Back in the rough and untamed ancient days of 2008, Senator John McCain used to trod this earth under a banner that read "Country First." His good friend Lindsey Graham, Senator from South Carolina, was often seen at his side, especially when duty called for the two men to stand outside America's historic Fudge Hauses.
Ahh, but so much has changed since then! Barack Obama is in the White House! Sonia Sotomayor is en route to the Supreme Court! The fudge, and all of what that once represented, is gone! And gone too, is the doctrine of "Country First." That's the takeaway, anyway, from a recent remarkable moment of honesty from Graham, on the issue of Sonia Sotomayor.
The issue at hand is President Barack Obama's support of a filibuster effort against Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. As ROLL CALL reports, part of the GOP's strategy as they approach the upcoming Sotomayor hearings is to keep Obama's past actions in the forefront, and "make the case that [Obama's] opposition to Alito and Roberts ha[s] essentially rewritten the rules of the confirmation game." However, Graham is unique among the adherents of this strategy because he's willing to admit that while it is sound party politics, it will not do the country any good at all. Still, he's going to do it anyway!
"I'm not doing the country any good looking back playing a game of tit for tat. But I'm not going to put my party at a disadvantage if this is the way the game is played," Graham said.
Interestingly, Graham seems to want to have it both ways. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Graham is, at one moment, clearly griping over this grudge he has with Obama's support for SCOTUS filibusters, saying, "If I used Sen. Obama's standards, I would never vote for her." But moments later, Graham's critique seems to omit that entirely:
"When I look at her ideology, record and philosophy, I am deeply troubled," Graham said. "There's no way as a conservative Republican I would ever pick her for the Supreme Court."
The Wall Street Journal reaches this odd conclusion:
Graham's comments underscore the partisan nature of modern Supreme Court nominations. He highlighted comments Obama made as a senator before voting against Alito's confirmation, explaining that Alito's ideology and philosophy differed from his own.
Alito was confirmed by the Senate in January 2006 on a vote of 58-42, with only four Democrats supporting his nomination.
Applying the same scrutiny to Sotomayor, Graham said he could not vote for the president's nominee simply based on her life accomplishments. And he suggested that the days of nominees eliciting only a handful of no votes from the opposing party, as in the cases of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, were over.
"I'm not going to put my party at a disadvantage," Graham said. "If this is the way we're playing the game, that's what we'll have to do."
What's unclear here is whether Graham truly intends to base his decision on whether Sotomayor's "ideology and philosophy differ[s] from his own" -- which would actually be the application of scrutiny -- or whether it will simply be a knee-jerk response to Obama's previous vote, which has nothing to do with scrutinizing Sotomayor. The two concepts seem to be conflated with one another.
But hey, Senator Graham can obviously do whatever he likes. And for my part, it's actually refreshing to hear at least one person admit that these shenanigans aren't intended in any way as a benefit for the country. Sorry about that, America! Lindsey Graham's got a game to play!