You know that I've written and said a number of things since the election about how hopeful I am that Barack Obama can do exactly what he promised to do in terms of leading us past the stupid, pointless partisan bickering of the Clinton-Bush years. As you know, that was probably my biggest motivation for endorsing him in the primary here — and for endorsing McCain as well, as the one guy on the GOP side able to transcend the partisan garbage that has so sapped our nation's ability to cope with anything — from war to peace, from foreign to domestic — constructively.
So imagine my joy upon reading that story about Obama and Lindsey Graham in today's paper, the one by James Rosen on our front page.
Naysayers and cynics will dismiss it as feel-good rhetoric. The haters on the right will cite this as another example of Lindsey Graham selling out right-thinking (pun intended) folks everywhere to his own aggrandizement and greater glory. But they'll be wrong. The story is replete with evidence as to why they are wrong.
Barack Obama has no credible reason other than the reasons he claims for asking Lindsey Graham — best pal of John McCain, staunch advocate of our nation's mission in Iraq, most articulate proponent of the Surge strategy Obama himself had dismissed (he's the one who sold ME on it) — to accompany Joe Biden on his important mission to assure our allies in the region that the new administration is not a bunch of ideological crazies who are going to abandon them. He didn't have to do this, but it was absolutely the right thing to do.
And Graham didn't have to go along. He could have been a typical loser partisan plotting how he can tear the new guy down and get some of his own back. That would have been stupid, and Lindsey Graham isn't stupid, but it would have been typical. Yes, Graham sees the opportunity to stay at the center of power even though his guy lost. But he also sees the opportunity to have a constructive impact on our nation's ongoing strategy in the war on terror.
And Obama didn't have to say the things he said quite as strongly as he did. He didn't have to publicly thank Joe Biden "for having the wisdom and foresight to invite Lindsey Graham," or declare that he was "drafting" him "drafting as one of our counselors in dealing with foreign policy." He won the election. Graham lost. Usually, that's end of story.
In addition to the encouraging fact that we have such a good bipartisan vibe going, Obama's choice of Graham as the object of his bridge-building speaks to another good thing about the president-elect: He's smart. Graham has a masterful grasp of the policies he advocates, and you can get smarter just listening to him, even if you end up disagreeing with him. If you're going to have a guy with a different perspective to bounce ideas off of — a la Lincoln and his Team of Rivals — you couldn't choose better than Lindsey.
There's the additional fact that, since Graham has been, as much as any other Republican including John McCain, the conscience of his party on some of the nastier edges of fighting terrorism — such as torture and general treatment of detainees. So it's not like he's making a deal with the devil even by his own lights. He's looking to someone whose opinions differ from his own, but whom he knows he can respect.
This budding relationship — which the two men made a point of calling attention to, and I'm glad they did — bodes well for the future.