The Strange Musings of Lindsey Graham

After taking a month-long pause from trying to scrutinize the utterances of Lindsey Graham (R-SC), I was forced to revisit the issue today when he made an appearance at a press conference on a measure to block Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon dioxide. I’ll have more on that measure soon, but perhaps you, dear readers, will have better luck making out what Graham is trying to say here:

I’m in the wing of the Republican Party that has no problem with trying to find ways to clean up our air. We can have a debate about global warming, and I’m not in the camp that believes man-made emissions are contributing overwhelmingly to global climate change, but I do believe the planet is heating up. But I am in the camp of believing that clean air is a noble purpose for every Republican to pursue. The key is to make it business friendly.

So, he now says he doesn’t think that man-made emissions are causing the planet to warm—but that the planet is warming. And that emissions are bad for us, just not bad in the way that most people who care about emissions think they’re bad. Right? I give up.

Graham was the lone Republican working with John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on climate legislation for months, but walked away from the effort in mid-April, citing disagreements with Democratic leadership about legislative priorities. He’s been one of the few Republicans who, for quite a while, has acknowledged that greenhouse gases are bad for the planet, even as he faced sharp criticism for that belief.

But ever since announcing his support for climate legislation in an op-ed with Kerry, he’s been slowly stepping backwards from the idea that global warming is at the heart of the issue. He insisted that the climate bill was about energy independence–none of that environmental crap.

So what to make of today’s latest statement? I have no idea. He also added this tidbit on the oil spill, which was at least the right sentiment, though it misinterprets the fundamental reason that fossil-fuel emissions are a threat to human health:

Would you let your kids go swimming in the Gulf now? Why do you think burning that stuff and breathing it is good for you?

UPDATE: The plot thickens: Now Graham tells Congress Daily that he would actually vote against the bill he helped write because he doesn’t like the way it handles offshore drilling (which, of course, has become a very important issue in the past weeks). “What I have withdrawn from is a bill that basically restricts drilling in a way that is never going to happen in the future,” Graham said. “I wanted it to safely occur in the future; I don’t want to take it off the table.”

Graham suggested that the senators he was working with up until a few weeks ago should “start over and scale down your ambitions.”

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.