Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) slammed President Obama for a deterioration in US security because, he said, of four Americans having been killed in Benghazi last September and then another four at the Boston Marathon. If we were not convinced that such allegations are mere political posturing, we’d have to think he is exhibiting signs of paranoid schizophrenia. There isn’t actually a link between Libya and Boston, and while 8 lives are precious, they don’t signal that the country is going down the hill.
It is one of the annoyances of American politics that Graham, who represents a little over 2 million people, gets a national voice similar to that of Diane Feinstein, who represents 19 million.
Graham is numbers-challenged if he thinks Americans have gotten more endangered by terrorism domestically and abroad since Obama was elected. He keeps forgetting the nearly 3000 killed on 9/11 on George W. Bush’s watch, and after Bush had been warned by US intelligence of a planned al-Qaeda strike inside this country. The toll of American civilians killed by terrorists abroad during George W. Bush’s second term was 56 in 2005, 28 in 2006, 17 in 2007, and 33 in 2008. In Obama’s first two years, the toll abroad was 9 and 15, respectively, much less than Bush’s averages. Domestic terrorism has taken an increased number of lives under Obama, but the majority of Americans killed in such actions are killed by white supremacists, about whom Sen. Graham doesn’t seem exercised.
There is as much reason to think that Wade Page, the racist Wisconsin shooter who killed 5 American Sikhs and one policeman, was part of a hate network as that the Tsarnaev brothers were. Page was certainly political. His reaction to Obama’s election was “stand and fight.” Does Sen. Graham have so little to say about Page because too many of his own constituents might harbor similar sentiments?
While Graham is showboating about things he knows absolutely nothing about, such as the political landscape in Benghazi, Libya (can he name a single member of its elected city council?), his own state is not doing very well. Let us consider the sorts of ills a sitting senator from South Carolina should be trying to remedy in his state:
1. South Carolina was the third most violent state in the union in 2012, including crimes against both persons and property.
2. The murder rate was 320 in 2012, very high for such a small state (4.7 million), which works out to a rate substantially higher than the national norm. A lot of those murders are committed with guns, but of course Graham is against doing anything about that.
3. South Carolina’s rate of violent assault in 2012 was almost twice that of the rest of the country.
4. South Carolina’s property crime rate in 2012 was the highest in the nation. it has an amazing number of cat burglars.
5. More than 1/6 of South Carolinians lack so much as a high school education, the 10th worst performance in the country.
6. About 19% of South Carolinians live below the poverty line, nearly 1 in 5, the 9th worst such statistic of the 50 states. Hmmm. I wonder if some of those people address their hunger by becoming . . . cat burglars.
7. The life expectancy in South Carolina is only about 76, five years less than in Obama’s Hawaii, and 4 years less than Minnesota. South Carolina is in the bottom fifth of states for life expectancy. It is about the same size, population-wise, as New Zealand, where the life expectancy is … 80. South Carolina on this statistic is in the general company of Albania, Barbados and Mexico. Hawaii is up there with Hong Kong and Switzerland. Doesn’t Graham wake up ashamed about this every day? No. He wants to abolish Obamacare, which has a chance of making things better for people in his state, about whom he apparently cares less than about people in Benghazi.
Deaths per 100,000 by state
8. 18% of South Carolinians are food insecure, i.e. they barely can afford enough to eat each week, and are one unpaid sick day away from going to bed hungry. The rate of food insecurity in the US as a whole is about 15%, so in SC it is worse.
9. South Carolina has 21 extremist hate groups, a very high number for such a small state. And, of course, they are armed.
10. Unemployment is still 8.4 % in South Carolina, though there has been some improvement. This rate is high considering what a wonderful senator they have, who has done so much to attract professionals to the state and expand its tourism by making an attractive image of it. (Expanding white collar jobs and tourism are the growth sectors). Nebraska, Vermont (socialist Senator), Hawaii (Obama birthplace; yes), Virginia and Minnesota are all doing much better. South Carolina, as in many things, is 10th from the bottom in employment.
Wouldn’t an ambitious senator want his state to have the most long-lived, best educated, best employed, healthiest, least hungry, and least violent people in the nation? If those were Lindsey Graham’s ambitions, he would have way too much work to do to worry every day about events last year in Libya. But actually, there isn’t any particular evidence that he cares that his state is at the bottom on so many important indices.
By the way, I love South Carolina. I love the people, the food, the folkways, the lovely countryside. I just think it is a shame that that they don’t have a better political class, who would actually serve their interests instead of serving the interests of a narrow sliver of cranky rich white people. Graham isn’t, of course, the worst of them. But he has weird priorities and is a warmonger, and he doesn’t seem to me to have improved the lives of most of his constituents in any obvious way.