Why is Sen. Lindsey Graham now Obama's antagonist in chief?
Not long ago, the Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was seen as a 'maverick' Republican willing to work across the aisle. But there appears to be a clear reason for his rightward shift.
Amid all the controversy over President Obama's cabinet picks, it's been hard not to notice that the face of Republican opposition has lately seemed to be embodied more and more by one man in particular: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.Skip to next paragraph
Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.
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Senator Graham has been one of the administration's most vocal critics on the Benghazi matter, helping torpedo UN Ambassador Susan Rice's chances to become secretary of State as a near-ubiquitous presence on cable news and the Sunday shows. Just this week, he suggested he might place a hold on the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director until the administration stops what he calls its "stonewalling" on the matter.
Graham is also among those leading the charge against the nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense secretary, calling it an "in your face" pick, and "incredibly controversial." He reluctantly voted for the recent "fiscal cliff" deal, but has vowed to oppose raising the debt ceiling next month unless Congress agrees to significant entitlement reforms. He says he will oppose any efforts to pass a new assault-weapons ban.
None of this would be particularly eyebrow-raising – except that in many ways it's a sharp change of direction for Graham. Like his closest Senate ally, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Graham was until fairly recently most often seen as one of those "independent" Republicans who could give his own party more trouble than the opposition. As recently as 2010, a profile in The New York Times magazine described Graham as "contentedly discussing the various fellow South Carolina conservatives who dislike him – Tea Partiers, Constitutionalists, immigration hardliners," and noted that he had apparently logged more White House visits than any other Republican senator (other than, perhaps, Maine's Susan Collins).