This Single Observation From Lindsey Graham Is Exactly How The GOP Establishment Feels Right Now
Lindsey Graham tried to be the voice of reason with the GOP's field of presidential candidates, but America wasn't picking up the sanity he was putting down, forcing him to drop out of the race. Returning to his post as a South Carolina senator, he hasn't given up criticizing his party, or cracking the hilarious jokes he became known for in the GOP presidential debates. While the remaining five Republicans vying for the White House competed in the 10th screaming match (er, debate) Thursday night in Houston, Texas, Graham said the GOP has gone crazy, and other Republicans agree.
Speaking at the Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner, Graham didn't hold back his true feelings, saying: "My party has gone batshit crazy." Reporters at the dinner tweeted all of the insults he whirled at the party and the men still competing for the nomination during his speech, including that he put on a "Make American Great Again" hat and sarcastically endorsed Donald Trump.
Criticizing Ben Carson, Graham said, "Ben Carson is the nice guy in the race, and he tried to kill his cousin," referencing the story that the retired neurosurgeon allegedly tried to stab a relative (though the important detail of who he almost stabbed has changed multiple times). The South Carolina senator was even more harsh when it came to Ted Cruz and the Senate. He said: "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, no one would convict you."
Graham isn't alone in his disbelief and disgust with the path the GOP has gone down recently, and these four other party members have also voiced their concern recently.
When former House Speaker John Boehner resigned from his post in September, he explained that it was to protect the Republican party. The far-right members of his party pressured him to enact extreme policy changes and budget cuts that he couldn't reasonably achieve during President Obama's administration, so he left to avoid a blowup with the GOP. "My first job as speaker is to protect the institution," Boehner said when he resigned. "It had become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution." In an interview with CBS' Face the Nation in September, Boehner equated some members of his party to false prophets who promised drastic changes that just weren't possible. "And so, we've got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whipped people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know — they know — are never going to happen," he said.
Boehner's resignation worried some Republicans in Congress, including Pennsylvania representative Charlie Dent. He told The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer in September:
There are anywhere from two to four dozen members who don’t have an affirmative sense of governance. They can’t get to yes. They just can’t get to yes, and so they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead. And not only do they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead, but they undermine the entire Republican conference and also help to weaken the institution of Congress itself.
Of course, both Dent and Boehner chose much more diplomatic words than "batshit crazy," but the sentiment was the same — their party's in deep trouble.
Texas representative Bill Flores had similar concerns as Dent about GOP members in the House of Representatives after Boehner's departure. "If you look at what’s happened the last few weeks, you have had people trying to burn the House down," he told The New York Times' David Herszenhorn and Jonathan Martin in September. Flores thinks some members of his party are heading toward destroying the House and the entire GOP.
While Jeb Bush isn't one to use profanity either, he did express his concerns about a Republican party that could nominate Trump for president. Before dropping out of the race, Bush told CBS 46 in February: "It bothers me a bit that this party that I love, the philosophy I love, has been hijacked by an entertainer," Bush said."He does feed this deep anxiety and anger that people feel, and I respect the fact that they're angry and they have anxiety for legitimate reason... but he's not going to solve their problems." Bush is a born-and-bred establishment Republican, and clearly thinks Trump's political success this far is a horrible sign for his party.
These Republicans don't want to see their beloved party crash and burn, but they think it's heading there.