Joyful Graham promises only blood, toil, tears and sacrifice

Graham enjoys himself on the stump.

Graham enjoys himself on the stump.

The Washington Post has published a nice profile of Lindsey Graham the presidential candidate, contrasting his gloomy message (and gloomy poll numbers) with the HHH-style joy he exhibits on the stump.

I learned from it some interesting things about his campaign that appeal to me, particularly his willingness to talk about sacrifice to achieve common goals. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard that from anyone. An excerpt:

In the past, plenty of rich men with attractive families have campaigned on the promise that they are special enough to give voters what they want (in Trump’s case, a border wall and better jobs) without requiring them to sacrifice for it.

But American politics hasn’t seen many characters like Graham: a single, childless 60-year-old promising to make voters suffer a little — just to keep what they already have.

“Sacrifice,” Graham said at the Iowa State Fair, summing up his campaign in a word. “Some of us have got to sacrifice to save this nation. . . . If I get to be your president, we’re gonna do the hard things, and we’re gonna do ’em together.”

In Syria, that sacrifice means a U.S. invasion — 10,000 troops, aided by Arab allies — sent in to defeat both President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the Islamic State. Graham says they will stay indefinitely, as long as it takes.

“We’ve been in Germany and Japan since World War II. We’re still in South Korea” 60 years after the Korean War, Graham said. That long, really? “I don’t know. I just know how it ends: We win. They lose.”

And he would send more troops back into Iraq, to help restabilize that fractured state. “Syria is Medicare,” Graham said. “It’s the hardest of all. Social Security is Iraq,” he said, which means it’s slightly easier.

Of course, Graham also wants to reform the actual Social Security and Medicare programs. His plan for both is to cut benefits for the wealthy in order to preserve full benefits for everyone else. He says his sister’s Social Security survivor benefits were invaluable after his parents died, and he tells voters they might be “one car wreck away” from needing that kind of help.

“I’m 60, I’m not married, I don’t have any kids,” Graham said at last month’s undercard Republican debate. “I would give up some Social Security to save a system that Americans are going to depend on now and in the future.”…

As I’ve said before, this is why I’d love to be a part of his campaign — a campaign for a candidate who can’t win, so he says everything he thinks, including things that most would consider to be political suicide.

I particularly like the part about asking Americans to give, instead of promising what he’ll give to them. Not only does it contain echoes of JFK’s inaugural speech, but it reminds me of another candidate I’m hoping will get into this race on the Democratic side — Joe Biden. As I wrote about a speech Biden gave at Galivants Ferry in 2006:

    Some of his speech I had heard — and agreed with — before, such as “History will judge George Bush harshly not for the mistakes he has made… but because of the opportunities that he has squandered.”
Those include the opportunity to pull the world together on Sept. 12, 2001, to “plan the demise of Islamic fundamentalism,” as FDR or JFK or “even Ronald Reagan” would have done. Or to ask us all to sacrifice and shake off “the grip of foreign oil oligarchs,” instead of giving us tax cuts. “Do you believe anyone in America would have refused?”…

I touched on that in a column in 2007, headlined “Why don’t candidates ask us for more than our votes?,” in which I used another JFK quote that goes beyond his “ask not” speech:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win….”

Wow. “Let’s pull together and accomplish something that will be hard for all of us to do.” It’s like he wasn’t even speaking the same language most pols use today. In that same ’07 column, I took Biden to task a bit for not living up to his rhetoric of the year before:

    Sen. Joe Biden had a great speech a while back about how President Bush missed the golden opportunity to ask us, on Sept. 12, 2001, to do whatever it took to free us from this devil’s bargain whereby we are funding people who want to destroy us and all that we cherish. And yet, his own energy proposals are a tepid combination of expanding alternative fuels (good news to the farmer) and improving fuel efficiency (let’s put the onus on Detroit)….

Something happens to people when they think they have a shot at the White House — they become somewhat less likely to say things I’d like to hear from them. Which is why I continue to enjoy Lindsey Graham. He’s in no danger, as of now, of hitting that threshold…


57 thoughts on “Joyful Graham promises only blood, toil, tears and sacrifice

  1. bud

    Blood – Our soldiers
    tOIL – on our beaches
    Tears – From all Americans if he were to win
    Sacrifice – Perhaps he’ll do some kind of alter sacrifice to appease the war gods.

    The GOP field is hard to handicap. Nothing is following the script. But it’s still early so I’ll try not to focus too much on the polls just yet:

    Rubio – 20% (Seems reasonably sensible but not much charisma.)
    Bush – 18% (His name hurts and helps. Name recognition helps for now but can only carry him so far. He does have experience and speaks Spanish. He’s also favored by the Plutocrats)
    Walker – 14% (My early favorite. I predict he’ll improve on his polling numbers soon)
    Cruz – 12% (Can’t out bombast Trump but can certainly give it a go)
    Kasich – 8% (Conventional wisdom says he’s too moderate but I predict a bit of sanity from the GOP voters)
    Paul -7% (The Objectivist camp will eventually give him a boost)
    Fiorina – 6% (Although polling pretty low right now she seems somewhat sensible and should garner a huge chunk of the female vote and is by far the best of the outsiders in interviews)
    Trump -5% (I predict his poll numbers will fade but until they do I’ll keep him in the running)
    Carson -4% (The leading Theocrat. Too mild mannered to last. Does have a compelling life story.)
    Huckabee – 3% (Splits the Theocrat vote with Carson)
    Christie – 2% (Could pick up the pro-bully vote once Trump fades)
    The Kids Table – 1% (One of these guys could emerge. Perhaps Rick Santorum.)

  2. Doug ross

    What a phony. Why didn’t he start by sacrificing his military pension earned through less than rigorous “service”?
    He’s all talk, no action.

    1. Lynn Teague

      Nope, he is not Winston, and Iraq and Syria aren’t Germany. In one case we invaded, overthrew a terrible regime, and it was replaced by stable governments, in the west democratically supported by the majority of the citizens. In Iraq, we invaded, overthrew a terrible regime, and it was replaced by even more terrible crazed fundamentalist factions with no stable government in sight. Even if Iraq would agree to a large US military presence indefinitely (unlikely) the foundation for a stable state isn’t there.

      Colin Powell supports the Iran agreement because he knows what the military can and can’t do and is dealing with reality. Some others are engaging in wishful thinking.

      1. Brad Warthen

        I watched the PBS thing about QEII last night, and there was a clip from Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” speech. Always blows me away. What a match of character and the moment. Just amazing.

        As for Colin Powell. I have a great respect for him, but I sometimes wonder how he’d do in serious, existential fight with the odds against him. All that overwhelming-force-and-have-an-exit-strategy stuff is great when you’re the big dog and have the luxury of picking your battles. But what if you’re Washington at Valley Forge, or the Russians in 1941?… Sometimes you just have to fight, and there are no exit strategies…

        Personally, I think if you have to have an exit strategy, you shouldn’t go in…

        1. Bryan Caskey

          I like when the “exit strategy” is win.

          A war ends when both sides agree it does. No one in the White House seems to know this.

        2. Phillip

          How about Vietnam, 1960s?

          Very interesting that all three examples you cite (Washington, Churchill, Russia 1941) involve armies fighting on their own home turf. Of course in those situations there is no question of an exit strategy, because you don’t exit your own home—you defend against a foreign intruder, or you die. Funny how we (the US) can laud this impulse to defend the homeland at certain moments in world history, and yet completely delude ourselves into forgetting that it exists, at other times. Exit strategies are for armies that have entered another country’s space, by choice and not out of self-defense.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Actually, Phillip, once Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, there was no alternative to victory, any more than there was for the Russians.

            There was a point in 1944 when I think he had ideas about an “exit strategy.” It involved shock and awe against the Americans and Brits in the Ardennes, following by some sort of armistice in the West, which would enable him to turn and put all of his resources into fighting the Russians.

            The thing was, we weren’t interested. I doubt we would have been even if his Ardennes offensive had achieved its tactical goals.

        3. Bryan Caskey

          Also, on the subject of England and Churchill, I saw a story the other day about how some the refugees are crowding at the “Chunnel” that connects England and France under the English Channel.

          In his book The Second World War Churchill occasionally refers to the English Channel and the surrounding waters as the “narrow seas”, which strikes me as a charming nickname, but I digress…. In any event, he continually emphasizes the point of how important the Channel is to England’s security. The Germans are stopped cold by the Channel, and cannot attempt a massive crossing without first achieving air superiority, which they obviously attmept to achieve in what becomes the Battle of Britian. If not for the Channel, the German panzers would have simply rolled right in.

          It even goes further back than WWII. Napoleon couldn’t force a Channel crossing, either. For it’s entire history, the Channel has been England’s best defense against invaders. Now, England and France are connected under the Channel, and we have these refugees possibly coming in through there. I imagine if you could get Churchill’s or Wellington’s comments on the situation, it would be something like this:

          You connected England to France across the Channel?? You fools!

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well… if the Germans had used it for invasion, the Brits could simply have blown it up at their end. Waiting first for there to be a whole division of Panzers in it.

            You can’t do that with an influx of refugees, of course…

          2. Mark Stewart

            It was a little less of a buffer pre-1700; particularly the Vikings and the Norman invasion of 1066 (and of course the Romans). Also that guy who deposed the House of Stuart – William of Orange…

  3. Mike Cakora

    I’m no Graham-backer in his current quixotic quest for the presidency, but I do get a hoot out of the folks who denigrate his reserve service out of what appears to be ignorance of what reserve duty entails. Folks seem to believe that Graham’s going to a war zone to use his skills and knowledge to support US foreign policy instead of staying in the continental US to provide the sort of training that anyone could do is some sort of failure. In fact it’s merely another example of political partisans looking for any excuse to condemn an opponent. Graham wanted to make a difference in any small way that he could.

    I thing that he’s using his candidacy to support a strong defensive posture, particularly in support of signals intelligence initiatives. I don’t think that he thinks he’s got much of a chance, his objective is to prevent the eventual GOP nominee from further curtailing effective and legal means of intelligence collection. Why does he support such snooping? Because it’s effective in protecting the homeland and entirely legal.

    1. Phillip

      Mike, what GOP presidential candidate other than Rand Paul would have ANY interest in curtailing any of the intelligence-gathering of which you speak? Not The Donald, who back at the time of Paul’s Patriot Act filibuster proclaimed that “today, we’re willing to sacrifice certain things for security….I think security has to preside, it has to be pre-eminent….I think we have to err on the side of security.” (So he’s not even worried about legality—security trumps—pardon the pun— all.)

      Graham is nowhere because on his supposed “big” issues, national security and foreign policy, he takes no position that the other candidates (save Paul) don’t also espouse. So all that is left is Lindsey’s trademark “HHH” factor—not Humphrey-style joy of which Brad writes, but rather, Hyperbole, Hyperventilation, and Hysteria—-which causes Graham to be taken (quite properly) less seriously than the others. And considering some of these candidates, that’s a stinging rejection.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        When Graham conceived of this campaign, Rand Paul was a factor, and it looked like Paulist isolationism was gaining ground in the party.

        But that’s just not much of a consideration now. In fact, most of the candidates were acting hawkish by the time that Lindsey launched his campaign.

        There was much more of a rationale for him to run and raise national security issues a year ago than there is now…

        1. Doug Ross

          When Graham does drop out soon, I’m sure he will make some statements about being proud of how he influenced the other campaigns. Pure fantasy, but I bet he’ll have plenty of self-congratulation in the announcement. Then there will be crickets chirping in response.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        That was clever with the HHH, Phillip.

        Does anyone besides me remember when David Frye would do his Humphrey impersonation back in ’68? One of his lines was “HHH does NOT stand for ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’…”

    2. Doug Ross

      Read the recent new articles that described his “service”. He did little for many years yet received promotions. His rank is solely based on his political office. To earn a $36,000 pension for the rest of his life for shuffling papers is a slap in the face of servicemen who are living on food stamps and have access to a crummy VA health system that is nothing close to what Graham has as a Senator. If he truly believes in sacrifice, he should donate the full amount to the Wounded Warrior Project.

    3. Kathryn Fenner

      I believe those denigrating Graham’s service base it on the original, inaccurate depiction of it by Graham’s people as primarily in a war zone, rather than safe at home. Graham himself has said the original publicity was mistaken/wrong.

  4. Doug Ross

    Brad – does it ever give you a momentary pause when you consider that your Holy Trinity of politicians (McCain, Lieberman, and Graham) have basically been rejected by the majority of Americans as being unfit for the office of President? McCain came closest and yet was trounced by an unknown named Obama. Lieberman’s “Joe-Mentom” has carried him deep into obscurity. And now Lindsey Graham is polling behind Jim Gilmore and is in LAST place. The more Americans learn about him, the less people like him. A large majority of Graham’s own state’s voters want him to stop his vanity campaign and go back to being the Sunday morning TV show Senator. It may not have seemed possible but he has actually run a worse campaign than Vincent Sheheen did last fall.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Nope. It may be shocking, but I don’t consider what the majority of Americans think on an issue or candidate to be my guide for what is right and true. Remember, this is the country that gave us reality TV.

      As I’ve said before, unlike Ibsen’s Dr. Stockman, I don’t believe that the majority is ALWAYS wrong. But of course, it frequently is…

      There’s something to be said for the wisdom of crowds. But that wisdom is spotty…

      1. Doug Ross

        It’s not just a majority, it’s a super majority. Graham is polling about where Jared from Subway or Jeffrey Dahmer would be at right now.

  5. Doug Ross

    What’s going on with Lindsey’s hair in that picture? Is he trying to emulate Trump? Is that a natural color or a dye job?

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        My gray hair has been acquiring a Trumpish rusty cast—some theories include medication, something in the water and sunlight. I suggest a combination of the first two in my case…

        Not sure what’s the deal with the Donald….

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    You know, I anticipated all the Graham-bashing. I’ve come to expect that here.

    What really disappointed me, though, was that no one took me up on the subject that I was interested in — the idea that politicians these days don’t dare come to us with the JFK “Ask what you can do for your country” formulation. Which I think is a sad commentary on what we’ve become — or at least on what politicians assume we’ve become. Are they right?

    1. Doug Ross

      When a person who is serious about the topic makes a similar statement, maybe the response would be different. What’s the toughest thing Lindsey has done since he became a politician?

      Giving up some social security is a sacrifice? He’s set for life regardless. Jimmy Carter defines self sacrifice. Lindsey is all talk.

    2. bud

      What really disappointed me, though, was that no one took me up on the subject that I was interested in — the idea that politicians these days don’t dare come to us with the JFK “Ask what you can do for your country” formulation.

      Jimmy Carter tried that formula in his so-called “malaise” speech (where he didn’t actually use the term malaise) and all that got him was a huge amount of ridicule. Instead folks are turning to the obnoxious “morning in America” model to portray their vision in terms of unbridled happiness and prosperity WITHOUT the messy business of working for it.

  7. Harry Harris

    Let’s see who will do the sacrificing under Graham’s scenario.
    Military contractors – no.
    The soldiers deployed in the middle east – yes. (And their families)
    Rich people. – Maybe a tiny amount.
    Very rich people – They will clean up even more. So will their heirs.
    Health insurance companies. – Nope. They will be back in charge. (“Market-based” reforms)
    Late 60-aged wage earners – Hugely after we already old guys get ours.
    Retired military officers and ex-Congress members or staff with military connections – their pockets will swell.
    Working poor people – they still won’t matter, but will be at the mercy of the health care ‘market.” They will have to survive longer to start getting a “saved” social security check and affordable medical coverage.
    Look at his website. Lots of broad promises and rhetoric, very few specifics. 10,000 ground troops and “trainers” are going to defeat ISIS; 9800 will stabilize Afghanistan. Sort of like Graham will beat Trump’s brains out in SC. Right.

    1. Doug Ross

      How about redefining sacrifice without any connection to tax dollars or government? There is already more than enough money in the government to do the things it SHOULD be doing. Sacrifice should be personal and direct, not via proxy and bureaucracy.

      There are three things a person can sacrifice for others: time, money, and talents. Does Lindsey Graham do any of those? Does he do pro bono legal work for the poor? Does he donate at least 10% of his income to charities? does he spend time with the people in his state trying to understand their issues (direct, personal time – not focus groups or consultants).

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Again with the Lindsey Graham.

        OK, let’s see — he serves his country full-time as a United States senator. You don’t value that kind of service, but I do.

        He has served for decades in the military reserve, including occasions of active duty.

        He is currently subjecting himself to all the stresses and ridicule — and ridicule and criticism are all he’s gotten from my readers, and they are far from alone — because he thought it was important to have someone running for president talking about issues that he considers important to the country.

        Near as I can tell, after he does all of the above, he has zero time left for what most of us would call a life. Not only does he not have a wife and kids, which has been thoroughly commented upon over the years, but I’ve never even heard of his having a hobby.

        So basically, his life seems to be 100 percent about service, with no room left for anything else.

        That enough?

        Oh, I know it won’t be for you, Doug. But maybe the point will register positively on someone out there…

        1. Doug Ross

          No, it’s not. His “service” has made him a millionaire with a lifetime benefits and perks out the wazoo. He has ample time to show up for Sunday morning talk shows, right? Is that part of his service? Nothing he could be doing that was more direct and sacrificial? It’s 24×7 of reading bills, processing constituent passport requests, cleaning the Senate offices. Right…

          Even Lindsey couldn’t explain what he was doing for large chunks of his military “career”.

          Rand Paul finds the time to do free surgery on poor patients while serving in the Senate. He’s got a wife and kids, too.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Obviously we disagree, in particular over your putting quotes around “service.” It IS service. He’s all about service.

            Now if I were to argue with myself, what I would tend to do is say, “But he’s not sacrificing by doing these things; he does all this stuff because he loves doing all this stuff. He thoroughly enjoys it.”

            But then I would scoff back at myself, and say just because it’s what you enjoy doesn’t keep it from being service. Plenty of people enjoy being soldiers, or cops. That doesn’t make their doing it less of a service…

            1. Doug Ross

              It’s a job. A well paying job. His contribution to the greater good falls well below that of teachers, firemen, policemen… he’s a paper pusher with a six figure salary.

  8. Doug Ross

    Here is a very recent alternative view from a candidate (no fair Googling to find out who it is. A much better vision than Lindsey’s:

    “why it was important for a president to have humility. “Because you need to be able to listen,” he said. “One of the things that I have discovered throughout the many things that I have been involved in is that we have some incredibly talented people in this country. … And you have to be humble enough to be able to listen to other people and recognize that, sometimes, they might actually know more than you do and be able to integrate that. There’s nobody who knows everything. But we have an incredibly talent-filled nation … everybody seems to think that whatever they do is the greatest thing. If you’re a politician, only politicians can solve the problems. If you’re a businessman, only businessmen can solve the problems, a lawyer, doctor. That’s ridiculous. What we need to do is put our talents together, understand what our goals are, and then utilize all of our talents to accomplish them.”

    Agree or disagree?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Agree. We live in an interdependent society. No man is an island. The Jeffersonian ideal of the yeoman farmer who meets all his own needs and doesn’t need the rest of society was always a fantasy, but particularly after the Industrial Revolution fully arrived on our shores.

      Specialization is inevitable in an economy as complex as ours, so we all need each other’s skills and talents.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And that includes needing people who are good at politics, including CAREER POLITICIANS.

        The essence of representative democracy is the fact that in a complex modern economy, the overwhelming majority of citizens don’t have time to devote to the minutiae of policy and lawmaking; they have to delegate it to someone.

        You know what I like about Pataki? Or one thing I like about him anyway? He’s not ashamed to be called a politician

        As for who said your quote, since it’s you and since it would be counterintuitive, I’m gonna guess Rand Paul…

        As I say all the time, people are complicated, and therefore often say things you don’t expect. Which is a wonderful thing about people…

        1. Doug Ross

          Ben Carson.

          ” the overwhelming majority of citizens don’t have time to devote to the minutiae of policy and lawmaking; ”

          But that is the PROBLEM, not the solution. It’s the minutiae and excessive regulation that does more harm than good. I have work friends who are trying to renew H1B visas. Just for the fun of it, I went to the immigration service website to see what that process looks like. I gave up after 15 minutes of reading copious rules, regulations, footnotes, exceptions. Some person got paid to decide that a candidate for citizenship must be able to read 1 of 3 sentences in English. Why not 2? Why not 3?

          The politicians who create those laws and regulations are not SERVING the public, they are doing a disservice.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            They are responding to the public.

            Every regulation you see is because someone went to government and said this or that consideration needs to be added to the law. OR it exists because people don’t trust government, and want to spell out every possible scenario in great detail, and make everyone involved in government jump through extra hoops rather than just use their own best judgment.

            That’s why we have bureaucracy. That’s why we have red tape. Because everybody wants in some way to modify what government does, and government works for everybody.

            As I’ve pointed out many times…

            1. Doug Ross

              “every regulation you see is because someone went to government and said this or that consideration needs to be added to the law. ”

              That is so utterly wrong it defies any logic. You seriously think someone, some non-bureaucrat went to a politician and said “We need a law that requires a person seeking citizenship to read 1 of 3 sentences”. That is beyond ridiculous.

              If that is the case, who do I talk to to get that rule eliminated. Because I should have a voice in the process if your misguided theory is true.

              What actually happens is bureaucrats who like to control things come up with policies and regulations without ANY outside influence. They are immune to accountability.

              1. Kathryn Fenner

                Doug, the three sentences rule was doubtless chosen as an approximation of what would be sufficient to show proficiency. Sure, four might have been better, but you have to make a bright line rule for these situations. Why do we allow 15 year olds to drive, but not 14? Does some magic ability rain down upon a child the night before his 15th birthday?

          2. Kathryn Fenner

            Doug, since you know everything, as evidenced by your common comment form of “If x really_____, then x would do some seemingly simple thing,” I can see why you think all these laws and regulations and policies are just dumb.
            For those of us who have taken the time to learn why many of these laws exist or exist in the form they do, things are not nearly as clearcut as you seem to think they are.

              1. Doug Ross

                And, counselor, do you agree with Brad’s
                statement that every law is the result of someone going to the government to ask for it? Every law.

              2. Doug Ross

                Patriot Act..Obamacare..TSA rules, tax code… all requested by non-government affiliated people. Right…

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              No, I most certainly do not agree with Brad’s statement. I don’t think he meant it in absolute terms.
              Most of our core laws result from millennia of case law—people with a dispute came before a judge or jury and their case was decided. Those cases that got “reported” became a body of law, and have been refined over the centuries.
              Other laws are regulatory–and many do result from lobbying or from lawsuits, but others were promulgated by panels of citizens–I have been on several of these panels, who heard from the people enforcing the laws what the issues they encountered were, and proposed new or amended laws to reflect this.
              Perhaps someone passed the citizenship test knowing only one sentence and some enterprising journo or politico found out that that person was in no respect proficient in English—so they added another sentence, and then another….

              I just don’t understand why computer programs have to be so complex. Why can’t they write them in Basic—or better yet, in plain English that I can understand?

              1. Doug Ross

                Computer programs aren’t complex. I can churn them out all day long. It’s people who make things complex. Try writing accounting software that has to comply with the government’s brain dead rules and regulations. Try and develop financial systems that comply with the stupidity (and productivity killing) Sarbanes Oxley rules.

                I just have to laugh at Brad’s assertion that some person after 9/11 went to the government and said “We must create a rule that prevents any liquid greater than 3.3 ounces in volume from being brought on a plane” or “There must be a rule that restricts the possession of nail clippers by any airline passenger”. It’s ludicrous. It’s so wrong that it defies logic.

                I have friends here on H1B visa who simply want to renew their visa. They’ve been here for two years or more legally. They speak English, have jobs, pay taxes, have no criminal activity (not even a parking ticket).. they have children in schools. All they want is either a visa to be renewed or a green card. And the process to get that done is broken, inefficient, stupid, expensive, and unproductive. It’s government stupidity by the government not by some outsider asking for it. Meanwhile, we have liberals calling for amnesty for people who entered illegally, don’t pay all their taxes, drive illegally and without insurance. It’s a screwed up mindset and a screwed up system.

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