The Great Huckleberry Hope
Chris Cillizza thinks he's found the answer to Republican prayers just by flipping on his teevee on Sunday morning:
Dispirited Republicans looking for national leaders amid a wash of scandals that have dominated national news over the last fortnight got a bit of good news on Sunday with an inspired performance on "Meet the Press" by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R).
Graham, who spent the 2008 election cycle as Sen. John McCain's loyal sidekick, appeared alongside former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner in advance of 2012, and managed to stand out.
Why? Because unlike other Republicans who seem to be so fixated on scoring political points on President Obama, Graham was willing to point out where his own party had strayed while also making a reasonable argument for GOP ideals.
Asked about Gov. Mark Sanford's extramarital affair, Graham, who is close to the governor, said that he was "disappointed" in his friend's behavior and praised Obama as "one of the better role models in the entire country for the idea of being a good parent, a good father."
Of the two major legislative victories for Democrats so far this Congress -- the economic stimulus bill and the climate change measure -- Graham offered a criticism that acknowledged the mistakes his own party had made while subtly hanging the politics as usual label on Obama and Democrats.
"The stimulus package was Karl Rove politics; pick a few Republicans off, call it bipartisan," said Graham. "The climate change bill was Tom DeLay banging heads and twisting arms to get one vote more than you needed. So there's really been no change in Washington."
Even on the most divisive of issues -- the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton -- Graham managed to deflect the partisan bows and arrows slung at him, pointing out that he was the only Republican to vote against the article involving Clinton lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and adding "part of life, is failing."
This is pretty unbelievable. Somehow, calling Obama a dissembler and a thug is tempered by saying that he appears to not be sleeping around. And it's notable for Graham to point out that he voted against one article of impeachment, despite being a HOUSE MANAGER for the impeachment trial and perhaps as visible as any politician in that entire episode. Graham has been questioning the patriotism and the judgment of any Democrat in his path for well over a decade. And using the words "Karl Rove politics" or "Tom DeLay politics" hardly changes the fact that Graham's record was more conservative than DeLay when he was in the House. Graham's words about "bipartisanship" are nonsense and never match his actions.
Here's the laughable wrap-up:
Does one solid performance on a Sunday show mean that Graham is the new "it" guy for the GOP? No. But the notoriously private Graham seemed to signal on Sunday that he is ready to take more of a leadership role.
I think Graham shows up on teevee more on Sunday morning than the CBS Eye and the NBC peacock combined. "Notoriously private?" The man showed up in the background of so many John McCain rallies last year you'd think he was either McCain's running mate or his personal nurse. He's not exactly some sparkling, new figure on the political scene. But sometimes, he makes soft cooing sounds before voting in a hard-right fashion, and so the traditional media swoons.
Oh, and by the way, there's a pretty good reason that Graham has never sought higher office.