Lindsey Graham: Trade Health Care for Millions for Sequester’s Military Cuts

Graham 2_0

Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News Sunday today and put on one of his patented disagreeable and self-righteous displays, apparently in aid of making himself look like a tough guy to the right wing nuts back home in South Carolina.

Graham has been living in fear for quite some time now–terrified that some tea party bot will challenge his seat in the Senate and bring him down like Mike Lee did to Bob Bennett in Utah and Richard Mourdock did to Richard Lugar in Indiana.

Over the past few months, Graham has appeared more and more desperate–joining John McCain in a manic freakout over the Benghazi attacks and ginning up bizarre attacks President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. He even went so far as to claim that Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” in the Beghazi affair. Dana Millbank recently called Graham “the mad dog of Capital Hill.”

Graham’s nasty-guy act seems to be working, according to Politico. So far no one has come forward to primary him, although SC state senator Lee Bright is still thinking about it.

Graham’s recent run is hard to miss: He helped sink U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s chance of becoming secretary of state. He said on Fox that Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. In just the past couple of weeks, he’s used his positions on the Armed Services and Judiciary committees to rip into defense secretary-designate Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and witnesses who favor new gun-control measures.

On Tuesday, Graham pounced to discredit Timothy Heaphy, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Virginia, during a hearing on gun violence.
His first question: “Do you own a gun?”

Heaphy acknowledged that he didn’t.

“Do any of your close friends own a gun?” Graham pressed….

Never mind that most federal prosecutors have some expertise with gun violence or that U.S. attorneys need special permission from the Justice Department to carry firearms at work. Graham had scored the political point.

I didn’t get the point, but I’m guessing it’s related to Graham’s recent bragging about owning an AK-47. And look out bad guys–Graham also likes Quentin Tarrantino!

“Being from South Carolina, I’ve owned guns all of my life,” Graham said at a press conference. “I own an AR-15. I saw the movie ‘Django [Unchained].’ I like Quentin Tarantino.”

“That may say a lot about my movie taste, but there are many moving parts to this,” he added.

It’s not the first time Graham has invoked his AR-15 while arguing against new gun laws — the senator recently mentioned his semi-automatic rifle while making the case that high-capacity magazines are needed to protect families.

It was, however, the first time Graham has weighed in on Tarantino’s much-debated slavery revenge flick. He appeared to be arguing that violence in the media and video games ought to be discussed, while simultaneously making the case that individuals such as himself could act as both responsible gun owners and consumers of violent cinema.

Today in his Fox News Sunday appearance, Graham really went all out–arguing that preventing cuts to the military is more important than providing health care for Americans. It’s looking more and more as if Republicans will allow the sequester cuts to happen at the end of the month, and Graham claims the defense cuts will “destroy the military.” From Think Progress:

Graham suggested that the sequester’s across-the-board cuts to federal spending, including about a roughly 7.5 percent reduction in military spending, would be “destroying the military.” But rather than agree to President Obama’s proposed alternatives to the sequester, the South Carolina Republican said we should save money by eliminating health care for the 30 million people covered by the Affordable Care Act:

CHRIS WALLACE: Let me just ask you one more question about the sequestration before we let you go, Senator. You know if we go into the sequester, the president is going to hammer Republicans, the White House already put out a list of all the things, terrible things that will happen if a sequester kicks in, 70,000 children losing Head Start. 2100 fewer food inspectors and small business will lose $900 million in loan guarantees and you know, Senator, the president will say your party is forcing this to protect tax cuts for the wealthy.

GRAHAM: Well, all i can say is the commander-in-chief thought — came up with the idea of sequestration, destroying the military and putting a lot of good programs at risk. It is my belief — take Obamacare and put it on the table. You can make $86,000 a year in income and still get a government subsidy under Obamacare. Obamacare is destroying health care in this country and people are leaving the private sector, because their companies cannot afford to offer Obamacare and if you want to look at ways to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, look at Obamacare, don’t destroy the military and cut blindly across the board. There are many ways to do it but the president is the commander-in-chief and on his watch we’ll begin to unravel the finest military in the history of the world, at a time when we need it most. The Iranians are watching us, we are allowing people to be destroyed in Syria, and i’m disappointed in our commander-in-chief.

I’m no expert on the “Sequester”–I’ll leave that to Dakinikat–but frankly, I believe the military could be cut plenty and not be “destroyed.” Here’s an analysis by Laura Matthews of the International Business Times from Feb. 8:

Looking at the possible cuts closely, some experts say that these politicians are overreacting, and that, in reality, they are defending the Pentagon’s bureaucratic turf — its value as measured by its annual funding — not the country in opposing the budget cuts.

“The Defense Department will have enough latitude to protect what’s crucial and I don’t think we will be less safe in 2013 or thereafter,” said Mattea Kramer, the research director at the National Priorities Project in Northampton, Mass.

For one thing, the 2011 U.S. defense budget, about $700 billion, dwarfed those of all other nations by a large amount. China, the second-biggest spender, had a defense budget of $143 billion that year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. No other country even breaks into the triple digits of billions of dollars.

For another, because the spending cuts will roll in over a decade, the average yearly cut would be about $45 billion, little more than 5 percent of America’s annual defense spending. And, according to Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington and an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, “even if the defense budget were reduced by the entire $1 trillion, or about $100 billion a year over the next decade, it would amount to a reduction of [the defense budget] of about 15 percent.” Which means that annual defense spending would be about equal to what it was in 2007 — when the U.S. was involved in two active wars.

Matthews writes that the “Sequester” provides an “opportunity” to

revisit the nature of global threats and its response to them, a growing of experts believe. National-security needs have shifted dramatically since the Cold War, from containing a lone rival superpower to combating terrorism, fighting smaller conflicts, and cyberwarfare. In that time, the U.S. has, in many ways, moved away from deterrence to prevention.

The key capability that the Defense Department should focus on in this environment is navigating a more varied, contested, and asynchronous battlefield, the experts say. Instead of ballistic missile defense programs, the Pentagon would be better served and its budget better used by spending more money to train and equip special-operations forces, the kind that killed Osama bin Laden, and to develop more innovative submarines, unmanned and manned stealthy long-range aircraft, and offensive and defensive cyberwarfare systems, said Todd Harrison, a defense and budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

In November 2012, Ezra Klein used the following graph to demonstrate that “the sequester’s defense cuts aren’t that scary.”


Th[e] graph comes from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and it shows real military spending since the Korean War (“real” in that the graph adjusts for inflation).

As you can see, the post-9/11 rise in military spending was larger than the rise during Vietnam and during the Cold War. And even if we implement every single cut in the sequester, the fall in spending would be less than the military experienced after Korea, Vietnam, or the Cold War.

Getting rid of Obamacare, on the other hand, would increase the federal deficit by 109 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

We’re seeing how much it’s worth to Lindsey Graham to save his seat in the Senate. If ever had a soul, he’s sold it now. If that has made him happy, it sure doesn’t show.