Lindsey Graham

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Lindsey Graham
Lindsey Graham, Official Portrait 2006.jpg
United States Senator
from South Carolina
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Serving with Tim Scott
Preceded byStrom Thurmond
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2003
Preceded byButler Derrick
Succeeded byGresham Barrett
Member of the
South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 2nd District
In office
January 12, 1993 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byLowell W. Ross
Succeeded byWilliam E. Sandifer, III
Personal details
BornLindsey Olin Graham
(1955-07-09) July 9, 1955 (age 59)
Central, South Carolina
Political partyRepublican
ResidenceSeneca, South Carolina
Alma materUniversity of South Carolina (B.A., J.D.)
ReligionSouthern Baptist[1]
Military service
Service/branchUnited States Air Force
Years of service1982–1988 (active)
1988 – present (reserve)
UnitU.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps
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Lindsey Graham
Lindsey Graham, Official Portrait 2006.jpg
United States Senator
from South Carolina
Assumed office
January 3, 2003
Serving with Tim Scott
Preceded byStrom Thurmond
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2003
Preceded byButler Derrick
Succeeded byGresham Barrett
Member of the
South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 2nd District
In office
January 12, 1993 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byLowell W. Ross
Succeeded byWilliam E. Sandifer, III
Personal details
BornLindsey Olin Graham
(1955-07-09) July 9, 1955 (age 59)
Central, South Carolina
Political partyRepublican
ResidenceSeneca, South Carolina
Alma materUniversity of South Carolina (B.A., J.D.)
ReligionSouthern Baptist[1]
Military service
Service/branchUnited States Air Force
Years of service1982–1988 (active)
1988 – present (reserve)
UnitU.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps
Lt. Gen. Jack L. Rives pins the Meritorious Service Medal on Col. Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey Olin Graham (born July 9, 1955) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party who serves as the senior United States Senator from South Carolina, in office since 2003.

Born in Central, South Carolina, Graham graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1977. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1981. He served in the United States Air Force from 1982 to 1988 and served as a reservist in the South Carolina Air National Guard, attaining the rank of Colonel. He worked as a lawyer in private practice before he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1992, serving one term from 1993 to 1995. He then served in the United States House of Representatives, representing South Carolina's 3rd congressional district from 1995 to 2003. He was elected to four terms, receiving at least 60% of the vote each time.

In 2002, Graham ran for the U.S. Senate after eight-term Republican incumbent Strom Thurmond announced his retirement. Graham won the primary unopposed and defeated Democratic opponent Alex Sanders in the general election. Graham was re-elected to a second term in 2008, defeating Bob Conley. He is running for a third term in 2014 against Democrat Brad Hutto and Independent Thomas Ravenel.

Graham is a leading foreign policy hawk and interventionist.[2] He is also known for his willingness to be bipartisan and work with Democrats on issues like climate change, tax reform and immigration reform and his belief that judicial nominees should not be opposed solely on their philosophical positions.[3][4][5][6][7][8] Graham is also a critic of the Tea Party movement, arguing for a more inclusive Republican Party.[7][9][10][11][12][13]

Early life, education and law career[edit]

Graham was born in Central, South Carolina, where his parents, Millie and Florence James "F.J." Graham, ran a restaurant-bar-pool hall-liquor store, the Sanitary Cafe.[14] After graduating from D. W. Daniel High School, Graham became the first member of his family to attend college and joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. When he was 21, his mother died of Hodgkin's lymphoma aged 52, and his father died 15 months later of a heart attack aged 69.[14] Because his then-thirteen-year-old sister was left orphaned, the service allowed Graham to attend University of South Carolina in Columbia so he could be near home and care for his sister, whom he adopted.[12] During his studies, he became a member of the Pi Kappa Phi social fraternity.

He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Psychology in 1977 and from the University of South Carolina School of Law with a J.D. in 1981.

Military service[edit]

Upon graduating, Graham was commissioned as an officer and Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force in 1982. He was placed on active duty and in 1984, he was sent to Europe as a military prosecutor and defense attorney, serving at Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt, Germany.[1] In 1984, as he was defending an air force pilot accused of using marijuana, he was featured in an episode of 60 Minutes that exposed the Air Force's defective drug-testing procedures.[14][15] After four years in Europe, he returned to South Carolina and then left active duty in 1989.[1] He subsequently entered private practice as a lawyer.[14]

Following his departure from the Air Force, he joined the South Carolina Air National Guard in 1989, where he served until 1995, then joining the U.S. Air Force Reserve.[1]

During the Gulf War, he was recalled to active duty, serving as a Judge Advocate at McEntire Air National Guard Station in Eastover, South Carolina, where he helped brief departing pilots on the laws of war.[16]

In 1998, according to the Congressional daily newspaper The Hill, Graham was describing himself on his website as an Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran. In reality, he never left South Carolina. Graham responded: "I have not told anybody I'm a combatant. I'm not a war hero, and never said I was. I never intended to lie. If I have lied about my military record, I'm not fit to serve in Congress", further noting that he "never deployed."[17][18]

In 2004, Graham received a promotion to Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve at a White House ceremony officiated by President George W. Bush.

Graham served in Iraq as a reservist on active duty for short periods during April and two weeks in August 2007, where he worked on detainee and rule-of-law issues.[19] He also served in Afghanistan during the August 2009 Senate recess.[20] Since then, Graham has been assigned as a senior instructor for the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps.[1][21] He also serves as an Air Force Reserve appellate judge.[15]

South Carolina House of Representatives[edit]

In 1992, Graham was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives from the 2nd district, located in Oconee County. He defeated Democratic incumbent Lowell W. Ross by 60% to 40% and served one term, from 1993 to 1995.[22]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


In 1994, 20-year incumbent Democratic U.S. Congressman Butler Derrick of South Carolina's northwestern-based 3rd congressional district decided to retire. Graham ran to succeed him and, with Republican U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond campaigning on his behalf, he won the Republican primary with 52% of the vote, defeating Bob Cantrell (33%) and Ed Allgood (15%).[23] In the general election, Graham defeated Democratic State Senator James Bryan, Jr. by 60% to 40%.[24] As a part of that year's Republican Revolution, Graham became the first Republican to represent this district since 1877.[11]

In 1996, he was challenged by Debbie Dorn, the niece of Butler Derrick and daughter of Derrick's predecessor, 13-term Democratic Congressman William Jennings Bryan Dorn. Graham was re-election to a second term, defeating Dorn 60% to 40%.[25] In 1998, he won re-election to a third term unopposed.[26] In 2000, he was re-elected to a fourth term against Democrat George Brightharp by 68% to 30%.[27]


In 1996, Graham voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.[28]

In 1997, he took part in an abortive coup against House Speaker Newt Gingrich.[14]

He was a member of the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998.[29] He was the only Republican on the Committee to vote against any of the articles of impeachment (the second count of perjury in the Paula Jones case), famously asking: "Is this Watergate or Peyton Place?"[12][14]

Committee assignments[edit]

During his service in the House, Graham served on the following committees:

U.S. Senate[edit]



In 2002, long-time Republican U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond decided to retire. Graham ran to succeed him and won the Republican primary unopposed. In the general election, he defeated Democrat Alex Sanders, the former President of the College of Charleston and former Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, by 600,010 votes (54.4%) to 487,359 (44.19%).[30] Graham thus became South Carolina's first new U.S. Senator since 1965. He served as the state's Junior Senator for only two years, serving alongside fellow Republican Ernest Hollings until he retired in 2005.[31]


When Graham ran for a second term in 2008, he was challenged in the Republican primary by National Executive Committeeman of the South Carolina Republican Party Buddy Witherspoon. Graham defeated him by 186,398 votes (66.82%) to 92,547 (33.18%), winning all but one of South Carolina's 46 counties. Graham then defeated Democratic pilot and engineer Bob Conley in the general election by 1,076,534 votes (57.53%) to 790,621 (42.25%),[32] having out-spent Conley by $6.6 million to $15,000.[33]


Of all the Republican Senators up for re-election in the 2014 cycle, Graham was considered one of the most vulnerable to a primary challenge, largely due to his low approval ratings and reputation for working with and compromising with Democrats.[34][35] He expected a primary challenge from conservative activists, including the Tea Party movement,[36] and Chris Chocola, President of the Club for Growth, indicated that his organization would support a primary challenge if an acceptable standard-bearer emerged.[37]

However, a serious challenger to Graham failed to emerge and he was widely viewed as likely to win,[6][13][34] which has been ascribed to his "deft maneuvering" and "aggressive" response to the challenge. He befriended potential opponents from the state's congressional delegation and helped them with fundraising and securing their preferred committee assignments; he assembled a "daunting multimillion-dollar political operation" dubbed the "Graham machine" that built six regional offices across the state and enlisted the support of thousands of paid staffers and volunteers, including over 5,000 precinct captains; he assembled a "staggering" campaign warchest and "blanketed" the state with positive ads; he focused on constituent services and local issues; and he refused to "pander" to the Tea Party supporters, instead confronting them head-on, arguing that the Republican party needs to be more inclusive.[10][11][12][13][38]

In the run-up to the Republican primary, Graham's approval rating improved. According to a Winthrop poll from February 2013, he held a 59% positive rating among Republican likely voters.[39] In the primary, held on June 10, 2014, Graham won with 178,833 votes (56.42%). His nearest challenger, State Senator Lee Bright, received 48,904 votes (15.53%). In the general election, he will face Democratic nominee State Senator Brad Hutto and Independent Thomas Ravenel, a former Republican State Treasurer.


President Obama signing the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010
Political positions

Graham describes himself as a "Reagan-style Republican" and has been described as having "a twang of moderation" and "an independent streak".[6][14][15]

He has been criticized his willingness to be bipartisan and work with Democrats on issues like climate change, tax reform and immigration reform and his belief that judicial nominees should not be opposed solely on their philosophical positions.[3][4][5][6][7][8] For his part, Graham has criticised and confronted the Tea Party, arguing for a more inclusive Republican Party.[7][9][10][11][12][13]

In the National Journal's ideological rankings of Senators, Graham was named 41st most-conservative in 2003, 38th most-conservative in 2004, 43rd most-conservative in 2005, 33rd most-conservative in 2006, 24th most-conservative in 2007, 15th most-conservative in 2008, 26th most-conservative in 2009, 24th most-conservative in 2010, 42nd most-conservative in 2011, 33rd most-conservative in 2012 and 40th most-conservative in 2013.[40]

Alito confirmation hearings

During the Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings for the nomination of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court, a question arose concerning Alito's membership in a Princeton University organization which some said was sexist and racist.[41][42] Alito "deplored" racist comments made by the organization's founder.[43] While Graham said that Alito might be saying this because he wanted the nomination, he concluded that he had no reason to believe that because "you seem to be a decent, honorable man."[43] Alito's wife and sister characterized Graham's statements as supportive.[44][45]

Free speech

During an appearance on Face the Nation on April 3, 2011,[46] Graham "suggested that Congress take unspecified though formal action against the Koran-burning by Florida preacher Terry Jones," in light of an attack on United Nations personnel triggered by Jones' actions.[47] In asserting that "Congress might need to explore the need to limit some forms of freedom of speech,"[48] Graham argued that "Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war," and claimed that "during World War II, we had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy."[47][49]

Gang of 14

On May 23, 2005, Graham was one of the Gang of 14 senators to forge a compromise that brought a halt to the continued blockage of an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees. This compromise negated both the Democrats' use of a filibuster and the Republican "nuclear option" as described in the media. Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance", and three conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William H. Pryor, Jr.) received a vote by the full Senate.

Detainee interrogations

In July 2005, Graham secured the declassification and release of memoranda outlining concerns made by senior military lawyers as early as 2003 about the legality of the interrogations of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.[50]

Regarding U.S. Citizens accused of supporting terrorism, senator Lindsey Graham has stated before the senate, "When they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda.’"

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, 2011[51]

In response to this and a June 2004 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing detainees to file habeas corpus petitions to challenge their detentions, Graham authored an amendment[52] to a Department of Defense Authorization Act[clarification needed] attempting to clarify the authority of American courts. The amendment passed in November 2005 by a vote of 49–42 in the Senate despite opposition from human rights groups and legal scholars who say it limits the rights of detainees.[53][54]

Graham has said he amended the Department of Defense Authorization Act in order to give military lawyers, as opposed to politically appointed lawyers, a more independent role in the oversight of military commanders. He has argued that two of the largest problems leading to the detainee abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib were this lack of oversight and troops' confusion over legal boundaries.[55]

Graham further explained that military lawyers had long observed the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention, but that those provisions had not been considered by the Bush administration in decisions regarding the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. He has claimed that better legal oversight within the military’s chain of command will prevent future detainee abuse.[56]

In February 2006, Graham joined Senator Jon Kyl in filing an amicus brief in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case that argued "Congress was aware" that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 would strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to hear "pending cases, including this case" brought by the Guantanamo detainees.[57]

In a May 2009 CNN interview, Graham referred to the domestic internment of German and Japanese prisoners of war and U.S. Citizens as a model for domestic detention of Guantanamo detainees by saying, "We had 450,000 Japanese and German prisoners housed in the United States during World War II. As a nation, we can deal with this."[58]

Immigration reform

Graham was a supporter of "comprehensive immigration reform" and of S. 2611, the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill of 2006 as well as S. 1348 of 2007, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. His positions on immigration, and in particular collaborating with Senator Ted Kennedy, earned Graham the ire of conservative activists.[59] The controversy prompted conservative activists to support a primary challenge in 2008 by longtime Republican national committeeman Buddy Witherspoon,[60][61] but Graham won the nomination by a large margin.[62] 

In early 2010, Graham began working with Democratic New York Senator Chuck Schumer on immigration reform.[63] The talks broke down later in the year.[64]

In July 2010, Graham suggested that U.S. citizenship as an automatic birthright guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should be amended, and that any children born of illegal immigrants inside the borders of the United States should themselves be considered illegal immigrants.[65] Graham alleged that "Half the children born in hospitals on our borders are the children of illegal immigrants."[66] Responding to the Graham claim, The New York Times cited a Pew Foundation study estimating that illegal immigrants account for only 8 percent of births in the United States and that 80 percent of the mothers had been in the U.S. for more than one year.[67]

In November 2012, Graham and Schumer re-opened their talks on comprehensive immigration reform.[64] On January 28, 2013, Graham was a member of a bi-partisan group of eight Senators which announced principles for comprehensive comprehensive immigration reform.[68] On June 23, Graham said that the Senate was close to obtaining 70 votes to pass the reform package.[69]

Second Amendment

Graham has been given an A rating by the NRA and a B rating by the Gun Owners of America, indicating a strong pro-gun stance.[70]

Health care

Graham opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[71] and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[72]

Graham is a cosponsor of the Healthy Americans Act.

Same-sex marriage

As a Senator, in 2004 he voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment.[73] He received a rating of 0% from the Human Rights Campaign, a lobby group which promotes LGBT rights in the United States, in each reporting period from 1995–2008, with the exception of 1999, when he received a rating of 9%.[74] Graham has also voted against same-sex adoptions in Washington, D.C.[75]

Climate change

On December 10, 2009, Graham co-sponsored a letter to President Barack Obama along with Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman announcing their commitment to passing a climate change bill and outlining its framework.[76][77] Graham has been identified as a leading supporter of passing a climate change bill and was thought to be a likely sponsor for the final bill. The Senators have identified a green economy, clean air, energy independence, consumer protection, increasing nuclear power and regulating the world's carbon market as the key features to a successful climate change bill.[78] In response to Senate Democrats shifting their priorities to immigration issues, a reaction to Arizona's passage of an illegal immigration law, Graham withdrew his support for the climate bill, leaving its passage in doubt.[79]

Graham told reporters in June 2010 that "The science about global warming has changed. I think they've oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they've been alarmist and the science is in question. The whole movement has taken a giant step backward."[80] He also stated that he planned to vote against the climate bill that he had originally co-sponsored, citing further restriction of offshore drilling added to the bill and the bill's impact on transportation.[81]

Foreign policy
John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Al-Faw Palace, Iraq, 2007

Graham supports an interventionist foreign policy.[2] On November 6, 2010, at the Halifax International Security Forum, he called for a pre-emptive military strike to "neuter" the Iranian regime.[82] He has also argued that "the U.S. needs to keep at least 10,000 troops in Iraq into 2012," saying that "If we're not smart enough to work with the Iraqis to have 10,000 to 15,000 American troops in Iraq in 2012, Iraq could go to hell."[83]

In August 2011, Graham co-sponsored with Senator Jeanne Shaheen Senate Resolution 175, wherewith he contended that "Russia's invasion of Georgian land in 2008 was an act of aggression, not only to Georgia but to all new democracies." The claim that Russia instigated the aggression in South Ossetia, however, has been contradicted by many observers, including a European Union investigation. The resolution passed unanimously.

He is an advisor to the Atlantic Bridge.

Graham is an unabashed supporter of Israel. Graham threatened to derail the confirmation of President Obama's nomination for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, remarking that Hagel "would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history."[84]

On January 29 2013, in an interview with Fox News, he claimed that Hillary Clinton "got away with murder", following Clinton's testimony during the Benghazi hearings.[85]

On February 28 2013, Graham criticized President Obama and both political parties on the Senate floor for allowing the budget reduction to occur with "two-thirds of the budget" exempt from reductions and said the impact on the Department of Defense would create a "hollow military" that "invites aggression".[86][87][88][89]

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Senators John McCain, John Barrasso and Lindsey Graham in Jerusalem on January 3, 2013

On July 16 2013, Graham suggested the United States should consider boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, because of "what the Russian government is doing throughout the world."[90] Graham also said the U.S. should aim to "drive the Russian economy into the ground."[91]


Graham has signed Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. However, in June 2012, he went on record supporting the closure of tax loopholes without compensating decreases in other tax revenue, saying "We're so far in debt, that if you don't give up some ideological ground, the country sinks."[92]

Committee assignments[edit]

Previous assignments

Caucus memberships[edit]

Graham is a member of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute.[94]

Presidential politics[edit]

Graham is close friends with Arizona Senator John McCain. He supported McCain's presidential bid in 2000 and served as national co-chairman of McCain's 2008 presidential bid.[11][95]

In 2012, Graham's endorsement was highly sought,[96] but he declined to endorse one of the Republican candidates ahead of the January 2012 South Carolina Republican primary.[97] After Rick Santorum withdrew from the race in April 2012, leaving Mitt Romney as the presumptive nominee, Graham endorsed Romney.[98]

In October 2014, Graham stated that if he was re-elected in 2014, he would explore running for President in the 2016 election.[2][99]

Electoral history[edit]

South Carolina's 3rd congressional district: Results 1994–2000[100]
YearDemocraticVotesPctRepublicanVotesPct3rd PartyPartyVotesPct
1994James E. Bryan, Jr.59,93240%Lindsey Graham90,12360%*
1996Debbie Dorn73,41739%Lindsey Graham114,27360%Lindal PenningtonNatural Law1,8351%
1998(no candidate)Lindsey Graham129,047100%Write-ins402<1%
2000George Brightharp67,17030%Lindsey Graham150,18068%Adrian BanksLibertarian3,1161%*
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1994, write-ins received 13 votes. In 2000, Natural Law candidate LeRoy J. Klein received 1,122 votes and write-ins received 33 votes. George Brightharp ran under both the Democratic and United Citizens Parties and received 2,253 votes on the United Citizen line.
Senate elections in South Carolina (Class II): Results 2002–2008[100]
YearDemocraticVotesPctRepublicanVotesPct3rd PartyPartyVotesPct3rd PartyPartyVotesPct
2002Alex Sanders487,35944%Lindsey Graham600,01054%Ted AdamsConstitution8,2281%Victor KocherLibertarian6,6481%*
2008Bob Conley785,55942%Lindsey Graham1,069,13758%Write-ins608<1%
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 2002, write-ins received 667 votes.

Personal life[edit]

Graham has never married and has no children.[11] He lives in Seneca, South Carolina.[101]


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  53. ^ ACLU Urges Congress to Reject Court Stripping Measure
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Butler Derrick
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Gresham Barrett
United States Senate
Preceded by
Strom Thurmond
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: Ernest Hollings, Jim DeMint, Tim Scott
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Strom Thurmond
Republican Party nominee for United States Senator from South Carolina (Class 2)
2002, 2008, 2014
Succeeded by
Most recent
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Saxby Chambliss
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Lamar Alexander