• Over the past three years, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has so thoroughly reversed himself on so many topics that many people are half-jokingly speculating that he’s being blackmailed.
That’s certainly possible, given the number of powerful entities out there who are aggressively collecting and cultivating damaging secrets in order to control politicians — from the Russian mob/government FSB to the vaults of the National Enquirer to whoever it was who pulled all those strings to arrange Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart sentence. But it still seems unlikely to me because, after all, Graham is a senator from South Carolina, and South Carolina voters have a history of shrugging off the sort of things that might seem like fodder for blackmail.
Consider, for example, James Henry Hammond, one of Graham’s predecessors as a senator from South Carolina. Hammond had four teenage nieces and raped all of them. We know this not because the secret scandal was unearthed, but because Hammond bragged about it. Hammond also repeatedly raped women he kept in slavery, including one who was probably his own daughter.
Voters in South Carolina knew all about that, yet still had no complaints when their state legislators elected Hammond to represent them in the Senate. He served there until his state declared war against America. Generations later, the people of South Carolina named a school after him.
Whatever secrets Putin or Pecker might possibly know about Lindsey Graham’s private life, I doubt they’re worse than the rape of his own nieces or his own daughter. So I don’t think that blackmail is the likeliest explanation for Lindsey Graham’s total abandonment of his previous principles.
I think the likeliest explanation for his violation of his principles is that he never really had any.
(I learned of the depraved history of James Henry Hammond via Erik Loomis’ visit to the American grave of another vile slaveowner — Wade Hampton II. Loomis writes: “I don’t think anyone actually is happy to read a post like this, but it’s also important to realize the depravity of these people.” And yes, it is.)
This is news not because it is a new teaching, but because it is a clearer statement of the only possible implication of what the church has always taught. There’s never been any way around this conclusion, but Pope Francis has at last dropped the hemming and hawing about it that has long characterized church statements on the use or possession of weapons designed for the mass-slaughter of civilians.
Pope Francis’ statement comes many years after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons. It’s instructive to think about the very limited influence that Francis’ teaching is likely to have on the policies and conduct of governments, on Catholic elected officials, on right-wing bishops who view Francis as dangerously liberal, or even on popular opinion among Catholics in America. I suspect Khamenei’s earlier statement is similarly influential among those for whom he is officially regarded as the supreme spiritual authority.
That may not be the most generous description of what the bishops have fought for all those years, but that is, in fact, the undeniable fruit of their efforts. And they have known this all along. And they were fine with that. More than fine, thank you very much.
The downside, however, is that a Mitch-ified Supreme Court and a federal judiciary packed with Federal Society puppets probably still won’t be enough to save them as their claim to moral authority hits the fan.
The linked article there — “Surge of new abuse claims threatens church like never before” — focuses on the cost of legal settlements, which will likely exceed $4 billion. That’s pocket change compared to what the mass-exodus of church-goers will cost following another decade of church leaders publicly fighting on the wrong side of so many child-rape cases and being the target of more class-action ads than mesothelioma. There are going to be many, many, many more news stories about the church that could all include a variation of Loomis’ note: “I don’t think anyone actually is happy to read a report like this, but it’s also important to realize the depravity of these people.”
Maybe it might have worked out better for them if they’d just tried to do the right thing instead of spending generations trying to rig the system to ensure they’d escape punishment for doing the wrong thing. Alas, we’ll probably never know.
• “The Disappearance of John M. Ford.” Those who, like me, know Ford mainly through his writing (and brilliant commenting) at Making Light will be, like me, very happy to learn that his novels and other writings will be returning to print next year.
And those who have no idea who John M. Ford was will be very happy to spend some time reading the links here to some of his amazing work at Making Light.