for happy optimists to step on out into the freeway has saved us multiple times, somebody has to save face and get the herd going.

    That said, they are guaranteed to get us killed in the long run, like a rat infected with Toxoplasmosis.

  18. tavis micklash

    Susan Rice was mearly a mouth piece for the talking points she got. If she hadn’t gone on the air she would have had 0 to do with Bengazi.

    McCain is threatening a filibuster. I can see a ceremonial protest but a full court press for this?

    Something went very wrong in Libya. Lets find out what happened. Using a confirmation hearing is questionable judgement.

    If the republicans think bogging up valuable time in the legislative session for this is a good idea they are merely alienating moderates like myself.

  19. tavis micklash

    ” Given the huge number of Pintos sold in the 1970s you just can’t discount the power of a strong message. Even if it’s bogus.”

    The republican message itself of fiscal restraint and a strong military isn’t bogus.

    Unfortunately that’s not the message we have seen lately.

  20. Kathryn Fenner

    The studies show that depressed people are vastly more accurate about current reality. They may not see all the actual positives, but healthy people are on the whole less accurate; healthy people are unrealistically positive about their current reality. [Depressed people] don’t necessarily reflect reasonable favorable future outcomes; they discount the possibility of positive change. Healthy people are deluded about their current competence, that they control events more than they do, and that despite current reality and a reasonable extrapolation from it, they have unrealistic positive expectations of the future.

    The chemical imbalance theory is just that. A theory. It has support from the evidence that SSRIs and other neurochemical enhancers seem to help a lot of depressives. In fact, though, serotonin levels rise almost instantly when an SSRI is taken, but mood improvement can take weeks. Placebos work surprisingly well, too. Talk therapy is as effectIve as antidepressant treatment, too, and both together are even more effective. Why?

    Also a chemical imbalance could account for the absence of delusion as much as a chemical imbalance can account for delusions. Think of it as just neurochemical levels with different perceptive aspects. Structural differences can account for a lot, too. Oliver Sacks’ writing on the whole subject of perception and reality and brain vs. mind will blow your mind, rather literally.

  21. Brad

    Bryan writes, “This is typical Graham. He’s great at cross examining the nominees, and after he eviscerates them, he votes for them. Nothing new here.”

    I’m not sure, but I get the impression he’s saying that like it’s a BAD thing. Which it isn’t.

    That’s only a bad thing if you follow the partisan model that one must always be against those on the “other side.” In that model, which I consider to be morally and logically bankrupt, criticism and hard questions are merely tactics in trying to tear the other side down. If you’re asking tough questions, it’s not to get answers and deal with things more effectively, it’s to hurt the other side. And of COURSE, in the end, you vote against them, as everyone always knew you were going to do.

    An intellectually honest person asks tough questions in order to get useful answers — useful not to one party or the other winning a conflict, but useful in terms of helping the organization avoid mistakes and function better in the future.

    Unfortunately, people don’t expect that. It reminds me of when Kevin Fisher ran against Bob Coble for mayor a number of years back. I wrote a column urging him to do so, including all sorts of reasons why he should. I did that because I thought it a disservice to Columbia voters that Coble never had strong, credible opposition, and important issues didn’t get debated.

    But both Kevin and Bob misunderstood that column. They both saw it as an endorsement of Kevin, which it most surely was not. Coble treated me VERY warily throughout that race, assuming I was on the “other side.” When, after we’d had a lively debate on the issues and we’d had time to assess both candidates and their positions, we endorsed Coble, it was a shock to them — especially to Kevin Fisher, who saw it as a sort of betrayal, or so I gathered.

    But not everybody is on either your side or your enemy’s side.

  22. Kathryn Fenner

    Was it Sun Tzu who said the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or Machiavelli? That’s where we get this bipolar strategy. Everybody is either fur you/ agin your enemy, or your enemy.

    And if everybody loves my baby, but my baby don’t love nobody but me, I am my baby.

  23. Brad

    Or a Fremen saying. I get those confused.

    Seriously, I looked it up, and it’s an Arabic saying. But there’s an identical Chinese one…

  24. Juan Caruso

    “Graham may not vote against Rice for SecState”

    As explained earlier, there can be NO doubt that Sen Graham will vote against Rice.

    Anyone who cannot yet see the inevitability of Graham’s dissenting vote should really be asking what has else been missing from their ‘political’ calculus.

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