Authored by Jamal Abdi
Chuckling with his buddies on Fox and Friends in late 2018, Lindsey Graham couldn’t resist brandishing his trademark sense of humor and cracking a joke about taking a DNA test a la Elizabeth Warren. “It’ll probably turn out I’m Iranian. That would be, like, terrible,” he quipped on national TV, prompting uneasy reactions from even his Fox News sycophants (and eventually an on-air rationalizing and semi-atonement from the Senator).
Now the joke is on Lindsey Graham, who may no longer be a Senator in just a few short months.
Graham’s disdain for Iranians, and failure to distinguish between the Iranian government and the Iranian people, has been part of a long pattern. For years he has advocated deliberately brutal sanctions against ordinary Iranians in the name of “freedom” while acknowledging they would likely fail. He tried to commit the U.S. to backing Netanyahu attacking Iran and has called for the U.S. to “neuter” Iran with military strikes that he acknowledged would lead to war.
Now, he is in the race of his life, going against a charismatic, skilled challenger in Jaime Harrison, and is increasingly desperate to salvage his Senate career.
When 2020 began, Graham enjoyed a double digit polling lead and analysts said he would cruise to victory. But over the ensuing months, Graham’s safe position has steadily eroded and, since August, every poll of the South Carolina race has shown a dead heat. Last week, Graham’s race was officially moved by Cook Political Report and other analysts from leaning Republican to a 50-50 Toss Up — an almost unthinkable status for a Senate race in deep red South Carolina.
Meanwhile, Graham has been outraised by his opponent who is setting fundraising records — and Graham has taken to openly fundraising in his TV interviews and even (illegally) on the Senate floor. Making matters even worse for Graham, a third party candidate on the ballot is challenging the Senator from his right flank and could take away conservative votes.
Knocking Lindsey Graham out of the Senate would be a coup for anti-war Americans, akin to the 2016 defeat of then-Senator and architect of cruel anti-Iranian sanctions Mark Kirk and the 2018 victory over then-Representative Dana Rohrabacher — who advocated for ethnic separatism and civil war to divide Iran and was the MEK’s favorite Congressman.
Graham has always been a war-hawk, and has been an ally of extreme hardliners in Trump’s administration who could be relied on to use his burgeoning personal relationship with the president to scuttle any talk of diplomatic openings with Iran. In John Bolton’s memoir the former National Security Advisor talks of Pompeo relying on using Graham “to to stir up Republican opposition to negotiations.” But just as he has demonstrated a total abandonment of principles in embracing Trump after having previously condemned the President as unfit for Commander in Chief, Graham has lied to the public about the risks of Trump’s Iran strategy. He publicly championed Trump’s escalations with Iran earlier this year — even as, in private, he feared the assassination of Soleimani would drag the U.S. into war.
Now, the formerly principled Republican is hoping for a last minute boost from the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs. In his desperation for an election season boost, he has even refused to take a COVID test after he was exposed to the virus, fearing that testing positive would force him to delay the hearings until after the elections.
In Harrison, Graham has a critic who emphasizes that America needs a “diplomacy-first” approach to foreign policy. Coming from a military family himself, Harrison warns of the cost of war for American families.
It appears Graham may have placed the wrong bet by throwing his lot in with Trump. And, as perhaps Graham learned in his pool hall days of youth, a good hustler doesn’t let you know you’ve been hustled until it’s too late to do anything about it.
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