Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) offered unusually blunt assessments of the fringe elements of his party and conservative media on Thursday, calling the popular and bombastic Fox News host Glenn Beck a "cynic" whose show was antithetical to American values.
"Only in America can you make that much money crying," Graham said of Beck. "Glenn Beck is not aligned with any party. He is aligned with cynicism and there has always been a market for cynics. But we became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers."
Appearing before a crowd of Washington's elite power players and opinion-makers, Graham spoke largely without filter, offering acidic takes on subject well beyond Beck. The Senator called the birther community that questions the president's U.S. citizenship "crazy" and implored them to "knock this crap off" so the country could get on to more important matters.
"I'm here to tell you that those who think the president was not born in Hawaii are crazy," said Graham, who went on to dispel another myth: that Obama is a closet Muslim.
Speaking before The Atlantic's First Draft of History conference, Graham also ventured to call "crazy" a recent article on Newsmax, laying out how a military coup could overtake the Obama administration.
But he insisted that the demagoguery and wild emotions were prevalent to the fringes of both political parties. "There are people out there saying crazy things on our side of the aisle," he said, "there were people saying crazy things about President Bush. That's just the way it is. "
And he insisted that the opposition to Obama was (largely) not based in racial politics.
"How can you go from [the election]," he asked, "and then have a race problem a few months later? There are people in this party who are having a tough time reconciling having a black president.... But most of these people carrying around crazy signs would applaud Alan Keyes. They are very passionate about their politics and if Alan Keyes spoke at their conference they go through the roof."
Reflecting comments made earlier in the day by his colleague and close friend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Graham said he was deeply worried about "the passions of cable TV" whipping up the emotions of the public. "If you get rewarded for being a jerk you are going to keep doing it," he said, before labeling "Talk radio, MoveOn.org, and the 24-hour news cycle" as the main culprits in polarizing the nation.
"Can you imagine doing D-Day with cable television?" he asked. "Can you imagine writing the Constitution -- you know, O'Reilly says Ben Franklin's giving in on something. Can you imagine having to do that in this environment?"