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Lindsey Graham, The Negotiator

When Lindsey Graham went to buy his first car, he told the salesman, “Listen, I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend more than $10K, but I don’t want to come off as a hard ass, and the reality is that I could go as high as $12K and still be able to afford the payments.”

During the recent NBA lockout, he advised the Players Association, “Look, I know every percentage point of revenue split means tens of millions of dollar, and the owners aren’t being entirely fair with their proposal. But my recommendation is that you make an announcement that your “hard” 52% position is actually flexible, and you’re not actually willing to suspend the season. After all, what’s $100 million or so when the cost is that the owners’ families will accuse you of being unreasonable?”

Maybe those two incidents never actually happened, but they do approximate Lindsey Graham’s strategy for negotiating with Democrats over how to address our national fiscal crisis, as reported by Yahoo News:

“Top Conservative says read my lips: Don’t sign ‘no new tax’ pledge”

Let’s stop there. I probably should have warned you earlier that we’re entering an alternate universe where Lindsey Graham is considered a “Top Conservative”. Continuing:

“As a conservative Republican, Lindsey Graham has never had a problem promising not to raise taxes.  Like almost every other Republican member of Congress, he has signed the anti-tax pledge put forth by Grover Norquist’s group Americans for Tax Reform.

But now Graham says the debt crisis is so severe that the tax pledge — which says no tax loopholes can be eliminated unless every dollar raised by closing loopholes goes to tax cuts — has got to go.“

Did Graham have no problems as a “conservative Republican”, or as someone who never foresaw the issue coming up? Most guys would be willing to pledge to their girlfriends that they’ll never have an affair with Kate Upton, but to paraphrase Chris Rock, they’re really only as loyal as their options.

Graham said eliminating some deductions should free up money to lower tax rates — but also to pay down U.S. debt.

“I just think that makes a lot of sense. And if I’m willing to do that as a Republican, I’ve crossed a rubicon,” said Graham.

Playing the martyr may be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn’t speak well of the Senator. No one forced him to sign that pledge, and if he believes tax increases are necessary, he should own up to his previous lack of foresight. Instead, he cowardly attempts to make Grover Norquist a scapegoat, when in reality Norquist has done Republicans a service by helping them coalesce around an opening negotiating position.

This puts Graham at odds with his party’s leadership. Just last August, when the eight Republican presidential candidates were asked if they would reject a deal with $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue, all eight said they would walk away. But Graham is now raising his hand for increased revenues — he says he could support a plan that included $4 in spending cuts for every $1 in increased tax revenue.

The eight Republican candidates were responding to an imaginary offer from an unempowered debate moderator, and never said they’d walk away. Actually, they didn’t say anything, being told they could only raise their hands like schoolchildren without the opportunity to offer any context. They were wise, as potential future presidents, not to waste time accepting the left’s premises before any future negotiations are even planned. True “top conservatives” recognize that the federal government already has more than enough of our money to perform its core functions, and the spending cuts portion of every previous deal has never materialized. Most would be willing to reach a political deal if necessary to stave off fiscal apocalypse, but see no benefit to Graham-style self-congratulation for agreeing to non-existent proposals.

“We’re so far in debt, that if you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks,” said Graham.

There’s a difference between “giving up some ideological ground”, and making your opposing party’s arguments for them. Graham would do well to understand the difference.

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