Lindsey Graham Creates Some Headlines

[ Posted Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 – 15:22 UTC ]

Senator Lindsey Graham today decided he'd like to be headline news. That's really the only possible conclusion I can draw, since what he did and the timing of it are so downright incomprehensible, politically-speaking. Graham introduced a nationwide 15-week abortion ban, with less than two months to run before an election that was already becoming dominated by the abortion issue. The incomprehensible thing is that all the data have pointed to the fact that the abortion issue is motivating Democratic voters, and also motivating independent voters to vote Democratic. So why would Graham shoot his own party in the foot in such spectacular fashion? I have no idea, other than "because he wanted to see his name in the news." It's the only conclusion I can come up with, really.

When the Supreme Court issued their Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade, many sanctimonious Republicans reacted with their standard "states' rights" argument: abortion should be decided within each and every state, instead of some national solution being imposed upon the states by a heavy-handed federal government. One of their biggest complaints about Roe had always been that it had been imposed by the Supreme Court instead of letting the states work it all out in the fabled "laboratories of democracy." Overturning Roe would just "send it back to the states, where it should be," they argued.

Graham's bill puts the lie to this stance, obviously. It would not prevent states from enacting abortion laws that were stricter than Graham's 15-week limit, but it would prevent states from passing laws that were less restrictive. So states could be more anti-abortion than the federal law, but not less so. That is a one-way street, obviously.

Graham has introduced federal abortion bans before, but previously he had set the limit at 20 weeks. A pregnancy normally lasts 40 weeks. Roe set the standard at "viability," or the ability of the fetus to survive (with medical care) outside the womb, which was generally understood to be between 22 and 24 weeks. A 20-week limit isn't that different than Roe, in other words, but a 15-week limit is a much bigger departure from the previous standard.

Abortion bans vary by state, currently. Some have 20-week limits, 15-week limits, 6-week limits, or even "zero-week" limits. The 6-week bans are often referred to by anti-abortion politicians as "heartbeat bans," since that is approximately the point when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The absolute "zero-week" bans would ban any abortion past the point of conception. Some states allow for exceptions (sometimes even beyond whatever gestational limit the ban has) for victims or rape and/or incest, and when the mother's life is in danger. Some states allow for no such exceptions.

Lindsey Graham, of course, is not a medical doctor. Why he chose 15 weeks, when he was obviously previously fine with 20 weeks, is a mystery. The vast majority of abortions happen before the 15th week already, but this limits an important category, since the fetus is usually tested for defects and anomalies during the second trimester (often in the 20th week). A woman who knows that her child may not live much past birth or will have crippling deformities now has the option to end her pregnancy. Under Graham's bill, she wouldn't. This is the basic problem with legislators (mostly men) deciding what are, in fact, painful and traumatic medical decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor.

Why Graham chose now to introduce his bill is an even bigger mystery. The Republican Party missed their chance to coalesce around a single policy on abortion when the Dobbs decision was handed down. It was leaked a month earlier, so everyone knew it was coming. But the GOP didn't unify around any position. To be fair, President Joe Biden and the Democrats hadn't unified around any one position either, even though they had the same advance warning.

So far, Democratic candidates have been making lots of political hay over accusing their opponents of supporting a nationwide abortion ban. Many Republicans have retreated to the cop-out of: "Let's just leave it up to the states." They will no longer be able to do this. They will be directly asked (many of them already have been, after Graham's political bombshell dropped) whether they support Graham's bill or not. It will likely become the de facto "official" position of the Republican Party, even though it was not agreed upon in their conference before Graham acted. Many Republicans are now trying to backpedal away from Graham's position, and many more could choose to follow this route. But will the voters really believe them? One thing they cannot any longer do is deny that the Republican Party will indeed push for a nationwide abortion ban -- whether Graham's bill or someone else's. That much seems certain, at this point. "We have no plans to institute a federal law that would pre-empt state laws" is no longer an operative phrase for Republican office-seekers, in other words.

Graham's bill has precisely zero percent of passage, at least in this Congress. He would need 60 votes, and it is doubtful he could even get the 50 from his own party, at this point. Even if Republicans were actually in control of the chamber (as they could be, next year), it is doubtful that Mitch McConnell would even allow such a bill a floor vote -- today he threw some cold water on the idea: "I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level."

So did Lindsey Graham, at one point. He tweeted, after the Dobbs decision: "Today's decision by the Supreme Court is a long overdue constitutional correction allowing for elected officials in the states to decide issues of life." Last month, he reiterated this position on CNN: "I've been consistent. I think states should decide... the issue of abortion."

Democrats have already been running nationwide on the fear of what Republicans would do if they got into power. "This may be a blue state with abortion rights protected, but if Republicans win that won't matter!" or, when running against a GOP candidate who isn't fervently anti-abortion: "Don't believe what he says, once the GOP get into power, they'll try to pass a nationwide ban and he'll just be another rubberstamp vote in favor of it, mark my words!" These tactics are already being used quite effectively. Now, they're going to become inescapable for every Republican running. They can't insist it'll never happen when Lindsey Graham has a bill drafted and ready to go. And at least some of them are quickly realizing the corner this paints them into.

So why did Graham choose now to act? It's impossible to know, really. Graham is a media creature, he absolutely loves being the go-to guy for a quote on all sorts of subjects, and is usually ready with a quip that guarantees he'll make it onto the evening news. This used to be rather charming, when he was seen as a protégé of John McCain's, whom Graham would often join in tweaking his own party. Since Donald Trump's rise, however, Graham has become little more than a Trump toady, and his charm has completely worn off.

Today's move guarantees that Graham will be the center of attention on the abortion issue not just for this coming election but likely long afterwards as well. That much seems certain. Was that really all he cared about? His action today could help flip several midterm races to the Democrats. Without a bill to center upon, Republican moderates might have won in battleground districts (many of them suburban). With Graham's bill, it'll become impossible for moderate Republicans to dodge the question any more. They'll be pushed into either supporting Graham's bill or taking a stand against it -- which is an uncomfortable position for them to be in, obviously.

Graham could have waited until after the midterms. He didn't. He could have stuck to his "states' rights" argument. He didn't. Instead, he tossed the equivalent of a hand grenade into every midterm race. If this truly becomes a single-issue election over abortion (some are already calling for a "Roevember election"), Graham's bill isn't going to do the Republicans any favors. But he will get to see his name brought up in a lot of political ads and headlines, that's for sure. If that's all he was aiming for, I'd have to say he at least hit his mark.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


30 Comments on “Lindsey Graham Creates Some Headlines”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I am also mystified why Lindsey dropped this hand grenade. It reminds me of Repugs continuing to double down on Trump, despite the many ongoing investigations. How many?

    Thanks for the List, Sean! (1:21)

  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Miss Lindsey wants to be president and is claiming the anti-abortion position early. The smelly, Wal*Mart-shopping deplorables who vote in GQP primaries will find somebody a lot more ghoulish and a lot less cartoonish (and not gay), so she's just making the mid-terms more difficult for Old Crow.

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    This place reminds me of the ghost towns left behind when the steel industry collapsed in PA. Maybe it's a bad idea to allow lying, malignant trolls run amok like it's Facebook.

  4. [4] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Let's abort The Queen. We mean it man!

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    The funny thing is that when the "trolls" were running "amok" here, it was a much livelier place! Go figure.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So why would Graham shoot his own party in the foot in such spectacular fashion?

    Could it be a sign that the situation Republicans find themselves in with regard to the abortion issue is even more dire than reports and polls might indicate?

    Perhaps Graham is trying to mute the most extreme Republicans in some states who advocate a complete ban on abortions with no exceptions by trying to sound more reasonable, thereby blunting the negative impact of Republicans' stance on this issue in the midst of looming midterms.

    It may sway some voters and give cover for them to vote their Republican preferences despite not agreeing with them on the abortion issue ...

  7. [7] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    There is nothing "lively" about pages and pages of cut and paste troll puke that serves no purpose other than trolling and malignant "troll" is the correct term regardless of how much you like to pretend otherwise. Your troll love blinds you to the otherwise obvious reason this place has been abandoned by so many.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, please, JFC ... why do I always expect so much better from you?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    My point was that now that those nauseatingly repetitive posts and counter-posts are gone, all the cogent commenters have also gone. Why is that?

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Not that this place has EVER really been a place for cogent discussion. Too many high-minded egos, I surmise. Heh.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Maybe some more lively discussion will come as we approached closer to the midterms and the aftermath. It should be very interesting!

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, I think Chris has learned a good lesson Re. all those boring posts and counter-posts so, the rest of us should be good to go. I might even invite a newbie, or two...

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... and this space can become a great debating place where the only combat is against suspect arguments that are knocked down by better arguments, all the while pertaining to Chris's always excellent headlining pieces.

    Well, that remains my hope, anyways. :)

  14. [14] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    [9] LizM

    My point was that now that those nauseatingly repetitive posts and counter-posts are gone, all the cogent commenters have also gone.

    No, I'm pretty sure that was my point. Your point was that it was lots of "lively" fun to play with trolls.

    It really isn't difficult to understand why the cogents haven't come back. The very same deplorable trolls repeatedly return and everyone else has had enough.

  15. [15] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    [12-13] I've seen no evidence of that. It looks to me as if the FBI "raid" ended the sewerage overflow (for now), not CW.

    Some people say that hope springs eternal, so I hope your newbies have strong stomachs.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I said "livelier", not "fun".

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, if Chris wishes to improve the comments sections of his blog - and I believe he does - then he will not permit things to get out of hand ever again. I can't imagine that he hasn't learned that lesson by now.

    I won't invite anyone, especially anyone with opposing views to most of us regulars until I am sure of the above.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Okay, perhaps I could have found a better word than 'livelier. Heh.

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I've only ever invited one person who happens to live in Georgia and is fed up with both political parties (but who also harbours a slightly unhealthy animosity towards my guy Biden) because he believes in healthy debate and dialogue. But, that was just before all heck broke loose in here again and he never showed.

  20. [20] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I'm with JFC on this one and I agree that JSOW (aka Michale) split because of the changing political environment -- just like right before the 2018 Midterms his feelings got hurt so he split.

    Don't miss the douchebag at all. Without the buffoon trolls polluting Weigantia maybe we can get some real Conservatives to join us down here.

    I proceed on the assumption that CW rarely monitors Weigantia because it's a distant second choice to cranking out the content. Unconfirmed rumors have it that he may even have a life outside Weigantia.*smh*

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    CW used to ALWAYS be here in the comments sections.

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale wasn't the only one who split, from the comments sections, anyways. All of the boring counter-posters have gone silent, too. Which, again, was the point I was trying to make above. They weren't here to discuss intelligently, either, it seems.

  23. [23] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Graham may not be as crazy as we think. He's trying to keep the forced birth voters motivated, so they vote.

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    I agree, m's decision to distance himself also left a gap in real discussion, not just the he said she said garbage. Whether or not folks want to name call him or his family is on them, not him.

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Indeed. Absolutely, positively, unequivocally!

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Whatever Graham is doing, it doesn't sound crazy to me.

  27. [27] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Aside from the hypocritical switch on states' rights, this is another example of no understanding of or consideration of medical issues, including those that arise from miscarriage and still birth.

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Right. And, no understanding that this issue does not belong in a debate or vote in a legislature or a the Supreme Court.

  29. [29] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    I think what you're seeing there is a conflict within the Republican Party. There are those in the party who think life begins at the candlelight dinner the night before.
    Nancy Pelosi

    Heh...go Nancy!

  30. [30] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, Nancy, that could be true ... and a bit kinky, too. Heh.

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