Dems seem desperate, clutching at Graham’s out-of-bounds joke about himself, the GOP and other white men

I initially learned of the incident from the Brad Hutto campaign, which has skewed my reaction:

Hutto Blasts Graham for ‘white male only’ Comments

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show”

Orangeburg, SC – Democratic candidate for US Senate Brad Hutto spoke out this evening in response to news reports regarding Lindsey Graham’s leaked comments at an exclusive all-male private club. Graham told the group members he was helping them with their tax status and that “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

Hutto made the following statement:

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show. He is only interested in his own ambitions and the best interests of the wealthy donors he hopes will fund his possible presidential campaign.  Women, people of color, and middle class and working families have no part in Lindsey Graham’s plans.  But, we shouldn’t be surprised. Lindsey Graham voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against equal pay for women, against raising the minimum wage and against the level of support our veterans have earned and deserve. He’s consistently supported tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans and corporations while trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare. We already knew where Lindsey Graham stood. Now, he’s just confirmed it.”


And the thing that put me off right away was the dead earnestness of the reaction. I read that quote, “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.” And without any explanation or context, I knew that it was a joke. Because, you know, I’m not dense. It reads like a joke, without knowing anything at all about who said it. Knowing that it’s Graham, it obviously couldn’t be anything else.

And of course, when you follow the link — or look at any of the coverage of the incident after Peter Hamby reported it — the fact that it’s a joke is reported at the top, and accepted without question. Everyone understands that this was the Hibernian Society, and the drill is that you stand up there and make fun of yourself.

And yet, there’s not one word in this release that acknowledges that. It’s treated as though Graham were making a straightforward, naked, campaign promise to this group he was speaking to. Which is absurd on its face, but the absurdity doesn’t seem to register on Hutto or his campaign. The release seems to expect the voters to believe that Graham was dead serious, as though he were Ben Tillman or something.

Now if Hutto had acknowledge the joke and said it was a bad joke, in terrible taste, it would be a different matter. The assertion might be debatable — a good argument might tip me either way on the point — but it would at least be respectable.

He could legitimately get on a pretty high horse about it. He could say that it says terrible things about Graham that he could even conceive of such a joke, and think it was funny. He could say it would be unseemly to joke like that with an all-white-male crowd even if he knew it would never leave the room — or especially if he knew it would never leave the room.

As a joke, it’s pretty edgy stuff. Like, almost “Family Guy” edgy (which is to say, “OhmyGod, why am I laughing at this?” edgy). A white Republican senator, speaking to an all-male, all-white group, says something that both mocks himself as a GOP politician (and mocks the idea of himself as a presidential candidate along the way) and digs at the audience itself. It was pretty nervy. It was the kind of thing I might say to such a group in spoofing a GOP politician, while being pretty nervous about whether they would laugh or not.

On the one hand, you can argue that it shows a pretty finely developed sense of both social conscience and irony to want to mock a crowd like that, and oneself, that way. Like, look at all us white guys schmoozing; aren’t we ridiculous?

But a very good case could be made that a politician who represents an entire state in the South should never, ever make such a joke — particularly if, you know, he belongs to the official party of the Southern white man. There’s really nothing funny about living in a state in which the racial division between the parties is so clearly understood by all, Tim Scott notwithstanding.

So make that case. But don’t give me this nonsense like you think he was being serious. Like you think it’s a statement of policy when a politician tells an all-male group, “I’m sorry the government’s so f—ed up.”

I mean, have a little respect for me. Give me a f—ing break, as a U.S. senator might say.

This may be the most intellectually insulting thing I’ve seen from the Democratic Party since all the “War on Women” nonsense. It’s an appeal that assumes appalling degrees of emotionalism and gullibility on the part of its audience.

After the Hutto release, the state party doubled-down on this meme that Graham was baring his soul:

BREAKING: Lindsey Graham makes offensive comments at male-only club. We’ve had enough of this. Add your name now to send a message: It’s time for South Carolina to move beyond this kind of behavior!

As if we couldn’t add more to the list of reasons why we need to get Lindsey Graham out of office, this happens:

While at an event at a males-only club in Charleston last month, Graham – who’s toying with the idea of a run for the presidency — charmed his friends with blatant bigotry: “white men who are in male-only clubs would do great in my presidency.”

A couple moments later, he insulted Baptists. “They’re the ones who drink and don’t admit it!”

These offensive comments are NOT okay – and absolutely unbecoming of a United States Senator.

Will you click here and send a message that it’s past time for South Carolina to move on from this kind of behavior?


Breaking News @ South Carolina Democratic Party

If you can take that seriously, by all means click on the links and give some money. Which is the point.

The fact is, if Hutto and his party just left this alone, the half-perceived news coverage would cause a lot of their constituents to leap to the very response that they wish to see them leap to: “Lindsey Graham said WHAT?” But to take them by the hand and misrepresent the situation so as to lead them there is something else altogether.

The difference here is that — appropriately or not (and personally, if I were his campaign manager, I’d probably be giving him hell right now for f—ing up) — Graham was kidding, but the Democrats are not. They really want people to believe that they’ve caught Graham being genuine. As though this were a “47 percent” moment. Which it plainly is not.

55 thoughts on “Dems seem desperate, clutching at Graham’s out-of-bounds joke about himself, the GOP and other white men

  1. Doug Ross

    ” A white Republican senator, speaking to an all-male, all-white group, ”

    Maybe that’s the problem. The joke isn’t what he said, it’s that he doesn’t seem to mind that there is an all-male, all-white group worth speaking to. What’s next? A meeting with the KKK where he jokes about trying to find the best bleach for sheets?

    Maybe he should have brought Tim Scott along to do an Amos and Andy routine. That would have been hilarious.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, right! Not the Amos and Andy part, but the fact that he was IN such a venue, clowning around, to begin with (I actually had meant to say that in the post, but forgot). A party with a sense of perspective, a clear understanding of the situation, could certainly give him grief for BEING there. You could make something out of THAT without being dishonest about it, without insulting the intelligence of your own audience.

      But then, maybe they don’t want to offend the Hibernian Society…

        1. Barry

          Sen Scott is called some pretty rough stuff by quite a few black people and to a slightly lesser extent- white liberals.

    2. barry

      It’s not a problem.

      There are many “clubs” where the race of the members is one particular race – sometimes likely by design- some by accident.

      Some of my black owned business customers are all black management- all black employees. Do they not hire white people or Hispanic folks? I don’t know. I don’t care enough to ask about it.

      If you go to my family reunion – you are likely going to see a lot of white folks with German ancestry. There isn’t a black, or Hispanic in the bunch.

      1. Doug Ross

        “Do they not hire white people or Hispanic folks? ”

        The cannot NOT hire someone due to race.

        I’m fine with any private groups having restricted membership. But that doesn’t mean our Senator should support them by attending an event.

        1. Barry

          Are you telling me a business with folks all one color don’t make some hiring decisions based on race?

          Of course they do.

          1. Doug Ross

            Maybe in a small family run business.. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen in larger businesses but it is illegal,

          2. Brad Warthen

            Actually, the opposite is often true. A workplace can be all one color unless you DO take color into consideration.

            I’ve been in quite a few work situations that would be all white if race were NOT considered. Affirmative action in the pure sense — going to extra lengths to find qualified minority candidates — was necessary to have any nonwhite applicants, much less nonwhite employees.

            This is a phenomenon with which I am well familiar as a longtime newspaper editor.

            I’ve probably told this anecdote before, but when I was an editor in Jackson, TN, in the mid-80s, I made a recruiting trip to University of Missouri, which had arguably the best J-school in the country. My publisher told me I could hire someone – as long as I hired a minority. Which I was all for.

            So I went there, and told the professors what I was there for. They laughed at me — a “good luck with that” sort of laugh. They had two black students in that graduating class. One was going someplace like the L.A. Times, and the other had turned down The New York Times in favor of the Boston Globe. The market was just that competitive, for a minority with the kinds of skills they imparted at that school.

            So I interviewed what they had. I spent the whole day interviewing one white kid after another. I persuaded my publisher to let me hire a young white woman as a reporter. I chose well. She was later editorial page editor at the paper before moving on to a bigger market.

            My point: If you want diversity at a newspaper, you have to make a special effort. And even then, sometimes you fail.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I just looked up that hire on LinkedIn. She’s now managing editor of a paper in Kansas. Good for her.

              I’m really glad to know she’s done well, because, well… I kinda did a shabby thing to her, no fault of my own.

              Right after that recruiting trip, after she’d accepted the job but before she’d arrived at the paper, I accepted a job elsewhere (in Kansas, in fact). On the day she was to arrive in town, on the way to lunch with a reporter, I drove past the apartment she had rented, and saw her there moving in. We stopped and helped her move some things, and I broke it to her that I was leaving.

              Kind of a shock to her. I was the only person at the paper she’d met. She’d accepted the job from ME, but she would be working for some stranger. I didn’t feel so great about the look on her face, hearing that.

              But she did all right! So that’s good…

            2. barry

              Brad- I didn’t fall off the truck yesterday.

              In my job, I visit various hotels, restaurants, golf courses, service businesses, manufacturing corporations, cleaning companies, construction companies. I visit over 300 such places a year – and have for 17 years now. It’s my job. That’s all over South Carolina. That’s over part of North Carolina. That’s part of Florida. That’s part of Georgia.

              I’ve been in quite a few places that were comprised of folks of one skin color. Some of that is very likely by accident – of course. But I am not 5 years old either. Not all of those companies are made of Bob, and his other brother Bob.

              and Doug- Yes, I realize it’s “illegal.” A lot of things are illegal that people find a way to do.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    “Everybody” doesn’t know about the Ancient Order of Hibernians–indeed, I was in my mid 40s before i heard about them, and then only because I did some work at the behest of a lawyer who has a major highway in Charleston named for his family. You have to be “in the club” to have heard of them and their events…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Wikipedia calls it an Irish-Catholic benevolent society, with its roots in the days when such folk had to band together against the discrimination they faced.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

    Except he’s running for Senator right now.

    Graham’s spokesman should come out and say something like: “Don’t worry. Senator Graham has no plans to implement his secret white privilege conspiracy while merely a Senator. This plan will only go active after he’s elected to the Presidency in 2016. At this time, Graham’s secret, whites only, privilege plan (Code-name: OPERATION WHITEBREAD) remains in the planning stages.”

  4. Bart

    When whites are invited to become members of the black caucus, then they and Hutto have a right to bitch about Graham attending a gathering of all white men.

    If any organization is “all black”, that is perfectly acceptable and defended with ardor. If an organization is “all white”, it is racist and attacked with vitriol and great zeal by the “offended”.

    When the barriers are removed from ALL organizations and all genders, races, ages, orientation, and anything else that differentiates us one from the other, then it will be right to criticize closed membership organizations.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, now, Bart, there IS a big difference. Whites-only organizations are a traditional bastion of power. Black organizations originated because blacks weren’t welcome in the white ones. Or among white society, period.

      The power balance between the two makes any attempt to force an equivalence kind of ridiculous. It’s as intellectually faulty as, say, people trying to make like the U.S. carrying out drone strikes against al Qaeda has moral equivalence with 9/11. Yeah, killing anybody in a way that kills innocent bystanders is morally dubious, but it’s a far cry from DELIBERATELY killing thousands of civilians, and regretting only that you didn’t kill more.

      Similarly, disliking identity politics as I do, I don’t like to see anything constituted in a way that divides us — by race, gender, or what have you. But blacks-only groups and whites-only groups are very different.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        What’s complicated about the Hibernian Society is that it has its roots in a time when Irish Catholics were discriminated against in much the same way blacks were, sans slavery. (You know why the Columbia Canal was dug in the 1820s by Irish Catholics instead of slaves? Because it was cheaper: You didn’t have to feed them — or pay them enough to feed themselves or their families. THAT’S how exploited that group was in our community. My parish, St. Peter’s, was started as a mission by the Bishop of Charleston to help out those starving, despised, downtrodden folk.)

        So now that Irish Catholics aren’t in that plight, is there a need for such a society? Probably not. But does it have a right to exist, if a bunch of Micks want to hang out together? I suppose so. Matter of choice. Myself, I deliberately belong to a club that was founded to be inclusive.

        In Googling the society, I ran across a piece by the Baltimore Sun, from back when Joe Riley was marching to try to get the Confederate flag down. It reported:

        He prodded an all-white, largely Irish Hibernian society to integrate and boldly invited a black businessman to its annual dinner. Riley ensured that Charleston’s bureaucracy would reflect the city’s racial makeup. His nationally known police chief is a black Jew.

        Of course, that implies that Joe Riley is a member, and there’s certainly no one more Irish or Catholic in the Holy City than he. If he is, that makes me inclined to give the club a break…

      2. Barry

        Except the black congressional caucus did exclude a liberal representative that wanted to join because he was white (he represented a high percentage of black folks) even though he agreed with them on policy.

      3. Bart

        Ridiculous and intellectually faulty? I don’t think so. “But blacks-only groups and whites-only groups are very different.” And how is an all black group exempt from the PC rules governing any and all aspects of racial issues when it comes to excluding any individual based on race?

        While blacks are increasing their political power, to have organizations exclusively for blacks is just as racist as whites still having organizations exclusively for whites. Using the same old argument about white bastions of power is intellectually faulty because it does not account for the growing power of blacks, Hispanics, and any other demographic consisting of people of color. The traditional all white clubs are disappearing rapidly and if the trend is to move toward inclusion instead of exclusion based on race, then practice what you preach or else shut up no matter what the color of you skin happens to be.

      4. Brad Warthen

        Actually, guys, the Legislative Black Caucus did have a white member — the late Cathy Harvin.

        Bakari Sellers enlightened me on that point recently. I asked, how did that happen? His answer: “She paid her dues and asked.”

        1. Barry

          I said Congressional Caucus- not the legislative (South Carolina). it makes no sense to change topics mid discussion.

          Cohen said he became convinced that joining the caucus would be “a social faux pas” after seeing news reports that former Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., D-Mo., a co-founder of the caucus, had circulated a memo telling members it was “critical” that the group remain “exclusively African-American.”

          Other members, including the new chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., and Clay’s son, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., agreed.

          “Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. … It’s time to move on,” the younger Clay said. “It’s an unwritten rule. It’s understood. It’s clear.”

          The bylaws of the caucus do not make race a prerequisite for membership, a House aide said, but no non-black member has ever joined.

  5. Doug Ross

    Saw something even worse than Hutto’s emails. This may be the most embarrassing campaign ad I’ve ever seen. Jenny Sanford and Ginney Deerin (candidate for Secretary of State) talking about “Mark”.

    It is beyond painful… nevermind that neither woman appears to have consulted with a hair and/or makeup person before getting in front of the camera. I kinda understand Mark’s decision to go hiking after seeing this.

    For the sake of their sons, neither Sanford should appear in public for the next ten years.

        1. Doug Ross

          My comment about understanding Mark’s decision to go hiking wasn’t about Jenny’s looks. It was about her shrill manner. That would be tough to take on a daily basis.

            1. Doug Ross

              Yeah, I know that. But if I were making a campaign ad, I’d try to cover up the dark circles under my eyes. And maybe make sure I had a shave and a haircut (two bits).

              If you are creating a professionally filmed video for public consumption, you should try and look your best. That’s not sexist. I know, I know, any comment about a woman’s appearance is sexist and demeans her and makes her less of a person.

            2. Harry Harris

              On the comment below, I wonder if the poster could spend most of his life being judged by his looks, forced to conform to narrow images and still make those statements.

            3. Brad Warthen Post author


              I just watched it. That IS the most cringe-inducing ad I’ve seen in a long time. Terrible idea, very badly executed. Or maybe it just seems like a bad idea because it’s done so badly…

              No. It was a bad idea.

              Just have Jenny endorse her. Leave out the way-too-creepy joke…

            4. Doug Ross

              @Harry – I didn’t judge her on her looks. I questioned both women’s judgment to produce an advertisement without decent makeup.. a real no-no in today’s HDTV world.

              But I certainly did judge the tone of their “coffee chat”. I judge it to be awful. I judge it to be petty on Jenny’s part. And I judge her to be a scorned woman who can’t let things go.

            5. Doug Ross

              And do you know how many comments I have received as a result of being bald since I was 30? You know what I do? I laugh it off. You need thick skin in life.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Not to mention that “shrill” is right up there with “uppity”—terms used only against the less privileged—one’s vocal timbre is limited by one’s physique. Jenny looks great in clothes with her slender frame, but unlike yours truly, does not have the depth of frame to resonate well.

            1. Doug Ross

              Shrill isn’t just about vocal timbre. I was going with this definition of the word:

              “betraying some strong emotion or attitude in an exaggerated amount, as antagonism or defensiveness.”

            2. Doug Ross

              I don’t think Jenny’s voice is high pitched. Never did. I find her demeanor in the ad to be over the top nasty.

            3. Kathryn Fenner

              I don’t see “nasty.” I see “awkward and stilted.” Plus an unfortunate accent.
              She has clearly come down on the “a$$” part of the conundrum aging women face–you have to choose whether you want your bottom or your face to look good, as you lose fat stores. I have no choice but to have a nicely plumped face. At least she has not resorted to injections of filler that make her look like Chipmunk Barbie….

  6. Harry Harris

    I’m not sure Graham or any politician these days shows their “true colors” even behind closed doors – at least not with their speech. A bunch of them have families wondering who they are – or have become. It’s a part of our image-driven, gotcha culture.

  7. Silence

    Has anyone else heard the Obama for Sheheen (and the rest of your SC Democratic Candidates) advertisement on 101.3 The Big DM? I heard it this AM, and was suprised because I haven’t heard any candidate ads featuring the president. Perhaps I’m the only one here who listens to Steve Harvey in the Mornings…

    1. Barry

      One hears a lot of “interesting” commercials on radio stations geared to black people- usually scare tactics

      Can hear similar stuff on different topics on right wing radio.


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