Note to media: Lindsey Graham is not a "moderate"

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

It's amazing how many Republican-friendly false assumptions Time's Jay Newton-Small can pack into one blog post.

On Friday, Newton-Small noted that under Senate Judiciary Committee rules, "one minority vote is needed to report out nominees to the bench" -- and that, with Arlen Specter leaving the GOP, it may have just gotten a bit harder to get a Republican vote to report out a Supreme Court nominee.

Here's where things begin to go off the rails:

It's amazing how many Republican-friendly false assumptions Time's Jay Newton-Small can pack into one blog post.

On Friday, Newton-Small noted that under Senate Judiciary Committee rules, "one minority vote is needed to report out nominees to the bench" -- and that, with Arlen Specter leaving the GOP, it may have just gotten a bit harder to get a Republican vote to report out a Supreme Court nominee.

Here's where things begin to go off the rails:

The current Republican Judiciary Committee members are: Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn (Roll Call is reporting that Hatch or Session -- both conservatives -- are Specter's potential successors for the ranking slot). Most of these Republicans are pretty conservative save Graham, who was a member of the Gang of 14 which, you may remember, came up with the solution to avoid the nuclear option on judges.

Lindsey Graham may speak in a soothing voice, and he may make the Villager-friendly noises about "bipartisanship" that made John McCain so popular among reporters (if not among actual voters.) But Lindsey Graham is actually quite conservative. More on that later.

In the comments section, Newton-Small wrote that the need for a minority vote will only be an issue if President Obama nominates an "uber liberal":

this ... will only come into play if Obama appoints a uber liberal nominee -- some one the right goes to war on. The existence of the rule itself is a deterrent against such an appointment.

Then, two minutes later - that isn't a figure of speech; it was literally two minutes - Newton-Small wrote:

the right is also desperate for a fight. Look at how much they hyperventilated over Sebellius and Dawn Johnson -- hardly left wing nominees. They NEED it in terms of fundraising and morale.

Now, wouldn't that seem to contradict the notion that only a "uber liberal nominee" would lead the right to "go to war"? Then again, so would basic common sense or a rudimentary knowledge of modern American politics. The Right has gone to war on everything for the past 16 years, at least.

Time readers pointed this out to Newton-Small, and - to her credit - she acknowledged it in the comments section:

Point taken. The 21 percenters will likely go to war with no matter whom Obama names. The question is: will the remaining few GOP Senate moderates like Lindsey Graham be coaxed into that war, and that's where the degree of liberalism of Obama's nominee comes into play. Get my drift?

Wait. Now Lindsey Graham is a full-on "moderate"? Nonsense. Graham was the 16th most conservative member of the 110th Senate - and keep in mind, Senate Republicans are a pretty conservative bunch. Still, Graham's voting record placed him to the right of Pete Jeff Sessions (identified by Newton-Small as a "conservative" above) and Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott and Mike Crapo and Larry Craig and Saxby Chambliss and Sam Brownback and quite a few other Senators not often thought of as anything but staunchly conservative. And Graham's voting record was to the right of all of them.

Well, maybe the 110th Senate was a fluke, you say? Nope. In the 109th, Graham had the 8th most conservative voting record. In the 108th, he had the 9th most conservative voting record. In the 107th, Graham was still in the House of Representatives - and compiled a voting record more conservative than Tom Delay's. (Above rankings can be found here.)

Well, Time's readers - if not its reporters - understand that Lindsey Graham is no moderate, and they pointed that out. That led to Newton-Small defending her description of Graham as such:

In a party of 21% -- yeah, he is a moderate. Especially on judicial issues, ie Gang of 14.

Another way of looking at it might be that in a party of 21%, nobody is much of a moderate. But Newton-Small obviously means that relative to the rest of his party, Graham is a moderate. Fine. But that isn't true, as the vote rankings detailed above make clear.

Well, it turns out that Newton-Small's evidence for Graham being a moderate pretty much boils down to his participation in the "Gang of 14." Here she is again:

I do believe that in my post I say that everyone else on the committee is more conservative SAVE Graham and then cite the Gang of 14. I'm not making some blanket statement that Lindsey Graham is a moderate on every issue, just in the prism of of the judiciary committee. Let's all take a deep breath and focus on the topic at hand: the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The current Republican Judiciary Committee members are: Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn (Roll Call is reporting that Hatch or Session -- both conservatives -- are Specter's potential successors for the ranking slot). Most of these Republicans are pretty conservative save Graham, who was a member of the Gang of 14 which, you may remember, came up with the solution to avoid the nuclear option on judges.

It's true that Lindsey Graham has a (media-created) reputation for being relatively moderate. But in the real world, Lindsey Graham has cast actual votes in the actual Senate, and Lindsey Graham's actual voting record is to the right of Orrin Hatch's, to the right of Pete Jeff Sessions', and to the right of Chuck Grassley's.

So that's the evidence that Lindsey Graham is not a moderate - he has a hard-line conservative voting record matched by few of his colleagues. What's the evidence that he is a moderate? Jay Newton-Small seems to think his membership in the "Gang of 14" is all that matters.

Why on earth would anyone think being a member of that group automatically makes you a moderate? What did the Gang actually do? (I know: I'm being a stickler for reality rather than perception. I tend to think reality matters.) They eliminated the ability of Democrats to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees, while maintaining their technical right to do so, thus ensuring the confirmation of right-wing judges like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Sam Alito. The effect of their actions was, depending on your point of view, either "very little" or "quite helpful to conservatives." (This is where someone will say that their actions prevented Republicans from exercising the nuclear option. That's just silly: their actions eliminated the reason why Republicans wanted to use it. It's like giving a robber your neighbor's television, then bragging that you stopped a burglary.)

Ah, but there were both Democrats and Republicans in the group, and they made all the right noises about "cooperation" and the "spirit of bipartisanship," and that's all it really takes to get labeled "moderate," even if the effect of your actions is anything but.

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