Graham’s Glimpse of Green

As Lindsay Graham announces his presidential candidacy today, it’s worth reading Rebecca Leber’s piece at TNR that sorta kinda praises the South Carolinian for being at least open to action to deal with climate change, while implicitly deploring the dynamics in the GOP that have made him stand out.

Environmentalists have high hopes for the South Carolina senator. His entry “would be a breath of fresh air,” said Suzanne Henkels, a spokesperson for Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate. Slate’s Eric Holthaus wrote a glowing story on Graham’s commitment in March, saying “Graham has the ability to bridge the divide between the right and the left by motivating the GOP to consider practical solutions to climate change that can improve the welfare of the entire world.”

Graham, who’s crafted moderate bills on cap-and-trade and immigration reform, might be best known as a foreign policy hawk and an opponent of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy. But his hawkishness is precisely what makes his pitch on climate change that much more effective to a different kind of audience. He might describe curbing greenhouse gas emissions in terms of national security, allowing him to distance himself from President Barack Obama without denying scientific reality. “The logical thing​ to do is to jump on to Obama’s position on climate change as a national security issue and out-muscle Obama’s actions,” e-mailed R.L. Miller, founder of the campaign group Climate Hawks Vote that supports climate-friendly candidates.

Leber goes on to note that Graham’s environmental record is mixed at best:

He backs a number of policies that are detrimental to the environment, including development of the Canadian oil sands and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He’s a big believer in nuclear energy as a solution to carbon pollution. While he played a key role crafting a 2009 cap-and-trade proposal in the Senate, he later walked away from it. And once, in true Republican fashion, he questioned the scientific founding for climate change.

More to the point, there’s almost zero reason for Graham to talk about environmental issues in the Republican presidential nominating contest he’s now entering. And even if he did, it’s unclear his audiences would hear anything green he said in the din of cheering his war hysteria and his dark mutterings about Benghazi!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.