May 19, 2015

Did Someone Say It’s Time for Lindsey Graham?

The latest Republican presidential hopeful to throw his hat in the ring.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina became the latest Republican to announce his candidacy for the presidency. He’d been hinting at the idea of running for some time, but Monday he made it official on CBS. Well, he made the announcement of his announcement — that’s how these things work now. He’ll officially declare on June 1, but he said Monday, “I’m running.”

The GOP field is quickly becoming crowded, with Graham becoming the seventh officially announced candidate. At least another half dozen more, including Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, are likely to run as well. The field is so crowded, it seems, that CBS wasn’t exactly impressed by Graham’s announcement, at least according to The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. Morning anchor Gayle King invited Graham on the air only after covering the Amtrak crash, the Texas biker shootout, the “Mad Men” series finale, and a great white shark with a Twitter account.

Graham’s chances, like many of the other announced candidates, are slim, but he is counting on his focus on foreign policy and military interventionism to draw support among the GOP base. He is also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Serving in the Senate since 2003, and in the House from 1995 to 2003, Graham has established himself as a hawk. In fact, that might be putting it mildly. He’s never seen a military intervention he didn’t like. He was one of very few Republicans who supported Barack Obama’s plan to attack Syria in 2013, and he has consistently called for greater intervention in the Middle East.

While the hypothetical questions over what candidates would have done about Iraq have sent men like Jeb Bush into a tailspin, Graham has been unequivocal in his stance. He supported the war then, and he has exhibited no regrets since. He was certainly right when he said, “The biggest mistake we made was leaving Iraq without a follow-on force against sound military advice.”

But one of his most troubling declarations is this: “If I’m president of the United States and you’re thinking about joining al-Qaida or ISIL, I’m not gonna call a judge. I’m gonna call a drone and we will kill you.” So much for due process.

When asked why he was running, Graham told CBS, “I’m running because the world is falling apart.” While there are significant parts of Graham’s record that leave a sour taste with some conservatives — working with Democrats on immigration reform and climate change, or vocally opposing the Tea Party, for instance — he is counting on his tough foreign policy stances to make up for it.

Graham is banking on the idea that the 2016 election will be primarily about foreign policy. The wreck Obama has made of America’s reputation overseas certainly has Americans increasingly worried about national security, even if many remain wary about getting involved in broader military actions. One thing is certain, Graham intends to counter the far less interventionist Rand Paul. And Graham could push the GOP field in general toward a more hawkish position. That could prove challenging for Hillary Clinton, because, after her disastrous turn as secretary of state, she should be reluctant to engage in foreign policy debates.

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