ON MESSAGE: Pity the White Male

"But I can just tell you one thing: If I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over."

-Lindsey Graham, at a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, addressing Sonia Sotomayor and her 2001 remark about the "richness of experience" that a "wise Latina woman" brings to the bench

 

Right, right. And if he spoke to, say, the National Association for the Advancement of White People, his career would be over, too. Meanwhile, Barack Obama gets to address this week's convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and no one's telling him how racist he is. Hey, no one ever said it was easy being a 54-year-old white man from the South.

O.K., so Mr. Graham's comment won't win him many admirers in Blue State America. But that doesn't matter. This is a case of a politician spotting an opportunity to score points and taking it.

Like state Republican parties across the South, the South Carolina G.O.P is filled with white men and women who drifted away from the Democratic Party after it embraced civil rights. Rank-and-file white South Carolina Republicans aren't interested in the context of Ms. Sotomayor's comment, or the historical lack of Hispanic representation in the highest levels of judiciary. All they see is "reverse racism."

So if you're Mr. Graham, why not cater to this sentiment? It's not like arguing the point would change anyone's mind, and as he admitted later in his statement at the hearing, Ms. Sotomayor is going to win confirmation anyway. Meanwhile, Mr. Graham is able to forge a stronger connection with the G.O.P base in South Carolina, which has long viewed him with ambivalence for his occasional cooperation with Democrats.

The threat of a primary challenge, no matter how far off, always haunts Mr. Graham. His rebuke of Ms. Sotomayor makes him just a little bit safer back home.

ON MESSAGE: Pity the White Male