It was a good day for Sen. Lindsey Graham. A reporter asked President Obama at his news conference about Graham's comments on a Sunday talk show that the Boston marathon bombings and Benghazi showed that national security had been weakened under Obama's administration. "No, Mr. Graham is not right on this issue," Obama said, "although I'm sure it generated some headlines." Wrong. What it generated was cable news hits for Graham. As did Graham's tweets responding to Obama. "If Benghazi is not an example of system failure before, during, and after the attack what would be?... If Boston is not an example of a pre-9/11 stovepiping mentality what would be?" Graham tweeted Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, he was scheduled to appear on Fox News and CNN to talk about Boston and Benghazi.
Lindsey Graham is a very popular Sunday show and cable news guest, and he's invited to speak on just about every major policy issue under debate. It is not clear why this is, other than that Graham is best pals with another Sunday favorite, Sen John McCain. What does Graham bring to those TV tables? Unlike McCain, Graham does not have a reputation for criticizing his own party. Unlike McCain, Graham doesn't have a unique personal story (like getting tortured in Vietnam) that colors his view of major political issues (like torture). If Graham isn't a check on his party, at least he reliably signals what the GOP will do, right? No. Graham is also not a good guide to where Republicans are headed — he said it was time for the GOP to accept higher taxes as part of a sequester deal, which they did not do. Graham is not a good guide to what Republicans are thinking — he frequently complained about what the sequester's defense cuts would do to the military, which turned out not to be much of a motivator for Republicans. Graham doesn't predict the future, like when he wrongly predicted the fiscal cliff would be averted. Graham is not even a decent legal expert, having demanded — immediately after his capture, on Twitter — that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be held as an "enemy combatant," a term the government doesn't even use any more, and a demand which legal experts on both the right and left mocked as ridiculous. What we can see from this is that the No. 1 thing Graham is an expert on... is getting on TV.
Here are just a few of the many topics in the last six months about which Graham has held forth:
April 21, 2013: On CNN's State of the Union, Graham was an expert on national security law. Here his expertise was questionable. "We have the right under our law — I've been a military lawyer for 30 years, to gather intelligence from enemy combatants," Graham said. "And a citizen can be an enemy combatant." Brookings Institution national security expert Benjamin Wittes called that "nuts." Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax that Graham and his allies "absolutely should go back to school and study their constitutional law." Because there's no evidence Tsarnaev substantially supports al Qaeda, he can't be held indefinitely in a military facility. Because his accomplice is dead, there's no public safety exception to his Miranda rights.
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April 7, 2013: On NBC's Meet the Press, Graham was an expert on North Korea.
As well as immigration. In fairness, Graham is part of the "gang of eight" working on immigration reform, though he's taken a much less prominent role than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
February 17, 2013: On Fox News Sunday, Graham was an expert on the unacceptability of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Hagel was eventually confirmed as Secretary of Defense.
February 11, 2013: On CBS's Face the Nation, Graham was an expert on Benghazi. He predicted he would put a hold on the nominations of CIA chief John Brennan and Defense Secretary Hagel until he got satisfactory answers on the attacks in Libya. Graham has not been satisfied, as he tweeted Tuesday, but both men were confirmed.
December 30, 2012: On Fox News Sunday, Graham was an expert on the fiscal cliff. What were the chances a deal would be struck in the next 48 hours to avoid the cliff? "Exceedingly good," Graham said. We went over the cliff.. What would happen next? "I hope we'll have courage of our convictions, when it comes to raise the debt ceiling to fight for what we believe as Republicans." Republicans caved in the debt ceiling in March.
December 11, 2012: Speaking with CNN's Piers Morgan, Graham was an expert on gun policy, because he owns a gun.
November 25, 2012: On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Graham was a "headliner" on the sequester. "Well, what I would say to Grover Norquist is that the sequester destroys the United States military. According to our own secretary of defense, it would be shooting ourselves in the head," Graham said. This has not been a persuasive argument among Republicans.
Graham also suggested there was appetite for cutting Social Security and Medicare. "I don't think you can look at entitlement reform without adjusting the age for retirement," Graham said. "It goes to 66, 67 here pretty soon for Social Security. Let it float up another year or so over the next 30 years, adjust Medicare from 65 to 67 over the next 30 years, means test benefits for people in our income level." This did not happen, either. The Washington Post reported this weekend that Republicans don't want entitlement cuts after all, because it's deeply unpopular.