Don’t be fooled: Lindsey Graham & GOP Establishment just as Crazy as Trump

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Lindsey Graham has been posing as the voice of reason in the Republican Party for the past few weeks, warning Tuesday that if Donald Trump gets the Republican nomination and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic standard-bearer, then “crazy loses to dishonest” in the public’s eye. There isn’t any real evidence that Hillary Clinton is personally dishonest in the way that Graham is charging. She’s just a politician.

But of course there is a lot of evidence that Donald Trump is unbalanced.

The problem is, Graham and many other members of the Republican Establishment are blind to the ways in which the Trump stances they call crazy are mostly simply explicit statements of what they say with dog-whistles. Or they employ the same rhetorical tricks but apply them to what Graham thinks are the wrong targets.

Graham complains that Trumps speaks in a bigoted way about Latinos, who he says are the fastest-growing part of the electorate. He is frustrated that Trump is chasing away a key demographic.

But Graham himself has called Middle Easterners all “crazy” and characterized Iranians as all “liars.” He made the latter slur in order to argue that diplomacy could not succeed in dealing with Iran. But the Iranians did concrete in their planned heavy water reactor and met every other obligation of the JCPOA agreement with the UN Security Council.

After the Dylann Roof shooting at Emanuel ME Church in Charleston, Graham opposed removing the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds, on the grounds that it represented ‘who we are.’ But 66% of SC African-Americans wanted it gone, and SC is the state with the largest proportion of African-Americans in the country (if they were actually enfranchised Graham wouldn’t be senator).

What’s the difference between championing the flag of a slave-holding breakaway state and equivocating over whether to condemn the KKK?

For Trump to make blanket statements insulting a whole ethnic group is just standard operating procedure in the GOP. It so happens that he targeted not only Muslims (as Graham himself did) but also Latinos (whom Graham thinks his white elite needs as lesser clients to outvote African-Americans and white union workers).

But if you can casually smear a whole ethnic group of any sort, then what stops another party member from doing it to the groups you think you need?

Trump isn’t acting differently from Graham in principle, only in denigrating a different ethnicity.

It is Prejudice 101 that it is always illegitimate to issue a blanket condemnation of a large group of people based on ascriptive identities like ethnicity or religion. You can condemn some individual on the basis of an acquired identity, e.g. ‘bank robber.’ If a person decides to rob a bank, you can castigate that person as dishonest and a thief. But you can’t assume that his mother or brother is dishonest. And you sure as hell can’t assume that, if he is a Methodist, all Methodists are bank robbers.

I mean, this is the basic ethics taught in kindergarten. Trump is still an ethical babe in arms, not having reached the level of kindergarten in his morality. But in this regard, if we are speaking of the principle of the thing, Graham and many in his party just aren’t any different. Most of them speak in this prejudiced way, or use dog whistles to imply it.

Graham admitted that he could be persuaded to support Ted Cruz. If that’s not crazy I don’t know what is.

Just last November, after the Russians had intervened in Syria, Lindsey Graham called for putting 20,000 US troops on the ground in that country.

On this issue, Donald Trump, who is generally certifiable, is actually much less crazy than Graham.

Graham complains that Trump condemns George W. Bush for attacking Iraq. Graham himself said in 2002, “Iraq is a self-defense issue, and we need to aggressively engage Saddam Hussein. We don’t need the blessings of the world to defend ourselves. A regime change is the only alternative in Iraq.”

Iraq had not attacked the US in 2002, and as a ramshackle, sanctions-ridden poor third world country, was not in a position to attack the US. So how was a nuclear power of 300 mn. people just falling on a defenseless little country of 25 million an act of ‘self-defense’? Blowing off the disapproval of the rest of the world is a form of American exceptionalism. It is a way of saying that the US treaty obligations under the UN charter, which forbids aggressive war, are a dead letter. Because ‘Murcans.

So when Trump says he would kill the families of terrorists or would go well beyond waterboarding in implementing torture, he is using the same logic as Graham used to promote the disastrous and illegal Iraq War. Graham opposes torture and waterboarding, but he doesn’t oppose the ‘my country right or wrong’ form of argument that Trump has adopted.

Graham pressed the case for a war on Iran with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter last summer.

Iran is three times more populous than Iraq and is a much bigger country. If the US could not succeed in Iraq, a US war on Iran would be three times as bad. It is hard to see how the US economy could survive a $9 trillion war.

So Graham himself just talks bigotry or insanity. All Middle Easterners are crazy. All Iranians are liars. Poor weak countries half a world away are menacing us such that we have to militarily occupy them. War with Iran is another cake walk.

That Graham looks at Trump and sees someone speaking in a completely different diction from himself, or hears the crazy in Trump’s pronouncements but not in his known, just underlines how hard it is for us to estimate our own failings.

As Robert Burns put it,

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!


Related video:

CBS News: “Lindsey Graham: Republicans are handing election to Hillary Clinton”

34 Responses

  1. Gotta laff at this Prof! Great post, but I doubt anyone here (reading Informed Comment) will be by fooled by the likes of Lindsey Graham!

  2. I seem to remember seeing a news clip where Hillary Clinton was sniggering about how, as she put it, “the Americans went to Libya and Gaddafi is now dead”. I paraphrase of course, but the interview is quite famous over here in the UK. From what I have seen of Clinton she is bordering on being unbalanced and clearly quite dangerous. Trump may well be an extreme candidate, but he has no proven political track record as do some of the other candidates. As for him saying he would kill he families of terrorists, he is in good company. Does the bombing of wedding parties ring any bells or the sacking of Mosul by the Americans using white phosphorus ? The truth is politicians and those who aspire to high office are ruthless when it comes to furthering their own ambitions.

    • In 1933 you could have said Hitler had no track record as an imperialist murderer, while his opponents like Field Marshall Hindenburg were part of the old Imperial parliamentary politics, where even the Socialists green-lit World War 1. The only ones who were entirely opposed to that disaster were the Communists. But then as Stalin’s water carriers, their hands weren’t clean either.

      So what was the basis to say Hitler was worse?
      Because he swore he would be worse.

      How much worse is it to announce one’s intention to personally march into the Al-Aqsa mosque to show those Moslems who’s boss?

      link to

      Maybe as a Briton you don’t understand our history of violent racism, but Trump also personally egged on a crowd at his rally to beat a Black protester. In Birmingham, Alabama, a city with an especially bloody record in the annals of the fight against segregation. You may not accept our standards of what is beyond the pale, but a lot more of us are willing to go to war against Jim Crow than the things you care about.

      • You missed his point. He was simply saying Clinton has already proved her ruthlessness. No doubt Trump will do the same, after all both are power-hungry socio-paths.

    • Thank you for your well thought-out comment. I very much appreciate your straightforwardness. I hear you!

    • Keith, allow me to add to not only Nixon’s Southern Strategy but Lee Atwater’s talking in code. These are the things the Republican Party is now made of. Yes, there was a time when the Republicans were known to hang out at country clubs, and how they used big words, but those days are now over. Also, let us not forget that Hillary is mostly obsessed, and that is a scary thing as well. The U.S. politicians are owned not by the American people, but by Israel’s Likud, and for that reason 9 trillion is nothing to concern ourselves with. To think how these crazies represent the American people to the world is a crying shame. My hope is that Sanders really will inspire America’s youth, so that they may someday take over, and set America on a better course.

  3. “On this issue, Donald Trump, who is generally certifiable, is actually much less crazy than Graham.”
    That issue, WAR, is the biggest issue. Because of that I support Trump. He is the less bad of all candidates. Trump’s silly talk may qualify as political gimmick to be in tune with the majority of enraged Americans that do not want another war.

  4. Agree with your article but as a minor point of fact, SC ranks 5th among the states in proportion of blacks in its population at least according to 2010-2014 US Census Bureau data. However, from my own experience helping with the 1970 Census in SC, I believe under-counting is a major factor.

  5. When Lindsey retires he will make a great lobbyist for the armament industry. My senior senator certainly has no problem voting for wars where 20 million dollar airplanes drop $50,000 bombs on twenty five dollar mud huts.

    It is becoming increasing clear the neocons are waging war against Trump because he dared say he would let middle eastern forces fight among themselves, choosing to stand on the side lines and watch the chaos…not unlike Israel. Here is a nice article from Glenn Greenwald’s website speaking of how the chickenhawks much prefer candidates, like Rubio and Cruz,who will make the sand glow in Syria. link to

    • Maybe a quibble, but I think you left a zero off the cost of the airplanes and maybe a zero off of the cost of bombs, if they are the real smart bombs. The trillions for the wars in the Middle East wasn’t just for the cost of the soldiers.

    • I stand corrected F 35- $122,000,000 per copy. But healthcare and infrastructure are beyond our financial reach according to Graham.

  6. Trump is a loose cannon and could be a disaster as president, but he might do some good which is probably more than can be said for Lady Macbeth Clinton. If Trump cleans out that Augean Stable known as the GOP he will do some good if he doesn’t replace it with something worse.

    As for Lindsey Graham, his election as one of South Carolina’s senators helps to explain Hillary’s success there over Sanders.

    • I remember the Clinton administration. Hillary was considered to be to the left of Bill. I think she still is. Is she perfect? No. Is she as good on the issues as Bernie? Not in my mind. But to say that Trump is or would be superior boggles my mind. The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican.

      • The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican.

        There are exceptions to every rule. How about former Senator Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) who voted against the Iraq War? I have lots of problems with Rand Paul (R-KY) and his father, Ron Paul (former Representative R-TX) but they are both anti-war? In my book, they would be much better than the former wicked witch of Foggy Bottom.

      • The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican.

        Madeleine Albright, Democrat and Hillary booster, said of the estimated half million Iraqi children who lost their lives due to sanctions maintained in Iraq during the Clinton presidency “We thought it was worth it.”

        “We” must surely have included President Bill Clinton, co-President Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, their top staff and secretaries for war. All Democrats. It might be a challenge to find Republicans in Washington who are less evil than that, but surely among ordinary citizens there must be several who would agree whatever “it” was, this crime against humanity wasn’t worth it. Perhaps, the small minorities that voted for Rand Paul.

      • Social policies and military policy are their own separate spectrums. Many refuse to understand the connection between racism at home and militarism abroad that has led White supremacist regimes to wage so many wars. The Confederate States of America itself had designs to annex Central America and enslave its populations, and no matter what a hip America-basher one is, one can’t say that’s better than what the USA did to them.

      • I am talking about the totality of their policies. Yes, libertarians like the Pauls aren’t bad on foreign policy, but on domestic policy they are abominable. Chaffee later became a Democrat. there are no more moderates like Chaffee left in the GOP. Albright and others in the Clinton Administration got us involved in Bosnia and probably saved thousands of Muslim lives from ethnic cleansing. Republicans would totally deregulate Wall Street again, stop all progress on climate change and encourage the use of fossil fuels, scrap the treaty with Iran and perhaps start a war with Iran, promote racist and anti-Muslim policies, keep Guantanamo open, use torture again (Trump said he would go way beyond waterboarding) and take away health insurance from about 15 million people. There may be some Democrats who would stop making progress on these issues, but none who would adopt these type of policies favored by almost all Republicans. You really need to educate yourself on how extremely reactionary the Republicans, including Donald Trump, have become.

        • I am talking about the totality of their policies.

          As several political observers with greater knowledge than you or I possess have concluded “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans” that are the two wings on the corporate bird of prey.

          I see you have bought into the corporate media’s story on the Balkans. From the Huffington Post of 02/03/2015: “Peter Tomka, president of the International Court of Justice, said the forces of both countries had committed crimes during the conflict, but that the intent to commit genocide — by “destroying a population in whole or in part” — had not been proven against either country.

          From the estimable John Pilger: “In 1999, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent Nato to bomb Serbia, because, they lied, the Serbs were committing “genocide” against ethnic Albanians in the secessionist province of Kosovo. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes [sic], claimed that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59″ might have been murdered” John Pilger -

          People who still believe the corporate media’s version of events in the Balkans would do well to search for “Diana Johnstone” for a more reliable source. Her latest book, “The Queen of Chaos,” should dissuade anyone with any sense of justice from voting for Hillary Clinton.

    • Do you know anything about Southern politics? Clinton won SC because Blacks there won’t vote for Sanders, which greatly pains me. But none of those Black Democrats voted for Lindsey Graham. There’s a huge chasm between Black and White South Carolinians. They in no way support him or the openly KKK agenda of Strom Thurmond, who took his senate seat into the GOP. I am afraid there are far more liberal states where Blacks will also mostly vote for Clinton, which demolishes your premise.

      • South Carolina has a reputation for being poorly educated and that applies to both Democrats and Republicans and whites and blacks.

    • How does Trump “clean out . . . the GOP”? Does he just wave a magic wand? Or will he make a “huge deal”?

  7. Senator Lindsey Graham is a pretty good stand-up comedian who has been rattling around inside the U.S. Congress since 1995. But he is also a leading “Bomb Iran” and War-on-Syria advocate. Senator Graham says stuff like “Free speech is a ‘great idea,’ but we’re in a war.” or “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’” with regards to a CITIZENS rights.

    No amount of funny can offset a mindset focused on pandering to sources of funding, war-mongering and anti-Constitutional totalitarian concepts.

    When war-monger and personal privacy opponent Senator Lindsey Graham becomes the voice of Republican “reason,” the GOP is indeed lost in their own abysmal swamp.

    The Republican Party has reached such a nadir in decline that a random, non-substantive BEE ESS artist can become a leading Republican presidential candidate.

    in the vacuum of clear GOP direction, corporate-controlled media has sublimated that a President Trump will somehow protect everyone’s self-interests – sidestepping the racism, bigotry, faux religiosity, indifference to facts and reactionary, self-aggrandizing pig-ignorance constantly demonstrated by the current Republican frontrunner.

    Note – No offense intended to swine, everywhere.

  8. When you vote for the person …you get the Party!

    The GOP/Republican governance in 21st Century American is and has been one of absolute disastrous failure!

    On the Federal level …Bush/Cheney/GOP/Republican governance 2000 to 2008 … need I write more?

    GOP/Republican governance 2009 to the Present …the MOST obstructionist Party since the run up to the US Civil War! ie The most filibusters in US history, Government shut down, Republican led House ranked the TWO worst performing in US history (113 and 114).

    State level ….every State with GOP/Republican governance in economic ruin, voter suppression … one has poisoned a city of 100,000 US citizens for 2 years running.

    If a Republican is elected to the WH …that administration WILL continue the destruction the last GOP/Republican governance left US(A) with !

    • Sir – Good points all.

      What better way to destroy a great country than from the inside – while waving a bible, wrapped in the flag? We saw this same tactic used after the last Great Depression, circa 1935. It worked in Europe.

      History records the consequences.

  9. I know you mentioned it in a post last week, but I think it still hasn’t gotten enough media attention, that Rubio in the last debate also said that “Palestinians…teach their four- year-old children that killing Jews is a glorious thing.”

    That seems at least as bad as anything Trump has said about Mexicans, but Rubio is the one who is supposed to be the last great hope of the conservative “establishment”. So no notice seems to have been taken of this in most of the media.

  10. And which is the party that pushes photo i.d.’s in order to be able to vote? And what kind of people does this dis-enfranchise? Dog-Whistle in-the-law!

    • It makes me very angry that so many “anti-war” people seem to feel that the solution to American imperialism is to restore the government back to the 19th century, right down to abandoning civil rights for minorities. It’s as if they want to punish Blacks and Latinos for wanting America to be a world power and voting for Obama.

      But with their embrace of Trump, even that big-gov bashing doesn’t make sense anymore. The imposition of a state of terror against all Moslems in America is now “worth” a vague promise of neutrality overseas by a madman who recently had to be talked out of storming into the al-Aqsa mosque at a time when Palestinians are being provoked by so many Israelis.

      What is the logic in this, peaceniks?

  11. Ms. Lindsay announced today his support for Crazy Ted Cruz. If Ms. Lindsay run for president on the platform of ‘more and more wars’ did not seal his fate as being a walking and talking azzhole, I am unsure what would.

    Perhaps Dr. Cole could provide some reason to believe that The Donald could be any worse for Mideast policy than Hillary ‘Whatever war you want Benny NutAndYahoo’ Clinton.

    • link to

      Your proof.

      “The wealthy business tycoon and apparent presidential candidate had previously stated that he planned to visit the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and then force his way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.”

  12. A fine article, and a joyful season it is to see the GOP actually too incompetent to manage its usual ignorance engineering. But the Dems can, and the Reps are still there to pay for and ride the next waves of fearmongering from the MSM.

    He who controls the media controls the election, and in the US that is the economic concentrations, regardless of party. That will continue until the whole apparatus is surrounded and isolated in 100-200 years, and falls into economic ruin under economic tyranny, when mere bread and circuses cannot distract the victims. They will see healthier systems everywhere by then, and again throw off aristocracy, thinking that no one knew better until then.

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