John Kerry’s little helper

What does Lindsey Graham have to do to attract a serious primary challenge? Get caught on tape aiding the Democrats?

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If so, such a primary challenge should have already emerged. A hot microphone captured the Republican senator praising Secretary of State John Kerry’s testimony in favor of a foreign aid package and offering to “help” with House Speaker John Boehner.

“Hey John, good job,” Graham said. “Let me know what I can do to help you with Boehner.”

Graham’s willingness to work with Democrats on foreign aid isn’t limited to Ukraine or reforming the International Monetary Fund. When Rand Paul’s political action committee ran ads against swing state Democrats who voted against his amendment suspending aid to Egypt, Libya and Pakistan, Graham defended the Democrats.

“Joe Manchin works with Barack Obama to send billions of our taxpayer dollars to countries where radicals storm our embassies, burn our flag and kill our diplomats,” said the narrator in one of Paul’s ads. Graham held a conference call with Manchin supporting the West Virginia Democrat’s vote.

“I very much would like to have a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Senate,” Graham said, as quoted by the Charleston Gazette. “But when it comes to foreign policy and the matters of war, I think we need to be bipartisan.”

That’s not the only time Graham has been “bipartisan,” however. He voted to confirm both of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Kagan and Sotomayor would go on to supply two of the five votes upholding Obamacare.

Nicknamed “Grahamnesty,” Graham has championed the Democratic-led immigration legislation that has already cost Marco Rubio considerable conservative support.

Graham voted for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout that helped give rise to the Tea Party. “Instead of forcing Wall Street to pay the price for bad investments, you have the federal government coming to bail them out,” Republican South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis said. “That is the antithesis of conservatism.”

Lindsey GrahamSome might say the same about Graham’s backpedaling on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is a commitment most Republicans make not to raise taxes. “I’m willing to move my party, or try to, on the tax issue,” Graham said in June 2012. “I need someone on the Democratic side being willing to move their party on structural changes to entitlements.”

“I just think that makes a lot of sense. And if I’m willing to do that as a Republican, I’ve crossed a Rubicon,” said Graham, who indicated he could support new tax revenues if each dollar raised was matched with $4 in spending cuts. He was later quoted by the New York Times as saying he was open to new revenues to prevent cuts to military spending through sequestration.

Grover Norquist replied, “Lindsey Graham in not a thought leader in the Republican Party.” Graham has countered that he is only talking about closing tax loopholes, not raising tax rates.

Nevertheless, Graham is willing to open loopholes in the Bill of Rights. He considers the American homeland a “battlefield” in the war on terror and supports a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act widely interpreted as permitted the indefinite detention of American citizens.

The senior senator from South Carolina has summed up his view on civil liberties as follows: “When they say, I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer!”

He has been a consistent defender of the Obama administration’s warrantless surveillance program. Graham has said Americans “don’t have anything to worry about” unless they’re “talking to the terrorists.”

Graham nevertheless supports arming Syrian rebel groups, despite some of the rebels having ties to al-Qaeda, and backed Obama’s proposed war with Syria.

All this seems to be enough to justify a primary challenge. In 2012, the Club for Growth seemed to think so. The group’s president told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that it might support such a campaign: “If you are looking over the horizon of 2014, the sun may rise over South Carolina.”

Yet Thad Cochran, Pat Roberts, and Mitch McConnell all have stronger primary challengers than Graham. With the primary fast approaching, Graham is within striking distance of avoiding a runoff.

Challengers Lee Bright, Nancy Mace, Bill Connor, and Richard Cash all have much to recommend them. Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, has raised many of the right objections to Graham’s record. Bright is a proven liberty movement lawmaker.

All of them are languishing in the single digits in the polls. Other possible challengers, like Mick Mulvaney and Mark Sanford, have taken a pass on the race.

Graham has even been campaigning on Benghazi, despite defending Obama’s military intervention in Libya. When Republican lawmakers questioned the president’s mission, Graham said, “Congress should sort of shut up and not empower Gaddafi.”

The Tea Party hasn’t won them all, but here’s one conservatives haven’t even really contested.

Meanwhile, John Kerry gets by with a little help from his friends.

Lindsey Graham’s libertarian nightmare

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