The most perplexing GOP politician is at it again, this time upending a "bipartisan" energy bill in a fit over Senate Democrats' decision to take up immigration reform in the face of a harsh new law just passed in Arizona, the home state of his best friend, John McCain, who is fighting for reelection there.
Lindsey Graham's decision, which derails planned introduction tomorrow of a climate change bill, cosponsored by John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, is only the latest move in almost two decades of zigzags that can't be explained by ideology alone.
Jumpstarting his career on the House Judiciary Committee by insisting the Republic would fall because Bill Clinton unzipped in the Oval Office, Graham moved on to the Senate as a solid supporter of the Iraq war, a frequent flier there with McCain and an omnipresence in his 2008 presidential campaign.
Along the way, he took flak back home in South Carolina for joining McCain and Ted Kennedy in supporting serious immigration reform and, as recently as this January, was censured by hard-right Republicans there for positions on that issue as well as energy and the bank bailout.
When McCain was choosing a running mate, it was surprising that he considered Lieberman and finally settled on Sarah Palin but seemingly gave no consideration to Graham, whose reputation nationally as a Southern conservative might have broadened the ticket's appeal.
A possible explanation surfaces now with the public pronouncement of an immigration hardliner that Graham is a closeted gay: "Sen. Graham, you need to come forward and tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality...I don't care about your private life, Lindsey. But as our U.S. senator I need to figure out why you're trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure your being gay isn't it."
If the current political climate were to get any uglier, bludgeoning Graham with rumors about his sexuality this way would be another step down toward the pure politics of personal destruction.
Under this kind of pressure, the Senator's sense of being embattled on all sides is more understandable--and deplorable.
In the light of Graham's situation, Thomas Friedman's proposal today that the Tea Party go green is pure fantasy. The worst elements of the anti-incumbent movement are heading toward blood red.