April 12, 2011
Lindsey Graham: The Little Metrosexual That Could
Call him the little metrosexual that could.
The fussy, fastidious, and pampered senator from South Carolina just keeps chugging along supremely impressed with the face looking out from the mirror in his posh Senate office and his status as the Beltway insiders' favorite Republican. "I'm [...] at the front of the line" for Barack Obama on Capitol Hill, he brags to the New York Times, which describes his "delight" in letting "people know" how important he is. After all, he is Lindsey Graham and he is Washington, nestled among the Beltway's palace courtiers like a flea on a Carolina Dog. And, in the battle raging for the future and soul of the nation, it is well to remember he is everything that is wrong with the Republican Party in Washington; indeed, he is everything that is wrong with both parties.
He is Lindsey Graham and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy is his role model. Sure, he admired the Massachusetts liberal's "energy and passion" but it was his "practicality" that most impressed Graham. Kennedy made sure that Graham got the cover he needed to vote his way while keeping the folks back home happy. Say one thing in Washington and another for those not as smart and not as "important." Sure, he is known as a "hypocrite" back home and behind in the polls. And yes, they say he's in trouble in 2014 when next up for reelection, but -- well, they'll forget about it. After all, they're in South Carolina and he's in Washington. He's important, and they're not. He learned that from Ted Kennedy, master; and now he is Lindsay Graham, grasshopper.
He is Lindsey Graham and he is Washington. His ego, his Politico-anointed status as one of official Washington's "top 50 party animals" comes first. It's all about me, me, me, and not that coastal state with the blazing sun and dreary flatlands filled with even drearier people, "bigots" who need to "shut up" and leave the governing to him. "I'm a winner, pal," he yelled at a heckler who called him out for supporting the Obama agenda during a rare visit to South Carolina. And you, you Tea Party buffoons, you'll be just a memory while I priss and prance from one party to the next, hailed by the New York Times and GQ magazine and MSNBC, and celebrated by La Raza, which has charitably been described as a "racist illegal alien support group." Hey, in midtown Manhattan, at GQ and Vanity Fair magazines, just a BMW billboard or so away from the New York Times headquarters, I'm one of their "favorite" senators. Heck, even Michelle Obama likes me.
Admired by the political and media elites for his willingness, as the New York Times put it, "to buck his own party," he cherishes his role as the Republican most beloved by the White House. He melts when the Washington Post's Dana Milbank gushes that "he towers above his Senate Republican colleagues." And he puffs out a scrawny chest when the Times chooses him to partner with Sen. John Kerry in an op-ed touting the need for global warming legislation and centralized control of the energy industry from Washington. That's what gets him the invitations to the parties, the nights chatting up Chris Matthews and "his pal" Margaret Carlson (the liberal media icon who views the Tea Party as a cult of crazies threatening professional Washington), and causes even Rahm Emanuel to enthuse, "I just like Lindsey. I just like him."
And they do...because, you see, Lindsey Graham is extraordinarily and relentlessly pliable, trading dignity and constituents for a GQ magazine profile that lets the world know that...hey, he's grown beyond South Carolina. In fact, he joined the laughter as the magazine made fun of the boiled peanut roots that he's traded for endless rounds of Beltway insider flattery. As the Washington Post's Salon.com pointed out, he's made "narcissism an art," the king of self-absorption in a town devoted to self-absorption. When it all comes down to it, he's a southern-fried Chuck Schumer, joining with the Democrat senator from Manhattan to make the nation safe for expanded government, illegal immigrants, global warming bureaucracy, and pontificating senators.
You name the issue and he's willing to trade votes for attention and, as he sees it, the center of power. It's not about values and the jes' plain folks of South Carolina -- it's about Lindsey Graham, it's about being recognized in Washington and Manhattan and Beverly Hills as important. Nothing is sacred, not even the U.S. Constitution when he can bask in the cheers of inside Washington stalwarts such as Schumer and Harry Reid. His latest sally, this time against the First Amendment right of free speech, shows why he is Barack Obama's most frequent Republican visitor to the White House. Free speech is a "great idea," he intones, but the Constitution needs amending to allow room for censorship from Washington. Another attention-getting "one liner" from the Beltway social scene's "perfect guest," guaranteed to draw cheers.
Clever. Witty. Inside Washington's gift to the Republican Party. Sure, conservatives may say he's gone over to the "dark side," a dog that won't hunt back in Greenville or Lexington. And sure, home state Republicans are increasingly outraged at his Edward Kennedy-esque views. But he is Lindsey Graham and he is a frequent companion of Margaret Carlson on her "evening 'drive-bys'," knocking "off four events in one evening via 20-minute intervals." Parties matter. The right people matter. Palmettos and Tea Partiers don't.
And those rumors about being gay? He's not, he says, but he loves, just loves the talk and attention, especially from the White House. As a Salon headline put it, "South Carolina's oh-so-'reasonable' senator professes his heterosexuality, revels in White House attention." After all, he is Lindsey Graham and he is "The Official Reasonable Republican of the United States Senate," trading anything and everything for the spotlight, boldly announcing that he's just fussy, not gay and "not going out with [gay] singer Ricky Martin."
He is Lindsey Graham and he's not worried about the rumors. Besides, they'll stop soon enough when he gets rid of the First Amendment.
Stuart Schwartz, a frequent AT contributor, is on the faculty of Liberty University in Virginia.