I initially learned of the incident from the Brad Hutto campaign, which has skewed my reaction:
Hutto Blasts Graham for ‘white male only’ Comments
“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show”
Orangeburg, SC – Democratic candidate for US Senate Brad Hutto spoke out this evening in response to news reports regarding Lindsey Graham’s leaked comments at an exclusive all-male private club. Graham told the group members he was helping them with their tax status and that “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”
Hutto made the following statement:
“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show. He is only interested in his own ambitions and the best interests of the wealthy donors he hopes will fund his possible presidential campaign. Women, people of color, and middle class and working families have no part in Lindsey Graham’s plans. But, we shouldn’t be surprised. Lindsey Graham voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against equal pay for women, against raising the minimum wage and against the level of support our veterans have earned and deserve. He’s consistently supported tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans and corporations while trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare. We already knew where Lindsey Graham stood. Now, he’s just confirmed it.”
And the thing that put me off right away was the dead earnestness of the reaction. I read that quote, “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.” And without any explanation or context, I knew that it was a joke. Because, you know, I’m not dense. It reads like a joke, without knowing anything at all about who said it. Knowing that it’s Graham, it obviously couldn’t be anything else.
And of course, when you follow the link — or look at any of the coverage of the incident after Peter Hamby reported it — the fact that it’s a joke is reported at the top, and accepted without question. Everyone understands that this was the Hibernian Society, and the drill is that you stand up there and make fun of yourself.
And yet, there’s not one word in this release that acknowledges that. It’s treated as though Graham were making a straightforward, naked, campaign promise to this group he was speaking to. Which is absurd on its face, but the absurdity doesn’t seem to register on Hutto or his campaign. The release seems to expect the voters to believe that Graham was dead serious, as though he were Ben Tillman or something.
Now if Hutto had acknowledge the joke and said it was a bad joke, in terrible taste, it would be a different matter. The assertion might be debatable — a good argument might tip me either way on the point — but it would at least be respectable.
He could legitimately get on a pretty high horse about it. He could say that it says terrible things about Graham that he could even conceive of such a joke, and think it was funny. He could say it would be unseemly to joke like that with an all-white-male crowd even if he knew it would never leave the room — or especially if he knew it would never leave the room.
As a joke, it’s pretty edgy stuff. Like, almost “Family Guy” edgy (which is to say, “OhmyGod, why am I laughing at this?” edgy). A white Republican senator, speaking to an all-male, all-white group, says something that both mocks himself as a GOP politician (and mocks the idea of himself as a presidential candidate along the way) and digs at the audience itself. It was pretty nervy. It was the kind of thing I might say to such a group in spoofing a GOP politician, while being pretty nervous about whether they would laugh or not.
On the one hand, you can argue that it shows a pretty finely developed sense of both social conscience and irony to want to mock a crowd like that, and oneself, that way. Like, look at all us white guys schmoozing; aren’t we ridiculous?
But a very good case could be made that a politician who represents an entire state in the South should never, ever make such a joke — particularly if, you know, he belongs to the official party of the Southern white man. There’s really nothing funny about living in a state in which the racial division between the parties is so clearly understood by all, Tim Scott notwithstanding.
So make that case. But don’t give me this nonsense like you think he was being serious. Like you think it’s a statement of policy when a politician tells an all-male group, “I’m sorry the government’s so f—ed up.”
I mean, have a little respect for me. Give me a f—ing break, as a U.S. senator might say.
This may be the most intellectually insulting thing I’ve seen from the Democratic Party since all the “War on Women” nonsense. It’s an appeal that assumes appalling degrees of emotionalism and gullibility on the part of its audience.
After the Hutto release, the state party doubled-down on this meme that Graham was baring his soul:
BREAKING: Lindsey Graham makes offensive comments at male-only club. We’ve had enough of this. Add your name now to send a message: It’s time for South Carolina to move beyond this kind of behavior!
As if we couldn’t add more to the list of reasons why we need to get Lindsey Graham out of office, this happens:
While at an event at a males-only club in Charleston last month, Graham – who’s toying with the idea of a run for the presidency — charmed his friends with blatant bigotry: “white men who are in male-only clubs would do great in my presidency.”
A couple moments later, he insulted Baptists. “They’re the ones who drink and don’t admit it!”
These offensive comments are NOT okay – and absolutely unbecoming of a United States Senator.
Will you click here and send a message that it’s past time for South Carolina to move on from this kind of behavior?
Breaking News @ South Carolina Democratic Party
If you can take that seriously, by all means click on the links and give some money. Which is the point.
The fact is, if Hutto and his party just left this alone, the half-perceived news coverage would cause a lot of their constituents to leap to the very response that they wish to see them leap to: “Lindsey Graham said WHAT?” But to take them by the hand and misrepresent the situation so as to lead them there is something else altogether.
The difference here is that — appropriately or not (and personally, if I were his campaign manager, I’d probably be giving him hell right now for f—ing up) — Graham was kidding, but the Democrats are not. They really want people to believe that they’ve caught Graham being genuine. As though this were a “47 percent” moment. Which it plainly is not.