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“An American Prayer”: Why Doesn’t Lindsey Graham Challenge The ‘Religious Climate’ Deniers In His Party?

Five years ago, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza had a lengthy and fairly depressing report on the demise of climate-change legislation in the US Senate. Lizza included this interesting tidbit about Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who initially co-sponsored the climate bill with then-Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT):

At a climate-change conference in South Carolina on January 5, 2010, Graham started to sound a little like Al Gore. “I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution” are “not a good thing,” Graham said. He insisted that nobody could convince him that “all the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day in and day out,” could be “a good thing for your children and the future of the planet.” Environmentalists swooned. “Graham was the most inspirational part of that triumvirate throughout the fall and winter,” Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said. “He was advocating for strong action on climate change from an ethical and a moral perspective.”

But, back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill “before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process,” one of the people involved in the negotiations said. “He would say, ‘The second they focus on us, it’s gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it’s gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.'”

Graham later washed his hands of the legislation under controversial circumstances, setting the stage for the bill’s death in July 2010. Graham’s abandonment of the legislation—just weeks after he had been touted as the future of climate leadership in the United States–was one of three major setbacks that year for those who longed for a bipartisan solution to the climate crisis, the others being Rep. Bob Inglis’s (R-SC) primary loss to future Benghazi bully Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in June, and Rep. Mike Castle’s (R-DE) loss to Christine O’Donnell in a Republican Senate primary in September.

Five years later, Graham is one of only two Republican presidential candidates (the other being former New York Governor George Pataki) who’s willing to acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change. The problem is, Graham can’t seem to resist taking nasty potshots at climate-concerned progressives, as he did recently in New Hampshire:

Graham continued by contrasting Democrats who view climate change as a “religion” with Republicans that refuse to accept the mainstream consensus on climate science.

“It is, to me folks, a problem that needs to be solved, not a religion,” Graham said of climate change. “So to my friends on the left who are making this a religion, you’re making a mistake. To my friends on the right who deny the science, tell me why.”

The “religion” rhetoric, apparently borrowed from an ugly 2008 column by Charles Krauthammer, is silly, and Graham would be well-advised to drop it as soon as possible if he’s serious about once again bringing both parties together on this issue. If climate change is, according to Graham, a “religion,” that means Pope Francis is following two “religions.” Does that make any sense at all?

Instead of bashing progressives, why doesn’t Graham challenge the climate deniers in his party to travel down to his home state—recently devastated by fossil-fueled flooding—and tell the relatives and friends of those who died in those floods that human-caused climate-change isn’t real, and that we don’t need to take action? That would be far more productive than taking potshots at climate hawks on the left.


By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 17, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Change Deniers, GOP, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Utterly Irrelevant Man”: NYT Mag Offers Inexplicable 2006 John McCain Cover Profile In 2013

In the last couple of years, every time something John McCain says makes “news,” my immediate reaction—sometimes on Twitter, sometimes just in my head—is, “Remind me again why anybody should give a crap what John McCain thinks about anything?” I’ve never been able to get a satisfactory answer to this question. And here comes star reporter Mark Leibovich, author of the well-received This Town, with a 6,634-word cover profile of McCain for next week’s New York Times Magazine. Do we need another one of these? I would have answered “no” before reading, but after, I’m even more sure.

If you’re doing this kind of profile, the first thing you have to do is answer, “Why?” Why do we care what McCain is up to? Did you learn anything important or interesting by following him around for a few days? Leibovich gives a shot to answering this question, and fails completely. He acknowledges all the clichés that have been attached to McCain over the years (maverick!), but then, without acknowledging it, indulges in the cliché that undergirds all the others: that whatever is happening now, John McCain is at the center of it:

McCain has another favorite Teddy Roosevelt phrase, “the crowded hour,” which I have heard him invoke several times over the years. It comes from a poem by the English writer Thomas Mordaunt, and T. R. used it to famously describe his charge on San Juan Hill. In McCain’s philosophy, “the crowded hour” refers to a moment of character testing. “The ‘crowded hour’ is as appropriate for me right now as any in a long time,” McCain told me as we walked through the Capitol. In some respects, this is just a function of public figures’ tendency to overdramatize the current moment and their role in it. But five years after losing to Barack Obama, after enduring the recriminations between his splintered campaign staff and rogue running mate, Sarah Palin, and after returning to the Senate and falling into a prolonged funk, McCain finds himself in the midst of another crowded hour, maybe his last as an elected leader.

And just how is John McCain in this ‘crowded hour,’ shaping critical events? How is his character being tested? Well let’s see. In the next paragraph, Leibovich tells us that McCain thinks Barack Obama is a foreign policy disaster. An opinion shared by most Republicans (Obama hasn’t even started any new wars, for pete’s sake!), but holding that opinion doesn’t constitute doing anything. Next, Leibovich tells us, “McCain also finds himself in the thick of the latest ‘fight for the soul of the G.O.P.’ against the Tea Party right.” “In the thick” of it, is he? And what does that mean? Will McCain have some large influence over that fight for the party’s soul? Of course not. Every once in a while he’ll give a surly comment, like when he referred to Tea Partiers as “wacko birds,” but he won’t be organizing any faction, or leading anybody, or doing anything at all that will determine the outcome of that fight. Nevertheless, Leibovich assures us, McCain does go on TV a lot. You might argue that makes him relevant (“I think the biggest fear John has is not being relevant,” says his little buddy Lindsey Graham), but spending a lot of time chatting with Wolf Blitzer is not the same thing as having an impact on developing events.

So let’s ask: What are the standards we could use to judge whether a senator is an important figure, at least more important than most of his or her 99 colleagues? After all, nobody’s writing Times Magazine cover profiles of Mike Johanns or John Hoeven. How is it that they’re less important than John McCain? An important senator might be influencing critical legislation. No dice there: McCain never much cared about lawmaking (in his three decades in Congress, he authored exactly one important law, which was later eviscerated by the Supreme Court). He might later become a presidential candidate, which is why we pay attention to people like Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, even if they’re ridiculous. No dice there either; McCain won’t be running for the White House again. He might lead some important constituency, or exercise great influence over his colleagues. Nothing there either; McCain represents basically no one, and he has never been popular with other senators. He might be championing an issue that will grow in import in the near future. Nothing there either. He might have some truly profound ideas that will shape policy in years to come. Can you name an important idea John McCain is advocating for?

So all that’s left is that John McCain is important because he gets invited on Meet the Press a lot. If you’re looking for something beyond that, you won’t find it in this article.

Leibovich is a good reporter, which is why this piece is so puzzling. Not just in that he makes some of the same blunders so many other reporters profiling McCain have made, like credulously quoting McCain saying he never talks about his experience in Vietnam—not only completely false (he talks about it all the time*), but a transparent way of making sure that the reporter includes in his story both a tribute to McCain’s modesty and a lengthy description of his POW ordeal. But more critically, what boggles the mind is that Leibovich (not to mention his editors) thought there was something to be learned with yet another 6,600-word profile of John McCain that reads exactly like every other profile of McCain you’ve ever read, from the Vietnam tribute to the description of his full schedule to the admiring quotes from Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman to the awe at his mavericky maverickness. I’ll save you the trouble: there isn’t.

* I just want to add that it isn’t just Leibovich who says this, just like so many other reporters who have written about McCain. In another portion of the article, Liebovich discusses a luncheon Harry Reid organized to honor the anniversary of McCain’s captivity:

“John told a lot of little poignant stories,” Susan Collins of Maine told me. “When John was tied up in such a painful position, he talked about the one guard who would loosen the bonds. He told the story of being out in the yard on Easter, and how one of the guards drew a little cross in the sand, just to acknowledge the holiday, and then rubbed it out so no one would get in trouble.” Collins has spent more than a hundred hours on airplane trips with McCain, she says, and has never heard him tell these stories.

Really? Then Collins ought to pay more attention to the news, because I’ve seen McCain tell that story a dozen times. His 2008 campaign even made an ad telling the story. For the record, as I’ve said many times, McCain has every right to talk about Vietnam as much as he wants and get whatever political mileage he can out of it. But when he and other people claim he’s terribly reticent about ever bringing it up, they just aren’t telling the truth.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American prospect, December 18, 2013

December 19, 2013 Posted by | John McCain | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Joe Drifts Away”: Lieberman’s Misguided Causes Lead To A Career That Descended Into Incoherence

David Lightman, who spent nearly two decades covering Joe Lieberman when he was with the Hartford Courant, pens a fairly long farewell to the retiring heresiarch, with this nut graph:

He exits as a voice often without an echo, an independent without a comfortable spot in either political party, a man in the middle of a political system that prizes partisanship over moderation.

Well, that’s the nice way to put it. Here’s how I explained it in a TDS post when Lieberman announced his retirement early last year:

Lieberman’s trajectory since his appearance on the Democratic ticket in 2000 has been in the steady direction of representing traditions he’s misinterpreted, and constituencies that no longer exist. It was fitting that when he crossed every line of political propriety and endorsed the Republican ticket in 2008, he embraced his friend John McCain precisely when McCain was reinventing his own political identity at the behest of the conservative movement, which in turn vetoed Lieberman as a possible running-mate.

I’ve never been a Lieberman-hater like a lot of progressive bloggers (though I did recommend he get booted out of the Senate Democratic Caucus after his endorsement of McCain), and remain gratified by his late renaissance in helping repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. But treating the man as a victim of polarization is just wrong. He went his own way, repeatedly and deliberately, beginning with his more-Catholic-than-the-Pope advocacy of the Iraq War, intensifying with his refusal to respect the decision of Connecticut Democrats to deny him renomination in 2006, and then culminating in the McCain endorsement, which violated basic rules of political loyalty that existed long before the current era of polarization. If he was isolated, he was self-isolated, and he was never “independent” of the varying and mostly misguided causes he chose to embrace as his career descended into incoherence.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 4, 2013

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Torture Queen”: Kelly Ayotte Did Something For Us All To Be Proud

So who is Kelly Ayotte anyway, to be threatening to place an unprecedented (in modern times) hold on a secretary of state nominee? She hasn’t done much yet in the Senate, but the one thing she did really try to do was to pass an amendment that could have permitted the United States to torture suspects again.

This all unfolded in late 2011, and the amendment didn’t become law. But it’s instructive anyway. After Obama limited interrogation techniques to those found in the Army Field Manual, some on the right started barking about how since the field manual is available online, terror suspects would know what they might be subjected to, and somehow of course this added up to appeasement and so forth. Adam Serwer reported at the time for Mother Jones:

“When a member of Al Qaeda or a similar associated terrorist group, I want them to be terrified about what’s going to happen to them in American custody,” said Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), explaining his support for the amendment. “I want them not to know what’s going to happen, I want that the terror that they inflict on others to be felt by them as a result of the uncertainty that they can look on the Internet and know exactly what our interrogators are limited to.” In an exchange with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ayotte acknowledged that part of her goal was to reauthorize some Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques” other than waterboarding.

Great. Something for us all to be proud of. No wonder she picked up where Lieberman left off. Quite a “worthy” successor to him as the third amigo.

She also became known, while her name was briefly on some short lists to be Mitt Romney’s veep choice, for parrotting the “apology tour” lie. PolitiFact destroyed her in this post over the summer. Demagogic nonsense, which American voters handily rejected.

I want to emphasize again what a new low in partisan warfare it would be to place a hold on a secretary of state nominee. If there’s one cabinet post that just has to be filled, it’s that one. State was the first cabinet agency created by Congress, meaning that the secretary of state is the oldest cabinet position, and to most people it’s the most venerated and important post of all of them (Treasury logs a few votes).

For one senator, especially a relatively junior one, to deny a reelected president his choice to head State would be rather amazing. I see that some on the right are calling such a potential move payback for what the Democrats did to John Bolton. Not an insane point, but three responses to that.

One: The UN ambassador (which Bush nominated Bolton to) ain’t the secretary of state by a longsihot. Two: Bolton had a particularly incendiary history of attacking the UN, the very body before which Bush wanted him to represent our country (which he ultimately did, as a recess appointee).

Remember this quote?: “The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” I know all our wingers will say that’s true, but wingers, imagine a Democrat nominating to head the Pentagon someone who said the building could lose the E ring and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

Third: Opposition to Bolton was hardly limited to liberal senators. Fifty-nine former diplomats from both parties signed a letter urging Bush not to name Bolton. The day Rice faces that kind of opposition, then the two cases will be parallel. Until then, not so much.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 28, 2012

November 29, 2012 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Bomb Syria”: The Three Amigos Of Death Make The One Suggestion They Always Make

The three amigos of death are back with a hot new Washington Post joint editorial, and you’ll never guess what they’re recommending this time! (War.)

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., are three of the most respected foreign policy experts in all of Washington. They became three of the most respected foreign policy experts in Washington by following a simple, one-step plan: Always demand more war, everywhere.

This time, they would like us to intervene in the deadly civil war raging in Syria, where rebels are fighting the forces of brutal strongman Bashar al-Assad. The administration is in favor of the removal of Assad, and has offered the rebels non-military assistance, but it has been reluctant to actually send arms or troops. McCain, Graham and Lieberman would obviously like to change all that. It is time for “active involvement on the ground in Syria,” you see, and “we can and should directly and openly provide robust assistance to the armed opposition, including weapons, intelligence and training.” That’s well and good, but isn’t something missing?

Ah, wait, there it is, in the second-to-last paragraph:

Second, since the rebels have increasingly established de facto safe zones in parts of Syria, the United States should work with our allies to reinforce those areas, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested last week. This would not require any U.S. troops on the ground but could involve limited use of our airpower and other unique U.S. assets.

There you go. That means bombs! We definitely need bombs.

The best part of any McCain/Lieberman/Graham editorial is when they say “we know the risks of [MORE WAR EVERYWHERE]” and then they just never actually say what the risks are because they don’t actually ever care about the risks and downsides of military intervention:

We know there are risks associated with deepening our involvement in the profoundly complex and vicious conflict in Syria. But inaction carries even greater risks for the United States — in lives lost, strategic opportunities squandered and values compromised.

Maybe you agree with the liberal interventionist case for greater U.S. involvement in the fight, as argued by Anne-Marie Slaughter and others. Maybe you think in the wake of the failure of Kofi Annan’s mission, there’s a better case to be made for acting forcefully to remove Assad. Maybe your opinion has changed as the conditions have changed, like a responsible thinking person.

But with McCain, Graham and Lieberman, the actual facts on the ground, the details of this fight, don’t actually matter at all, because McCain, Graham and Lieberman were calling for bombs and arms five months ago — before Kofi Annan’s assignment even commenced — and they’re calling for bombs and arms now and they’ll keep calling for bombs and arms everywhere as long as there are still newspaper editorial sections and Sunday morning political chat shows. If they accidentally stumble upon the correct response to Syria, please stay tuned for when they turn their attention back to Iran! (And the Washington Post editorial page, which has never met an overseas military intervention it didn’t declare urgent with barely concealed glee, will be happy to print whatever they come up with.)


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, August 6, 2012

August 7, 2012 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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