As the GOP embraces the reactionary politics and anti-government zealotry of the Tea Party, it is steadily purging “moderates” and empowering extremists. Nothing shows this trend more clearly than the lineup of potential Republican presidential candidates. In this new series, we’ll be looking at the records and promises of the Republican Party’s leading presidential prospects. Next up is Lindsey Graham:
For Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stoking fear makes him an expert on national security. While no one doubts the threat of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, Graham has played up wild fears as part of his naked political ambition to frame himself as the “security candidate,” even naming his Super PAC Security Through Strength.
Graham believes America is facing a “perfect storm” of terrorism and, using the same talking points used by terrorists who claim to represent Islam, said that the U.S. is in a religious war: “We’re in a religious war. These are not terrorists. They’re radical Islamists who are trying to replace our way of life with their way of life. Their way of life is motivated by religious teachings that require me and you to be killed, or enslaved, or converted.”
“This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home,” Graham said of ISIS, demanding that President Obama send in ground troops to fight ISIS members. He also said that he sees an “American city in flames” because “of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq.”
In September of 2013, Graham predicted that the Syrian Civil War would lead to an all-out war between Iran and Israel in six months time, which would then lead to a nuclear device coming into the U.S. “in the belly of a ship in the Charleston or New York harbor.” (These statements were later cited by far-right conspiracy theorists who believed Obama nearly nuked Charleston as part of a false flag operation.)
Revealing his trademark paranoia after Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address, Graham said that the “the world is literally about to blow up” while Obama is “doing nothing.”
“They are coming here,” Graham said of ISIS during a Fox News interview. “And if we get attacked because he has no strategy to protect us, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”
Despite his absolutely atrocious record on foreign policy predictions, Graham still insisted on Meet the Press that “the world is falling apart and I’ve been more right than wrong when it comes to foreign policy.”
Graham also accused Obama of prioritizing efforts to combat Ebola over fighting ISIS, while simultaneously criticizing him for showing a weak approach towards eradicating Ebola.
The South Carolina senator is one of the most vocal peddlers of myths about the 2012 Benghazi attack, even denouncing a Republican-led report, which joined all the other official panels that investigated the attacks in debunking right-wing accusations, calling it “full of crap” and “a bunch of garbage” since it knocked down many of his own beliefs about the event. He also blocked all presidential nominations over a CBS report about the attack which was later refuted and pulled by the news company. Even after CBS retracted the report the senator cited, Graham nonetheless said he stood by his decision. Unsurprisingly, Graham contributed to the discredited story, which he used to blast the “scumbags” in the Obama administration.
When a Florida pastor with a small church sparked violent incidents abroad when he very-publicly burned copies of the Qu’ran, Graham said that he wished “we could find some way to hold people accountable” and went on to question free speech rights: “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During World War II, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy.”
Perhaps Jon Stewart captures Graham’s spirit best: