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Impeach Clinton, Forgive Sanford

Chris Cilllizza was so impressed by the performance of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he asks whether the senator might be a “new Republican leader.” I’m skeptical about the chances of someone who has truly enraged the base of his party over immigration, and who ran only 42,000 votes ahead of the McCain/Palin ticket in a safe red state against an opponent he outspent 567 to 1. (Democrat Bob Conley raised $17,105 to Graham’s $9.7 million.)

Also, I was struck by Graham’s plea for forgiveness for his governor, Mark Sanford.

People are pretty fair in this country. Bill Clinton had his problems. People looked at his job performance, they looked at his personal failings and they said, “You know what, we’re going to put one over here and the other over there.” That’s no justification for what Mark did, but I think the people of South Carolina appreciate what Mark tried to do as governor to change their state.

Of course, Graham not only voted for three counts of impeachment against President Clinton; he was one of the impeachment managers. Host David Gregory did ask Graham whether he had “that kind of compassion” for Clinton, and Graham bragged that he was “the only Republican that voted against the article that dealt with lying about Monica Lewinsky, because I think lying about a consensual affair when you’re blindsided is not a high crime or misdemeanor.”

The reason I vote for impeachment is because it was a lawsuit about nonconsensual behavior where President Clinton was accused of doing some very crude things; he manipulated witnesses, he undermined the integrity of the legal system like Richard Nixon undermined the integrity of the political system. That’s what I focused on, not the fact that he lied about a consensual event.

That was more or less Graham’s pose during impeachment. He asked “is this Watergate or Peyton Place?” He talked and acted sad and frustrated that the Congress was investigating Clinton’s sex life, instead of his lies. From October 7, 1998:

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