It’s not often that a Republican stands up to Fox News. But Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) took host Sean Hannity to task on Tuesday, defending previous remarks in which he called the Fox News host “polarizing.”
“I believe you’re a principled fellow, but I’ve come to conclude that the Republican Party as a whole needs to knock off some of this stuff,” Graham said on Hannity's show.
Last week, Graham joked about political polarization in an interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd, asking Todd to imagine a “Saturday Night Live” sketch of the Constitution being drafted in modern times.
“Ben Franklin comes outside and Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity jump on him, ‘Don’t give in, Ben,’” Graham said. “Just think how hard it is in today’s 24/7 news cycle. … There is a group telling you to say no about everything.”
While Graham maintains a hard conservative line on foreign policy and social issues, he has staked out a relatively moderate position in a number of other areas, such as immigration.
Hannity invited Graham on his program to address the comments, and argued that polarization was not necessarily a bad thing. “You’re claiming that we’re responsible for polarizing,” Hannity told the senator. “Wasn’t Martin Luther King polarizing in a good way, standing up for justice?”
Graham defended his remarks on Hannity's show, singling out immigration and the budget as two issues he and the host disagree on.
Over the past decade, immigration reform has been stymied by partisan disagreements. Hard-line conservatives want the borders “secured” before the undocumented population in the U.S. is addressed, while Democrats and some Republicans want these issues dealt with in tandem. Hannity has taken the former stance, which Graham said on Tuesday was untenable.
“What I am saying is that your solutions don’t work,” Graham said. “At the end of the day, you can’t secure the border unless you tell the Democrats what’s going to happen with the 11 million [undocumented].”
Graham also criticized Hannity’s plan for balancing the budget, which he said didn’t raise revenue sufficiently. The South Carolina senator asked Hannity if he would eliminate tax deductions to help pay down the national debt.
“No,” Hannity countered. “I would cut a penny out of every dollar and eliminate baseline budgeting and you can balance the budget in six years.”
“No, you can’t,” Graham said flatly. “Young people have to work longer and people at our income level are going to have to take a little less, or we’re going to destroy this country.”
Graham also seemed to take issue with Republicans’ brinkmanship over budget issues and health care, which has led in the past to threats of government shutdown, as well as one actual shutdown.
“You’re not going to get Obama to repeal Obamacare because we threatened to shut down the government," he said.