Lindsey Graham’s Uncynical, Apolitical Crusade Against Birthright Citizenship

By Ryan McNeely

In the spring, Majority Leader Reid announced that he would attempt to tackle immigration reform before energy, a move that I thought was odd at the time. Both issues are incredibly important, but the House had already passed a decent energy bill, while work on immigration would have to start from scratch.

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Lindsey Graham then released an open letter declaring that this move had so upset him that he could no longer support (and in fact would filibuster!) his own climate bill. This is coming from someone who purports to support comprehensive immigration reform. Graham’s stated rationale was that Reid’s proposal was a transparent attempt to rile up Latino voters in Nevada and that it would make passing immigration reform “exponentially more difficult in the future.”

But it appears President Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership have other more partisan, political objectives in mind.

Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy.

He then told reporters that “If immigration comes up then that’s the ultimate CYA politics,” and warned that “it will divide the country.” Tom Friedman agreed, calling Reid’s move a “travesty,” while Gloria Borger lauded Graham as the “new John McCain,” an “independent Republican, often a lonely soul” who always bravely negotiates with Democrats in good faith.

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Strange, then, that Lindsey Graham is now — a few months closer to the November elections — pushing a Constitutional amendment to revoke birthright citizenship, which he calls a “mistake.” Since Lindsey Graham doesn’t engage in cheap political stunts, he must seriously believe that it’s possible for such an amendment to get through both houses of Congress with 2/3 majorities and then be ratified by 38 state legislatures. Otherwise, one may have to regretfully conclude that Graham is simply cynically pandering to the most radical, nativist elements of the Republican base in an attempt to divide the country.