On climate bill, he wants to take back his ball and go home
The incoherent one has a pretty favorable profile in the New York Times Magazine, “Lindsey Graham, This Year’s Maverick.”
The onetime supporter of bipartisan climate action has some choice words for enviros, says he’s not gay, and makes big news dissing the tea party crowd:
“Everything I’m doing now in terms of talking about climate, talking about immigration, talking about Gitmo is completely opposite of where the Tea Party movement’s at,” Graham said as Cato drove him to the city of Greenwood, where he was to give a commencement address at Lander University later that morning. On four occasions, Graham met with Tea Party groups. The first, in his Senate office, was “very, very contentious,” he recalled. During a later meeting, in Charleston, Graham said he challenged them: ” ‘What do you want to do? You take back your country “” and do what with it?’ . . . Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent.”
In a previous conversation, Graham told me: “The problem with the Tea Party, I think it’s just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out.” Now he said, in a tone of casual lament: “We don’t have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats.” Chortling, he added, “Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.”
Graham can’t quite decide how he feels about enviros:
Two weeks ago, I found Graham in his office contemplating a coming scheduled visit to the White House to explore potential areas of agreement on energy and climate legislation. To him, consensus building is a game of inches, and the meeting (which was later postponed) would likely amount to no more and no less than a positive increment. “I fully understand 70 to 80 percent of my [Republican] conference is going to reject any idea of putting a price on carbon anywhere,” he told me. For that matter, he said, “the environmental groups are great to deal with “” but they think the planet’s gonna melt in five years. I don’t. I think carbon pollution, all things considered, is bad for human beings. But it’s not what I think of when I wake up in the morning. . . . I offer myself as a bridge, and I take a beating for that, and I get rewarded for that. It’s a business. Politically, it is who I am now. There’s no use for me to try to play another game.”
So on the one hand, two weeks ago he said he thinks carbon pollution is bad for human beings, though not so bad he thinks about it a lot. But on the other hand he told WVOC radio in South Carolina one week ago:
“I will work with the president, Democrats and Republicans to come up with an energy policy, but I’m not going to it in the middle of an oil spill when the political environment doesn’t favor what I want,” he told WVOC radio in South Carolina. ”I’m not going to do it between now and November when the oil spill dominates the politics and headlines.”
Seriously. Now we have to wait for Graham to stick his finger in the wind and decide when the political environment suits him.
I’ll tell you who he sounds like to me — my 3 1/2-year-old daughter after she tells me she wants waffles with cream cheese but then after I make it she won’t eat it even though she asked for it. Why? “Because I don’t want to.” Yesterday, she came up with her best excuse yet: “Because that’s what three-year-olds do.”
You can spend a long time trying to figure out why Lindsey Graham does what he does (see In the mother of all flip-flops, Graham rejects his own climate bill, endorses Lugar’s “half-assed energy bill,” which means he “just made the problem worse”).
The Politico asked me to explain Graham’s incoherence:
Some see GOP leadership pulling Graham’s strings, essentially yanking him back just days before he planned to introduce a bill with Kerry, Lieberman and a large coalition of energy companies, environmentalists, retired military brass and religious leaders. Others see tea party politics back in South Carolina, where incumbent Republicans are losing their jobs and Sarah Palin is anointing a new face for the party in gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley.
“People can spend a long time trying to figure out the explanations for things that don’t have explanations or are partly unknowable,” said Joe Romm, senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress and lead author of the ClimateProgress blog. “I guess that’s what journalists and I do. But if you look at the totality of the statements, it’s impossible to say he doesn’t understand the nature of the problem and what the solution has to be.”
There’s no explanation, I think, beyond “Graham is just doing what politicians and/or 3-year-olds do.”