Six Things To Know About Lindsey Graham

Terrance Heath

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. If you’re wondering, “Who is Lindsey Graham, and why is he running for president?”, here’s what you should know.

Lindsey Graham - Beating the Drum for WarGraham is the senior senator from South Carolina. He’s been in the Senate since 2003, when he ran unopposed to replace retiring senator Strom Thurmond. He’s a Southern Baptist by faith. Prior to the Senate, Graham represented South Carolina’s 3rd congressional district in the House, from 1995 to 2003. Before that, Graham served in the U.S. Air Force — active duty from 1982 to 1988, Air National Guard from 1989 to 1995, and Reserves from 1995 to 2015 — where he rose to the rank of colonel.

That’s who Lindsey Graham is, in a nutshell. The bigger question is: Why is Lindsey Graham running for president?

Fox News once called Graham the GOP’s best hope in 2016, but almost no one else thinks so. Two months after he hinted at a 2016 run, Graham was left off an online straw poll by his home state’s Republican party; a straw poll that included pizza mogul Herman Cain, former Alaska governor and reality television “star” Sarah Palin, and even Sen. Tim Scott (R, South Carolina). The poll was updated to include Graham, after his exclusion became news. Graham lacks support even in his home state. A recent Winthrop poll showed that 60 percent of South Carolinians think he should not run for president.

Graham might be excluded from the first Republican debate. Fox News says candidates must place in the top ten of five national polls recognized by the network to qualify. Graham doesn’t come close to making the cut, and he’s only got until early August.

Graham is running for president because the world is ending.

Hinting at a presidential run during an interview on “CBS This Morning” a couple of weeks ago, Graham said, “I’m running because I think the world is falling apart.”

Graham is like Chicken Little in that regard.

In some ways, Graham is not your typical Republican member of Congress.

Graham’s willingness to buck the Republican party shows that in some ways he’s not your typical Republican senator.

In other ways, Graham is typical conservative congressperson.

In other ways, Graham is typical of what we’ve come to expect from conservatives in Congress lately.

Graham’s a bit of a hypocrite about money in politics.

At a campaign event in Iowa, Graham told Huffington Post reporter Lauren Windsor that he was unhappy with the Citizens United, and the flood of money in politics that followed it.

But at other times Graham hasn’t minded money in politics at all.

Graham would be only our second “confirmed bachelor” president.

If by some fluke Graham were to win the Republican nomination, and somehow beat overwhelming odds to win the general election, he would be America’s first “confirmed bachelor” president in over a century. We’ve only elected two unmarried presidents: Grover Cleveland (#22 and #24) and James Buchanan (#15). Cleveland wed while in office. So that leaves Buchanan, who did married.

Marriage isn’t a requirement for the presidency, but scrutiny into candidates’ personal lives has only intensified since Buchanan’s term ended in 1861. (Imagine if Buchanan and King had to contend with paparazzi and social media!) Nowadays, candidates trot their families out for reassuring photo ops every chance they get. Spouses often serve as surrogates on the campaign trail, and are often as important and controversial as the candidates themselves.

The candidate who doesn’t have a photo-op ready family will be at a disadvantage, and the object of some speculation. For example, Fox analyst Chris Wallace would like to put Graham on the “psychiatrist couch,” to find out why the 59-year-old lawmaker is still a bachelor.

Graham could be the second “ambiguously gay” president.

Graham’s aforementioned confirmed bachelorhood has led to speculation about his sexuality. If elected, Graham could be the nation’s second “ambiguously gay” president.

The first, of course, was James Buchanan. Rumors about his sexuality swirled around Buchanan’s life and legacy. Buchanan is only known to have been involved with one woman. He courted Ann Caroline Coleman, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, and they were engaged in 1819. Coleman broke off the engagement, after Buchanan visited a friend’s wife. She died in December of 1819, in what the physician who attended her in her final hours described as “the first instance he ever knew of hysteria producing death.”

Buchanan was apparently either celibate or asexual until his intimate relationship with William Rufus King (who, by the way, served as Franklin Pierce’s Vice President.) The men lived together in a Washington boarding house from 1834 to 1844, and attended social events together. Andrew Jackson famously referred to them as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.”

Similar rumors have dogged Graham. For example, during a tea party rallying South Carolina in 2010, one speaker suggested that Graham supported a guest-worker program out of fear that the Democrats might “out” him otherwise. Graham publicly addressed the issue in 2010, telling a New York Times reporter, “I ain’t gay,” before joking about being pop star Ricky Martin’s secret lover.

Still, times have changed since the Buchanan administration. A new poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal shows that Americans would totally vote for a gay president; Sixty-one percent said they would either be enthusiastic about or comfortable with a gay or lesbian candidate, only 37 percent said they would have reservations or be uncomfortable, and just 2 percent were uncertain.

Anyway, if Graham were somehow elected, he could borrow a page from Buchanan’s playbook, and have a female relative (like his sister) fulfill the duties of a First Lady … or First Spouse.

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