Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference, March 26, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
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Graham vs. Graham on ‘boots on the ground’

Over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed a little hysterical when talking about the threat posed by Islamic State. Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” the Republican senator was genuinely outraged that President Obama was launching hundreds of airstrikes against ISIS targets without also sending in U.S. troops as part of a ground campaign.
“It’s going to take an army to beat an army, and this idea we’ll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy,” Graham said, adding, “It’s delusional in the way they approach this…. I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety…. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”
Jon Stewart responded last night, in reference to the Republican senator, “The poor man lives his entire life trapped in ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ For God’s sakes, I’ve seen chihuahuas in handbags who are less fretful and shaking.”
But there’s another angle to this that matters. As Amanda Terkel noted, while Graham believes it’s a delusional fantasy to believe the U.S. mission can succeed without American troops fighting a ground war, one hawkish Republican senator said the exact opposite earlier this summer.
His name is Lindsey Graham.
[A]s recently as June, Graham said that sending U.S. troops to Syria to fight on the ground was a bad idea.
“Mr. President, if you are willing to adjust your policies, we will stand with you. If you are willing to sit down with your generals and get some good sound military advice, we will stand with you, because what happens in Iraq and Syria does matter,” Graham said in a June 10 interview with Fox News. “I don’t think we need boots on the ground. I don’t think that is an option worth consideration.”
It now appears that if President Obama agrees with Lindsey Graham I, the condemnation from Lindsey Graham II will be fierce.
In fairness, the South Carolinian now believes the ISIS threat has grown more serious over the last few months, causing Graham to reevaluate his preferred approach. In theory, there’s nothing especially wrong with that – policymakers are welcome to reach new judgments based on new information. I’m not convinced the ISIS threat is any different now than it was in June, but Graham is certainly welcome to make his case.
That said, the right has been giddy for quite a while that President Obama characterized Islamic State as the “JV team” in the battle for terrorist primacy eight months ago.
If Graham can do a 180-degree turn on the use of U.S. ground troops based on new information, maybe it’s not so scandalous if the president changes his mind about the seriousness of ISIS, too?