Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Lindsey Graham, Truth Teller

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Lindsey Graham, Truth Teller

Article excerpt

Most Americans had no idea Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was running for president. When he quit the race this week, he was in 12th place out of 13 Republican candidates, with less than 1 percent of the vote in national polls.

But Graham has made a major contribution this election season. He's been the toughest truth teller in the GOP field, consistently fearless in confronting Donald Trump while other candidates cowered in a corner.

"He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot," Graham thundered on CNN. "You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell."

Graham is also a fierce critic of President Obama's Middle East policy, arguing that defeating the Islamic State will take a far greater military commitment than the president seems willing to make.

Yet the president recognizes that Graham is an honorable opponent, a man of clarity and candor who is willing to admit the unpopular consequences of his own policy -- a return of American combat troops to the region.

"To his credit," Obama told NPR, "I think Lindsey Graham is one of the few who has been at least honest about suggesting, 'Here is something I would do that the president is not doing.' "

Graham reflects two qualities we've long admired in politicians of both parties. One is the determination to favor reality over ideology. The other is to understand that compromise is an essential condition of democracy -- not an act of betrayal.

Graham represents a conservative state, and he was willing to jeopardize his own career by staying true to those precepts. When he sought his third Senate term last year, he faced six primary opponents, all attacking him from the right as a moderate heretic, but he still won easily.

"I've been accused of working with Democrats too much," he told CBS last spring. "In my view, Democrats and Republicans work together too little. And I would try to change that if I got to be president."

He'll never be president, but he's still a senator, and his legislative style represents a model for lawmakers in both parties. The best example is immigration reform. …

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