Lindsey Graham's Fear Factor
'We're all gonna die'
As the world knows by now, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is running for President, having made his announcement this morning from his home town of Central, S.C. Graham’s old ROTC instructor delivered the Pledge of Allegiance and slipped up, expressing his devotion to “one nation, under guard.” It was probably an innocent mistake. Then again, this was a Lindsey Graham campaign event.
Has any national politician ever based his political persona more on raw fear? It’s become a running joke now—Jon Stewart’s impression of Graham as a pearls-clutching hybrid of Chicken Little and Scarlett O’Hara is one of his most indelible bits—and Graham was at it again from behind the lectern today, too. “Radical Islam is running wild.” “The world is exploding in terror and violence.” “We will never enjoy peaceful co-existence with radical Islam because its followers are committed to destroying us and our way of life.”
And all this referred to Radical Islam (I guess it’s an LLC now), merely the second-most horrifying prospect in a world that’s collapsing into a fire tornado. The real evil lies with Iran and its nuclear capabilities, which would supply “the people who aspire to genocide” with “the most effective means to commit it.” And how does the United States combat this world of many dangers? Why, through Strength! “American weakness anywhere hurts us everywhere,” Graham said, slyly grafting a justification for empire-building onto the rhetorical framework of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nifty trick there, Graham speechwriters.
But as for the substance of Graham’s announcement and the basis of his candidacy, I don’t think I can improve on this, from The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman (writing for The Washington Post’s Plum Line blog):
Graham argues that none of his opponents have the foreign policy experience he does, which is true enough—they’re all either governors or freshman senators. But that fact raises the question of what value one gets from experience. Some people take from their experience with the world that many challenges are complex, understanding of the myriad moving parts in any foreign crisis is necessary to make wise decisions, and different situations may require different approaches. Graham’s experience with the world, on the other hand, has obviously taught him that 1) we’re all gonna die, and 2) the answer to just about any problem is military force.
Graham, let’s not forget, has no chance at the nomination. He’s too conciliatory toward Democrats on issues like immigration to satisfy the tea party types, too quick to rattle the saber for the party’s growing libertarian wing, too unconvincing as a hawk to win swing voters. Because here’s the thing about a Presidential campaign based on projecting strength: Nonstop fear displays the opposite.