Category Archives: Lindsey Graham

Bright blesses Graham’s heart — I’m glad Southern courtliness still survives to that extent

bless heart

Had to smile at the latest release from Lee Bright. As nasty as things get in politics these days, it’s nice to see that even a Tea Party guy (and you know how angry they can be) can express himself with civility, Southern style.

Yes, it’s a condescending expression, but it’s a sweet condescending expression. And that counts for something.

As for the content of the release — well, I didn’t read it. I saw it was another of those “Obamacare, yadda-yadda” things that those folks are forever churning out…

Graham grills Moniz on MOX

Lindsey Graham put out this video so voters could see him being tough, curt, and impatient with a member of the Obama administration on a matter of concern to South Carolina.

But the main thing I came away from it with was, Have you gotten a load of this Moniz guy? What century does he think this is?

He and Richland County Councilman Jim Manning should form a club or something…

Moniz_official_portrait_standing

Graham says we should bar Iranian emissary to the U.N.

This came in earlier today:

Graham Opposes Granting Visa for Iranian Emissary to the United Nations

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on Hamid Aboutalebi who was selected to serve as Iran’s emissary to the United Nations in New York.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Graham opposes granting Aboutalebi a visa which would allow him to travel to the United States.

Graham said:

“This is a slap in the face to the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days and an affront to all Americans.

“The very idea Iran would appoint someone to represent them at the United Nations in New York — who was connected in such a direct way to the American Embassy takeover in 1979 — says a lot about the regime and the so-called moderation of President Rouhani.

“Iran has been involved in worldwide terrorism plots and designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.  Iran provided equipment used to kill American soldiers in Iraq.  Iran supports Hamas and Hezbolloah, two terrorist organizations. And finally, Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, not a peaceful nuclear power plant.

“I’m hopeful the Senate will soon send a strong signal to Iranians that we will not accept this individual or allow him to represent Iran on American soil.”

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I wonder why Hutto isn’t running against Scott instead of Graham?

This just in:

Brad Hutto announces run for U.S. Senate

“Washington, D.C. is broken – and it is time for new leadership in Washington, our current leaders have become part of the problem,” says Hutto

 Orangeburg lawyer and State Senator Brad Hutto announced that he has filed to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Lindsay Graham.  Hutto, a Democrat, represents parts of Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Orangeburg counties in the state legislature.Brad Hutto

In announcing his candidacy, Hutto set his sights on Congressional gridlock. “Washington is broken, and we need someone from outside of the Beltway to help improve life for South Carolinians.  We send billions of tax dollars to D.C. every year yet we have crumbling roads, failing schools, and struggling rural communities to show for it. And both sides are to blame.”

While serving in the State Senate, Hutto received a 100% rating from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce for his pro-business record.  In the Senate, Hutto often leads the fight to improve schools, promote renewable energy options, and protect our natural resources.  Hutto is often in the forefront of causes to insure the individual rights and liberties of all.  He is known for his commitment to children and is an active member of the South Carolina Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children.

“We need a leader in the Senate who will spend more time talking to folks in Barnwell, Bishopville, and Beaufort than appearing on Sunday morning talk shows.  I will focus on job creation with special emphasis on rural South Carolina,” said Hutto.  “We need to require our overseas allies to accept a larger role in their own security so that we can start refocusing attention on rebuilding roads and schools in our own country.”

Recent polling highlights Graham’s vulnerability, with polls consistently showing that even Republican primary voters – where he should be strongest – have reservations about his extended tenure in D.C. 

Hutto lives in Orangeburg with his wife of 28 years, Tracy, a pediatrician.  His son Skyler is a student at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law.  Hutto graduated from the Honors College at the University of South Carolina and received his law degree from Georgetown University.  Hutto, an Eagle Scout, is a Past President of the Boy Scouts’ Indian Waters Council that serves South Carolina’s midlands region, and he remains active with Scouting on many levels.

www.BradHutto.com

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My first thought in reading the headline was, OK, so maybe Tim Scott will have some opposition in the general.

Then I saw that he’s running for Graham’s seat. Which doesn’t make sense. He cites this as his reasoning:

Recent polling highlights Graham’s vulnerability, with polls consistently showing that even Republican primary voters – where he should be strongest – have reservations about his extended tenure in D.C.

Which is just kind of inside-out partisan thinking. Yes, Hutto is one of the more enthusiastic partisans on the Democratic side in the Legislature. But it really takes a particularly simplistic, dualistic view of the politcal world to say, “even Republicans… have reservations” about Graham. “Even” Republicans? Republicans are the people Graham has trouble with. Not Democrats, particularly. Certainly not independents. Assuming Graham can secure his renomination — and he most likely will, after some discomfort — he’s going to blow past anyone who opposes him in the general as though that hapless individual is standing still.

Is this not obvious to everyone?

Why is everybody and his brother lining up to run against Graham — “even” Democrats? While Scott gets a relative free ride, in terms of not having anyone opposing him likely to make him break a sweat.

It’s weird…

Another realer-than-real photo, this one in black and white

BjDbaPdIgAASkIT

Remember the photos of protests in the Ukraine that I noted seemed more intensely real than a photograph could be? (Burl said they probably looked like that because of the HDR process, and I think he’s probably right.)

This photo of LIndsey Graham meeting and greeting had a similar quality, I thought.

Graham aide Kevin Bishop — that’s him in the center of the photo — tweeted it out earlier this week with the comment, “Proud member of #TeamGraham! pic.twitter.com/x1RnKRb8MR.”

I wrote to him to say, “Nice picture. I like the lighting. Is it staged, or candid?”

“Candid,” he replied.

And I suppose it would be. I don’t think they would have struck those particular poses and expressions in a staged shot.

But there’s something about the light that makes it look staged, and professionally so, as though a movie director were involved. And the black-and-white adds to the effect.

It seems like a Dewar’s profile kind of print ad, or something like that.

See what I mean? Or is it just me?

So are you truly, unambiguously going to support this guy?

This is a good day to be Nancy Mace or Det Bowers. Because they are the only two of the crowd of people running against Lindsey Graham in the GOP primary who did not just sign a pledge to support the guy who called the senator “ambiguously gay.”

Here’s the money quote, which caused enough of a splash that Chris Cillizza of The Fix retweeted me when I mentioned it yesterday, leading to 17 other retweets and 8 favorites:

Feliciano said, “It’s about time that South Carolina (says) hey, We’re tired of the ambiguously gay senator from South Carolina. We’re ready for a new leader to merge the Republican Party. We’re done with this. This is what it’s about, all of us coming together and saying, one way or the other, one of us is going to be on that ballot in November.”

It was said by the (formerly) most obscure of the candidates, the suddenly-famous Dave Feliciano of Spartanburg, at a presser in which he and three others — Bill Connor, Lee Bright and Richard Cash — signed a pledge promising to support any one of their number who gets into a runoff with Graham.

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

Put another way, Bill Connor, Lee Bright and Richard Cash just pledged to support Dave Feliciano over Lindsey Graham.

Just when you thought they couldn’t take ideology far enough…

After the presser, Connor and Cash both denounced Feliciano’s characterization of the senator, but both confirmed they would still stick to the pledge, according to The State. Bright reportedly left the event before Feliciano spoke, which shows he’s not named “Bright” for nothing.

I wrote to Bill Connor via Facebook a few minutes ago to ask him again, “would you really support this Feliciano guy over Sen. Graham?” Because I still find that hard to believe. But then, I find the attitude of the kinds of Republicans who would oppose Graham sort of hard to believe, so this is not surprising.

Bright goes out of his way to make Graham look good

To reasonable people. You know, people who would think that a member of a loyal opposition would want to help the secretary of state with a difficult matter bearing on a huge international crisis.

Here’s the release from Lee Bright:

Offers Aid to Ultra Liberal Who Embarrassed Himself Last Week

If there were any doubt that Lindsey Graham sees himself as the Senate Republican who helps liberals defeat conservatives in Congress, it was all removed yesterday as an open mic caught Graham in an awkwardly candid moment – offering political help to Secretary of State John Kerry. This is the same John Kerry who displayed an infantile view of the world last week with his “19th century” comments regarding Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine.

In a moment eerily reminiscent of Obama’s unfortunate open mic moment with Dmitry Medvedev – then President and now Prime Minister of Russia – Graham whispered to Kerry to “let me know what I can do to help you with Boehner,” indicating that the S.C. Senator would strong arm the Republican House Speaker.

“I don’t know what it is about Lindsey Graham, but he’s never seen a chance to work with liberals to sabotage his own party that he didn’t take,” said Lee Bright, the Tea Party candidate challenging Graham in the June Senate Primary. “And in this case, he was channeling his inner Obama, trying to work with a Secretary of State who just a week ago made a fool of himself on the international stage. When he knows the microphone is on, Graham pretends to be this big conservative. We see the real Lindsey exposed in this instance. Then again, I think a lot of South Carolina voters already know the real Lindsey Graham.”

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How about that weird touch, implying that the reason likely GOP primary voters wouldn’t want anyone to help Kerry is because of some faux pas he committed last week. You would think that all he would need would be to say “John Kerry,” because the SecState is, after all, John Kerry. Given his rep among Republicans, of course, the “ultra-liberal” tag is redundant, but this is coming from a segment of the GOP where redundant constructions are all the rage (how about that weird one I keep seeing, “left liberal”?).

Is the release written this way because Bright thinks his likely supporters aren’t very, you know, Bright? Why else would he have to over-explain who John Kerry is, right down to the non-sequitur about something he said last week? Does he think they can’t remember as far back as 2004?

As for what Graham said…

That is exactly the kind of behavior we should expect of our elected representatives of both parties. It was reminiscent of the collegiality that was once so common in the Senate, and which made the deliberative process possibly under difficult circumstances. It was a moment in which an honest lawmaker said, “Look, all partisan B.S. aside, you’re dealing with a difficult foreign policy situation, and I’m an American, and I’m here to help.”

Good for Lindsey. It’s good that we have at least one Senator in Washington who still understands that the idiocy is supposed to stop at the water’s edge.

Krauthammer: ‘Ya gotta love’ Graham for adding fuel to Democrats’ fire

Charles Krauthammer is getting a kick out of Lindsey Graham’s reaction to Dianne Feinstein’s accusation that the CIA has been spying on the Senate.

On FoxNews last night, the columnist said the following:

What I like the best about this is that Lindsey Graham, a Republican, comes upon the brawl, and he says that if true, the Congress should declare war on the CIA.

Interestingly, we haven’t declared war on anybody since Pearl Harbor.

Lindsey comes across a fight and he hands out Molotov cocktails to all the participants.

Ya gotta love that guy.

You can see the video above. Graham has said “This is dangerous to a democracy. Heads should roll, people should go to jail if it’s true,” and that “this is Richard Nixon stuff…”

That is a twist. You’ve got Democrats in the Senate flinging accusations at a Democratic administration, and a Republican eggs them on by saying it’s as bad as Nixon. One gathers that Republicans like watching a fight between Democrats the way schoolboys like seeing a couple of girls come to blows on the playground. (I can see Lindsey yelling down the hall, “Democrat fight!”)

Oh… and apparently Graham is enjoying the fact that Krauthammer is enjoying it. The Krauthammer clip was brought to my attention by Graham’s office.

Graham Shocker! Senator seeking answers on… you guessed it… Benghazi. Still.

This just in from our senior U.S. senator:

Graham on Benghazi

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on Benghazi.

“I’m pleased to hear that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers is going to follow up on what appears to be major inconsistencies in former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell’s testimony.  However, before calling him to testify, I strongly encourage the House and Senate leadership to establish a joint select committee to investigate this matter.

“For too long we have had various House and Senate committees, along with the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB), investigating the small pieces of Benghazi within their jurisdictions.  These are sometimes disjointed and do not always allow for a full and thorough investigation.

“A joint select committee is the best means to ensure Benghazi is fully investigated and all questions are answered once and for all.  The American people, and most importantly, the families of the four Americans who died in the attack, deserve nothing less. 

“As for Mr. Morell, he has publicly stated he welcomes the opportunity to testify in an open hearing.  To ensure proper accountability, I believe we need to declassify his previous testimony and release all communications – written, recorded, audio, and video — involving Mr. Morell’s discussions about the talking points and the role he played in this entire episode.

“Mr. Morell, in a written statement, as well as Susan Rice in her appearance last week on television, both indicated the Administration provided the best evidence available to the public on September 16, 2012.  It’s now time to declassify all the communications regarding the attack on our compounds in Benghazi so we can properly account for these statements.

“Finally, I strongly believe it will be impossible to close the books on what happened in Benghazi unless Susan Rice is called to testify before Congress about the role she played.  Although she has appeared on television shows, she has never been required to appear before Congress to answer questions about Benghazi.

“The President has said on numerous occasions that as more information is made available he would share it with the public. This statement has not borne fruit. 

“It’s past time we clear the air on Benghazi by declassifying all relevant information and having all witnesses testify. We have learned much over the past 17 months about Benghazi that justifies recalling Mr. Morell, General Petraeus, former Secretary of State Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice and others before a joint select committee of Congress.”

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It seems safe to say that Sen. Graham has reached the Ahab stage in his quest for… something… on this topic.

That said, sure, make the hearings joint, so senators can participate. I’m a little concerned about his blanket demand for declassification — maybe there are some aspects of this that need to remain classified, and I would think Graham of all people would appreciate that.

But, you know, put Susan Rice in the hot seat. Let’s have the hearings. And let chips fall where they may. Take whatever lessons are learned and apply them to prevent future security disasters such as this. And then let’s talk about other stuff.

U.S. House passes bipartisan budget deal without childish theatrics. No really; I’m not making this up…

See, you can read about it in black and white:

The House passed an 2-year bipartisan budget deal Thursday evening, possibly signaling a truce in the spending showdowns that have paralyzed Washington for the past three years.

Approval of the budget was the House’s final action of 2013. Earlier Thursday, lawmakers agreed unanimously to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets military pay and policy, and to extend current agricultural policy after negotiators failed to complete a new Farm Bill….

The budget deal appeared to mark a significant shift by House Republicans away from the uncompromising confrontation of recent years fueled by tea party-aligned politicians and outside conservative advocacy groups. After multiple standoffs and threatened defaults and one actual shutdown, polls show that the Republican brand has been badly damaged among voters, and even some of the most conservative Republicans said they were ready for a breather.

If the Senate approves the budget bill next week, as expected, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees would then work over the holidays to prepare funding bills for individual government agencies, which are likely to be combined into a single omnibus bill. …

Doesn’t that sound almost like the way grownups would legislate? This is not being hailed as the long-sought “grand bargain” or anything, but it’s something remarkable anyway, given the material we’re working with here. Which is to say, the membership of the House.

Here’s a press release from Joe Wilson about it:

Wilson Statement on the Passage of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement  

(Washington, DC) – Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) released the following statement after the House passed a bipartisan budget resolution.  This legislation provides two years of budget certainty for the federal government. In years past, the federal government has operated under continuing resolutions.

 

“When I was elected to Congress, I promised to help make a difference. The status quo is not working,” Congressman Joe Wilson said. “Government overspending while racking up trillion-dollar deficits is irresponsible, especially when we know that our children and grandchildren will be faced with the burden.

 

“House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan was able to reduce spending from its current levels to help pay down our debt without raising taxes.  For years, House Republicans have spent the better part of December in battles with Washington Democrats in hopes of not raising taxes so that the American people could keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.

 

“Additionally, President Obama’s sequester, which targets the military, has already limited our Armed Forces’ abilities to protect themselves and defend our freedoms.  Military installations across South Carolina and the Savannah River Site have faced challenges, which undermine our national security.  I have warned against the horrible impacts sequestration would impose and have done my best to advocate for those who are suffering within South Carolina’s Second Congressional District.  I am very pleased that Chairman Ryan was successful in finding common-sense reforms to replace sequestration that will not place families at risk.

 

“The road ahead will be difficult as budget debates continue for years to come.  However, we must remain hopeful that we can achieve spending reductions while promoting limited-government solutions that create jobs and spur economic growth.”

Yeah, I know — “President Obama’s sequester.” I didn’t say the partisans up there had stopped with the silly talk. But let’s focus on the action rather than the words here.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham says he will not vote for the deal when it reaches the Senate:

Graham to Oppose Budget Agreement

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said he would vote against the budget agreement when it comes to the Senate floor.

 

“After careful review of the agreement, I believe it will do disproportionate harm to our military retirees,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “Our men and women in uniform have served admirably during some of our nation’s most troubling times.  They deserve more from us in their retirement than this agreement provides.”

 

Graham noted the budget deal contains a one percent reduction in cost of living benefits for some military retirees.  The provision could significantly impact military retiree benefits.  For example:

 

·         A 42-year old who retires as an enlisted E-7 could lose a minimum of $72,000.

·         A 42-year old Lt. Colonel could lose a minimum of $109,000.

Source: Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)

 

“I support comprehensive, not piecemeal, pay and benefit reform to deal with rising military personnel costs,” said Graham.

 

“I truly appreciate Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray for their work trying to write a budget that provides relief to the Department of Defense,” concluded Graham.  “But this agreement doesn’t do enough to protect those who have spent their lives protecting our nation.”

 

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This is actually fairly consistent for Graham, who since the start has found the sequester appalling because of what it did to the military.

But isn’t it intriguing that in this moment when even Tea Party types are disciplining themselves to pass compromise legislation, trying to make up for the damage they’ve done to the GOP, Lindsey Graham is the guy standing up and saying, “No?”

 

Graham, Mulvaney: Nativity scene back up at Shaw AFB

This came in a little while ago from Sen. Graham and Rep. Mulvaney:

Nativity Scene at Shaw AFB Restored

WASHNGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, along with 5th District Congressman Mick Mulvaney, today made this statement on the Nativity scene at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina.

“We are pleased the Nativity scene has been restored at Shaw Air Force Base.  From the start, our offices have been in touch with Shaw officials expressing our concerns about this matter.  We appreciate the Air Force for listening to our complaint, keeping the Nativity scene on base, and moving it to the Chapel.”

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In case you had missed this issue, here’s a Fox News report.

The Fix cites Graham in describing GOP senators’ woes

This is from The Fix blog at The Washington Post:

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) surprised the political world Monday when he filed at the last minute to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), complicating the senator’s reelection bid just when it looked to be virtually problem-free….

Stockman is far from an A-list challenger. He has a knack for controversial statements and a dearth of campaign funds. But among a Texas GOP electorate in which Cornyn is no hero, he shouldn’t be counted out.

Nor should underdog tea party-aligned challengers to Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.),Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), or Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) have drawn higher-caliber opponents….

That’s probably about the way to put it with Alexander. It’s not exactly that he’s in trouble, so much as you can’t count his many challengers out — especially if one of the stronger ones gets him into a runoff.

When I hear that Lamar Alexander — whom I covered in his successful gubernatorial election way back in 1978 — is in trouble, it tells me Republicans in Tennessee have gone nuts while I wasn’t watching them.

He’s one of the dwindling number of sensible people in Washington.

Lindsey Graham to enroll in Obamacare — which is kinda weird for several reasons

When you think about it, it’s kind of an odd thing for him to do. For a number of reasons.

For instance, when you just look at the headline, it sounds like a vote of confidence (See? I believe in Obamacare enough to sign up for it even when I don’t have to!) — which isn’t going to endear him to that portion of the base he has so many problems with. That’s not what he’s doing, of course, but how many of those voters are going to dig deeper and appreciate that he’s doing it as a protest?

Anyway, here’s the release:

Graham Will Enroll in Obamacare South Carolina Exchange, Decline Taxpayer Subsidy for Members of Congress

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) will enroll in Obamacare’s South Carolina health care exchange and forego the special taxpayer subsidy available to Members of Congress.

 

“I don’t think Members of Congress should get a special deal,” said Graham.  “Obamacare is being pushed on the American people and we should live under it just like everyone else.”

 

Graham noted that under a special exemption issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), he could have enrolled in the DC Health Link exchange and the government would have continued subsidizing about 75 percent of his health care premium.  This exemption only applied to Members of Congress and congressional staff.

 

“As a 58-year old male living in Oconee County my insurance costs are going up about $400 a month, more than 200 percent, under Obamacare,” said Graham.  “In addition, my health care coverage will be a fraction of what it used to be.  Sadly, I’m not the only one who will feel the negative effects of Obamacare.  It’s happening all over South Carolina.

 

“The worst is yet to come, but I will continue my fight to repeal, replace, defund and allow Americans to opt-out of this horrible government program,” concluded Graham.

 

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Some questions and observations that occur to me as I read that:

  1. Will he try to do it via the website? If so, is this intended to be the first of a series documenting the difficulties that regular folks may or may not be experiencing with that interface?
  2. Is the angry part of the base really likely to see this as identifying with them and sharing their troubles? I mean, don’t the folks who hate Obamacare mostly folks who have insurance with their employers, and don’t they tend to generalize people who will actually be on Obamacare as the kinds of freeloaders they despise? I mean, isn’t that the shorthand for Tea Partiers? Doesn’t he, by signing up for it, become even more one of them, a manifestation of the Other?
  3. If he succeeds in his “fight to repeal, replace, defund,” will he then go back on the cushy congressional plan, or will he, like the people who actually depend on Obamacare, just go without medical coverage? Now that would be one for the books. If he does the first, it makes him look like a hypocrite. If he does the latter, it exposes the need, if not for Obamacare, then for something that achieves the same goals, which is not what the problematic portion of his base wants to have rubbed in their faces. It really sets up an interesting problem.
  4. Consider the part about “allow Americans to opt-out of this horrible government program.” Here’s the thing about that… No program that achieves or approaches the actual, legitimate goals of healthcare reform (that is to say, effective universal coverage) can allow people to “opt out.” If people can opt out, you’ve got a lousy system that accomplishes nothing and is too expensive to maintain. Everybody knows, or should know, this. Mitt Romney knew it, for instance. There is no reform without a mandate. One of the problems with Obamacare is that the mandate is too weak — you can “opt out” by paying a penalty that is less than the cost of participating, at least at first.

Perhaps other thoughts will occur to y’all. In any case, I thought this a weird way to dramatize his position.

Graham, McCain, et al.: Say ‘no’ to any Iran deal that eases sanctions, lets nuke program continue

This just in from Lindsey Graham:

GRAHAM, SCHUMER, MENENDEZ, MCCAIN, CASEY, COLLINS URGE ADMINISTRATION NOT TO ACCEPT IRAN DEAL THAT CUTS BACK SANCTIONS BUT ALLOWS IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM TO CONTINUE

 

With Geneva Negotiations Set to Resume, Senators Express Concern with Reported Deal Administration Currently Weighing – Plan Would Provide Relief from Sanctions without Significantly Rolling Back Iranian Progress towards Nuclear Weapon

 

Group of Senators Praise Administration’s Use of Sanctions Thus Far, Urges Negotiators to ensure that Concessions and Gains are Proportionate

 

Senators: Focus Should Be on Achieving a Balanced Deal That Rolls Back Iran’s Progress towards a Nuclear Weapon

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, Charles E. Schumer, Robert Menendez, John McCain, Bob Casey and Susan Collins wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing their support for negotiations but cautioning the Administration against accepting a deal with Iran that would roll back economic sanctions without also rolling back progress towards nuclear weapons capability. According to media reports, Administration negotiators have considered accepting an agreement that would provide relief for the Iranian regime from the debilitating economic sanctions while only requiring the Iranians to halt their work towards a nuclear weapon, rather than undoing the progress they have already made.

 

The senators wrote, “We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that the P5+1 is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.

 

“It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability.  We must ensure that the steps we take in the coming weeks and months move us towards a resolution that ultimately brings Iran in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, seeks to prevent Tehran from possessing any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and resolves any and all fears that Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability.”

 

Under the reported agreement, the P5+1 is prepared to permit Iran to continue enriching uranium at 3.5% for civilian use, to cap but not reduce the number of centrifuges, and to continue work near the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. The senators argue that these steps may suggest Iran is willing to temporarily slow its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, but they would allow Iran to continue making some progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon under the cover of further negotiations.

 

In return, Iran would receive relief from economic sanctions, including access to previously-frozen assets. The senators said the reported agreement, “does not give us confidence that Iran is prepared to abandon unambiguously its nuclear weapons pursuit altogether, as it must.”

 

The full text of the letter appears below:

 

Dear Secretary Kerry:

We appreciate your continued efforts, in concert with our friends and allies, to negotiate with the Iranian regime. We also commend the efforts of your negotiating team to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.  Our negotiators have benefited from the effects of tough economic sanctions in bringing Iran to the table.  Without the Administration, Congress, and our allies working together, we would not have arrived at this crucial point.

Indeed, we support the concept of an interim agreement with Iran that would roll back its nuclear program as a first step to seeking a final settlement that prevents Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability. At the same time, we are concerned that the interim agreement would require us to make significant concessions before we see Iran demonstrably commit to moving away from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

It is our understanding that the interim agreement now under consideration would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations Security Council resolutions which require Iran to suspend its reprocessing, heavy water-related and enrichment-related activities and halt ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, or heavy water-related facilities. For example, we understand that the P5+1 is prepared to permit Iran to continue enriching uranium at 3.5 percent albeit for civilian use, to cap but not reduce its number of centrifuges, and to continue work around or near the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. While the interim agreement may suggest that Iran could be willing temporarily to slow its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, it could also allow Iran to continue making some progress toward that end under the cover of negotiations. This does not give us confidence that Iran is prepared to abandon unambiguously its nuclear weapons pursuit altogether, as it must.

Furthermore, it is our understanding that in return for certain Iranian actions, the P5+1 would allow Iran to gain access to considerable amounts of capital that have been frozen by our international sanctions. Some have estimated the value of this capital for Iran as much as $10 billion. We regard this as a major concession on our part that would not be justified by the concessions the Iranian regime would be required to make in return. If we are reducing sanctions, Iran should be reducing its nuclear capabilities.

As you know, it is not just the sanctions themselves but the threat that they would continue to tighten that has brought the Iranians to the negotiating table. Easing sanctions now without real, tangible actions by Iran to roll back its nuclear program would not only diminish this threat of future pressure, it could make it more difficult to maintain the current sanctions regime at a time when many international actors are already eager to lessen their implementation of sanctions. We feel strongly that any easing of sanctions along the lines that the P5+1 is reportedly considering should require Iran to roll back its nuclear program more significantly than now envisioned.

It is our belief that any interim agreement with the Iranians should bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is Iran without a nuclear weapons capability.  We must ensure that the steps we take in the coming weeks and months move us towards a resolution that ultimately brings Iran in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, seeks to prevent Tehran from possessing any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and resolves any and all fears that Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability.

The upcoming round of negotiations could hardly be more important and we must be ever mindful of with whom we are negotiating. Iran has been the largest state sponsor of terrorism for over thirty years; its leaders routinely call for the destruction of Israel; and it arms and finances terrorist groups around the globe. We urge you and your negotiating team to fight for an interim agreement that demands as much or more of Iran as it does of the United States and our allies. We hope in the next few weeks we and our partners will redouble our efforts to gain greater proportionality and to finalize an agreement that demonstrates that Iran is moving away from the nuclear weapons path.

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Another primary opponent for Graham: Bill Connor

Bill Connor is still playing it rather coy with his Facebook peeps:

Friends, I have a major announcement to make on Monday, but this weekend I plan to focus on military obligations (spending time with my Citadel teaching team) and spending the other time with my family. I appreciate that many calls and texts, and e-mails and will be in touch with everyone next week. In the meantime, I will make a special request for your prayers for my family. “The Lord is my Shepherd” and I follow Him.

But The State reports that he’s actually already filed:

Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor, who lost the 2010 Republican runoff for lieutenant governor to Ken Ard, has filed to run against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in next June’s Republican primary, according to federal election documents.

Connor becomes the fourth Republican to oppose Graham in the primary, joining state Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg, Easley businessman Richard Cash and Charleston public-relations executive Nancy Mace…

When I saw him a couple of weeks back, Lindsey Graham indicated that as far as he was concerned, he loved having three opponents.

But four could be one too many. Also, i think he has a little more reason to worry about Bill Connor than about the others who have previously jumped into the ring.

Bill Connor

Bill Connor

He’s a somewhat more traditional conservative than his opponents — more the values-voter, God-and-Country type than the SC-should-print-its-own-money-again sort. Or at least, in the statements I’ve seen so far. He’s paid some dues in the party, currently serving as the 6th-District chairman. He’s got a solid military record, having served in a combat role in Afghanistan. He’s run a statewide primary race before (losing the lieutenant governor nomination to Ken Ard). And he’s just gone out and had new portraits taken of his family. (I still remember how deeply impressed John Courson was when Mark Sanford sent out family portraits as Christmas cards before running for governor: “Fine-looking family — Kennedyesque… Kennedyesque!” You have to imagine it in Courson’s distinctive voice and accent.)

Lt. Col. Connor could be a more likely vote-getter. That doesn’t mean the incumbent’s in trouble. But it does make things a little more interesting.

Hmm… Does Graham WANT Christie to campaign for him?

Graham, consoling the family after Lee Bandy's funeral.

Graham, consoling the family after Lee Bandy’s funeral.

This morning, the national buzz is all about Chris Christie having positioned himself so well for the presidency in 2016. The talk is so far along that I couldn’t resist joking:

rigmarole

But the very qualities that make Christie attractive as a general-election candidate (Republicans are fairly swooning over his getting 51 percent of the Latino vote) get him in trouble with the national GOP base. Most of it is silly, symbolic stuff, such as his making nice with President Obama (you know, the guy who was rushing billions in aid toward his state) after the hurricane. But you know how the base (in each of the parties) can be about the silly, symbolic stuff.

In fact, the reservations harbored by many of the people who, had they been in Virginia, would have voted for Ken Cuccinelli are such that I find myself wondering about this:

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) re-election bid will evidently get a lift from one of the most popular governors in the country and a top 2016 contender….

According to the Times, Christie informed Republicans in South Carolina he intends to go to bat for Graham, who is facing a GOP primary next year.

poll released last week showed Graham’s approval rating taking a big hit in South Carolina, including a steep drop among GOP voters. …

Yeahhh… that’s the thing. The GOP voters who are mad at Graham are likely to be the ones least charmed by Christie.

So, I ask — is Christie coming here a plus or a minus for Graham? Thoughts?

Graham to block all Obama nominees over Benghazi

This morning, Lindsey Graham Tweeted:

We now know #Benghazi was the result of a pre-planned terrorist attack by high-level al-Qaeda operatives. It was never a protest of a video.

And I responded:

But haven’t we known that for a year — like, from the first week….?

I still don’t get the intensity and duration of Sen. Graham’s umbrage toward the administration over the horrible events at Benghazi 13 months ago. Particularly since I don’t recall the cover-up; I distinctly remember reading that administration officials were saying it was a terrorist attack within hours after first reports came in.

And now — this indiscriminate use of the Senate’s advice-and-consent power, and of one senator’s ability to gum up the works, seems contrary to Graham’s own principles:

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday he will hold up “every appointment” in the Senate until more questions are answered on Benghazi.

“I’m going to block every appointment in the United States Senate until the survivors [of the attack in Benghazi] are being made available to the Congress,” Graham said on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends.” “I’m tired of hearing from people on TV and reading about stuff in books.”…

Is he not the guy who goes around saying that elections have consequences, and that the president’s wishes regarding nominees should be respected, barring strong, specific reasons to the contrary? So how can he block all nominations, regardless of the respective merits in each case, in order to try to force the administration to do something unrelated? Whatever happened to the spirit of the Gang of 14?

This escalation is said to have been brought on by a “60 Minutes” segment last night. I can see how the senator might be incensed to see CBS reporting things that the administration refuses to provide to Congress.

But this blanket blocking of nominees seems disproportionate to me…

Graham: Mace partnership with Folks ‘might come up’

Lindsey Graham pays respects to Mary Bandy and other members of the family on Saturday.

Lindsey Graham pays respects to Mary Bandy and other members of the family on Saturday.

I’m writing this as a tribute to Lee Bandy, because if he’d been there and heard this, funeral or not, he’d have jumped on it.

As Aaron Sheinin related in an earlier post, Lee would wait until people like me got done with the wonkish, nerdy political stuff, and ask questions about the horse race — such as the one that irritated John McCain so much

Anyway, I mentioned standing in line with Lindsey Graham for a considerable time at the reception after Lee’s funeral, and we talked about a number of things, including the horse race stuff that was always Bandy’s meat.

I mentioned his three primary opponents, and he expressed his great satisfaction that he has three opponents. That number, he said, seems just about right for his purposes.

He seemed to marvel particularly at the great gift of having Lee Bright running against him. He said he doesn’t have to do much more than mention how it just might put a crimp in business in South Carolina if we were to abandon the U.S. dollar.

I mentioned something about Nancy Mace’s longtime partnership (just ended) with Will Folks in FITSnews, and the senator said yeah, that association might come up in the campaign.

“You mean, you might bring it up?” I asked.

Not exactly, he said. Just… it might come up.

Yeah, I guess it might…

Actually, I’m not entirely sure that would be a bad thing for Nancy with the voters she (and Bright, and Richard Cash) is going after. There are probably a lot of Will’s loyal readers in that demographic. Others, however, may be put off by the fact that news stories about the site tend to say something like this in the lede: “a website whose editor, Will Folks, said GOP Gov. Nikki Haley had an affair with him, a claim Haley denied.” Because a lot of those same voters they want love the governor, and consider that whole thing to be some kind of liberal media conspiracy to hurt their Nikki.

So, for Nancy Mace, her association with Will could be a wash…

Gathering to say goodbye to Lee Bandy

Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford, at reception following Lee Bandy's funeral.

Lindsey Graham and Mark Sanford, at reception following Lee Bandy’s funeral.

Above are some of the better-known people who showed up at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia yesterday to pay their respects to the inimitable Lee Bandy.

There were other politicos, such as Sen. John Courson and former Attorney General Henry McMaster. But far more numerous were present and former colleagues of Lee’s from The State.

With the emphasis being on “former.”

Lindsey Graham wondered whether there were more alumni of the paper in the receiving line — which wound all the way around the fellowship hall — than the present total newsroom employment, and I looked around and said yes, almost certainly.

The former certainly outnumbered the present at the lunch that some of us went to at the Thirsty Fellow after the funeral and reception. That group is pictured below. Of those at the table, only three currently work at The State. The rest are at The Post and Courier in Charleston, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and various other places. Some are free-lancing. Some of us, of course, aren’t in the game at the moment.

That night was when we gave Lee a proper newspaper send-off. There were about 50 of us at Megan Sexton and Sammy Fretwell’s house. At one point in the evening, we crowded into a ragged circle in the biggest room in the house to share Bandy stories. The first couple of speakers were fairly choked up. Then Aaron Sheinin of the AJC cheered us up by saying, “What would we all say if he walked in that door right now?” And immediately, we all raised our glasses and shouted, “Bandy!”

So we went around the room, and after each testimonial — some poignant, some humorous, some both — we hoisted our glasses and cried out his name again. Just the way we did during his lifetime, in a tone infused with delight. That was the way everyone greeted him, from presidents to senators to political professionals to his fellow scribes. Everyone was glad to see him.

And everyone was deeply sorry to see him go.

There was in the room a rosy glow of remembrance of what we had all meant to each other once, and a joy at regaining that comradeship, if only for an evening. But none of the rest of us will have a sendoff like Bandy’s, nor will any of us deserve it as much…

Thirsty

Lindsey Graham is a stand-up guy who’s there for his country when it counts.

I’ve said this in the past. It remains true.

My friends here on the blog love to abuse Lindsey, for one of the very things I admire him for — his refusal to go along with either herd. (And when I say “either,” I refer to the only two that our pathetically inadequate modern political vocabulary allow as conceivable possibilities.)

We know how the right despises him — to the extent that “right” adequately describes those who despise him. I refuse to use the word “conservative,” because these destructive bomb-throwers don’t deserve it. They care for nothing but purity — a kind of purity produced by a distillation process like that of moonshine: It, too, will make you go blind.

My friends on the left love to applaud him when he is infuriating those on the right the most. Then, when he acts like what he is — an actual conservative — they talk about how disappointed they are in him. Even though he is the best, by their own lights, that they are ever likely to see representing South Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

Since I don’t subscribe to either of these temples of purity, I like him most of the time — probably most of all when he’s alienating both extremes of the spectrum.

Do I strongly disagree with him? Yes, frequently. But I expect that. There’s no one on the planet with whom I agree all of the time. That’s the way it is among people who think, rather than buying their positions on political issues off the shelf, as a package, all from column A and none from column B.

Anyway, bottom line, he’s a stand-up guy because he’s there when his country needs him, as it did earlier this week:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham was the only Republican in South Carolina’s GOP-dominated congressional delegation who voted for the deal that reopened the federal government.

President Barack Obama signed the shutdown bill into law late Wednesday after the Senate passed it by an 81-18 vote and the House approved it by a 285-144 margin. Three-fifths of the Senate’s 46 Republicans voted for the legislation, while a similar share of the House’s 232 Republicans opposed it.

Graham, a second-term senator facing a contested re-election campaign, broke with Sen. Tim Scott, a North Charleston Republican in his first year as a senator.

“This agreement is far from great news, but it brings to an end, at least temporarily, a disaster” Graham said….

A lot of folks, particularly those of the liberal persuasion, have been bemoaning how Graham is “running to the right” as he faces re-election next year. But is it really wrong to emphasize the things on which you agree with your base, as you face a primary?

But at this dramatic moment, when the “purity” caucus is looking to you for a purely symbolic vote, but voting that way will push the U.S. and global economies down the stairs, what does he do? He does the right thing, for the country and the world.

That’s being a stand-up guy.