Lindsey Graham: "This Whole Border Thing is Theater"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 12 2011 9:05 AM

Lindsey Graham: "This Whole Border Thing is Theater"

At the Week's dinner last night, Sen. Lindsey Graham was blunt about what he thought Obama was working effectively on, and what they were talking about. The war in Afghanistan? Yes. But "on immigration, we're not talking at all. This whole border thing is theater."

On the debt ceiling? He wanted to see spending cuts commensurate with the amount the ceiling was raised.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

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"I would like for the country to raise the debt ceiling," he said, because that's the best thing we can do as a nation, only if I can go home and tell people we're beginning to crawl out of this mess." Deep cuts probably meant entitlement reform. "The Tea Party wing of our party has created a lot of energy on fiscal responsibility, but I don't know what we can do to please Tea Party folks."

Graham, who endorsed John McCain in the 2008 primaries and helped him with South Carolina, was just as blunt about the problems with the new Republican field.

"There's Mitt Romney and not Mitt Romney," he said. "Who becomes the not-Mitt Romney, I don't know. But Mitt's got a health care problem in our primary. He looks like a president -- that helps, right? He's smart, and he's got money. The conventional wisdom is that these are weak or flawed candidates, and that's probably true, but don't underestimate the party's desire to win." He looked at Austan Goolsbee. "I don't mean to be offensive here, but our folks don't think you folks are doing that great of a job." The party was looking at electability, and "if that continues to move forward, a guy like Romney's in the game. Mitch Daniels is instantly -- kind of a purple state governor who performs well."

David Gregory interrupted him to ask about Newt Gingrich.

"Newt will play well in South Carolina," said Graham. "Newt is smart. He's got a lot of ideas, some better than others. But I would not underestimate him. How would you like to debate him in a Republican primary?"

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.