It was a few weeks ago when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) shared a pretty dumb observation with a Boston audience: “Everything that starts with ‘Al’ in the Middle East is bad news.” To bolster his point, the Republican even started rattling off some examples: al Qaeda, al-Nusra, al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, etc.
What Graham apparently didn’t realize is that “al,” is the Arabic word for “the.” One of the Republican Party’s most prominent voices on foreign affairs shared an insight that made him appear quite foolish.
At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Graham didn’t make things any better. The BBC reported:
Senator Lindsey Graham, the first speaker Friday morning, appearing from Washington via video, spoke of losing his parents as a teenager, working in a pool hall and having to help raise his younger sister – and how it relates to his leadership style.“Everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room,” he said. “I met a lot of liars, and I know Iranians are liars.”
A report from Slate noted that the BBC report isn’t entirely correct. A video of Graham’s remarks shows him saying, “I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying.” That’s obviously not the same thing as the senator accusing everyone in Iran of being liars.
The video nevertheless makes clear that Graham believes he has finely tuned lie-detection skills, and those skills now tell him that Iranian officials involved in the international nuclear talks are just like those pool sharks he used to know.
The National Iranian American Council was not impressed with the senator’s comments. “The senator’s repulsive remarks are racist, period,” NIAC President Trita Parsi said. “This type of discourse should have no place in American politics. Graham essentially admits to being a bigot, because nothing says ‘I’m stereotyping’ more than basing judgment of an entire people solely on a handful of interactions in a pool room.”
In the broader context, let’s not brush past the fact that Graham isn’t just some random guy spewing nonsense. He’s a senator, a presidential candidate, and a policymaker seen by the Beltway media as a leading GOP voice on matters of international affairs.
Perhaps it’s time for political observers to reconsider Graham’s reputation?
Update: The above text has been edited to reflect the error in the original BBC report.