What passes for ‘reasonable’

WHAT PASSES FOR ‘REASONABLE’…. Following up on an item we touched on briefly yesterday, it’s worth appreciating in more detail a comment Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) made on “Meet the Press ” yesterday.

Graham was asked about raising the federal debt limit, and he acknowledged that failure to do so “would be very bad for the position of the United States in the world at large.” Graham added, however, that he’s nevertheless inclined to play a radical game of chicken, with the economy and the stability of the United States’ role in the global financial system hanging in the balance:

“I will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until I see a plan in place that will deal with our long-term debt obligations, starting with Social Security, a real bipartisan effort to make sure that Social Security stays solvent, adjusting the age, looking at means tests for benefits. On the spending side, I’m not going to vote for debt ceiling increase unless we go back to 2008 spending levels, cutting discretionary spending.”

As Jonathan Cohn notes, Graham realizes that the results of this could be catastrophic, “But that’s not stopping him from making his demands. And that’s particularly disheartening, since he is supposed to be one of the more reasonable members of the Republican Senate caucus.”

There’s nothing subtle about Graham’s gambit here. It’s the latest in a series of Republican hostage strategies: either (a) Democrats agree to cut Social Security and slash funding for education and health care; or (b) Graham and his cohorts will deliberately gut the full faith and credit of the United States government, and send the global economy into a catastrophic tailspin.

And as far as the political mainstream goes, President Obama is supposed to be able to work with “reasonable” Republicans like Graham, who’s ostensibly less extreme than many of his GOP colleagues.

It’s going to be a long two years.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.