From the start, the Republican presidential race was viewed as one pitting Establishment candidates against anti-Establishment candidates. It proved to be an accurate portrayal and as the race has narrowed to three individuals, it is clear that two of the fellows, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have survived the anti-Establishment lane while John Kasich has emerged from the Establishment lane .
It isn't, of course, black-and-white. It is by nurture, not nature, by clear intent rather than instinct, that a graduate of two Ivy League schoos (Princeton and Harvard Law), Bush 43 official, law professor, litigator in the US Supreme Court and United States Senator has come to be seen as bucking the system. Obversely, John Kasich told an NBC reporter at the close of one of the primaries that he is not of or opposed to the Establishment but rather representing the "John Kasich lane."
Still, there is a clear distinction, and an even clearer one between two of the now-departed candidates, Ben Carson and Lindsey Graham. However, recent television appearances by the two highlight the false dichotomy between an "establishment" candidate, as Graham clearly was portrayed, and an "anti-" candidate, as the somewhat more successful Carson portrayed himself as.
Ben Carson spent the majority of his time on the set of "The View" on Thursday defending Donald Trump and his endorsement of the Republican presidential front-runner, who at one point compared Carson to a child molester.
“Sir, I hate to ask this question, but you have aligned yourself with the man who has bashed women, made countless racist remarks, and you’re Ben Carson; why would you align yourself with that?” co-host Whoopi Goldberg asked the retired neurosurgeon.
Carson responded, saying on multiple occasions that “there is no perfect person” but that Trump has a history of inclusion, referring specifically to his allowing African-Americans and Jews into his Palm Beach clubs. “He insisted on Jews and blacks and helped to break that open,” Carson said, as Goldberg chuckled incredulously.
“So has he said some things that I wouldn’t say or that you wouldn’t say? Of course,” Carson said.
The panelists then discussed Trump’s run-in with the federal government in the 1970s, when the Justice Department sued him alleging racial discrimination. Trump later settled without acknowledging wrongdoing.
“I will put it this way,” Carson said. “I have met a lot of his employees, including African-Americans, and they have nothing but good things to say. Somebody who’s hired as many people as he has hired, and you can find very few people who have anything negative to say.”
Carson also had nice things to say about Trump’s family, noting that he knows the children of other wealthy people who, he said, have been raised worse.
Carson didn't ask Goldberg to cite the "racist" remarks. Nor did he explain that had Trump been required to acknowledge wrongdoing, he might have balked and been found not to be culpable, instead of simply buying his way out of the charge.
That would have been arguing on the merits of the case. Instead,he claimed that everyone else does it too, that Trump's employees won't criticize him (as if most employees are free to blast their employer), and that he is a swell family man, as if that will matter when he tries to bully (or make love to) his friend Vladimir Putin.
In everyday discourse/parlance, Carson is what is known as a "weasel." His ilk is also known as a "politician."
Contrast that with Lindsey Graham, who appeared Wednesday on The Daily Show (first part of the segment, video below). Just this winter, Graham had famously joked "if you're a Republican and your choice is Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in a general election, it's the difference between poisoned or shot" and "if you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you." Less famously, he labeled the Texas Senator "an opportunist" and maintained the latter on foreign policy is "just as wrong as Obama, if not worse."
Soon after, he endorsed Ted Cruz. If Graham were as disingenuous a politician as Carson, he would have pointed to whatever minorities or women the Texan has on his staff; maintained that Cruz gives gifts to his aides on Administrative Professionals Day; and defends his wife whenever she's criticized.
When asked about his support of Cruz, Graham said that his change of heart "tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump."
Graham, who was once in the presidential race himself, endorsed Cruz ahead of the AIPAC conference in Washington last week.
"He was my fifteenth choice so what can I say?" Graham added.
And everything came back to Donald Trump.
What do you like about Cruz, Noah asked the senior senator. "He's not Trump," Graham replied.
"He's not completely crazy," Graham said of his colleague, adding "that works in Washington."
Cruz virtually stated he preferred being poisoned than shot. Oh, wait- not virtually:
Noah then aired a clip of Graham being asked in January whether he preferred Cruz or Trump as the nominee during a news conference on Capitol Hill.
“It’s like being shot or poisoned, what does it really matter?” Graham said.
Graham explained the comment, telling The Daily Show host, “Donald is like being shot in the head.”
On Cruz being the “poison,” the senator said, “You might find an antidote to the poisoning — I don’t know, but maybe there’s time.”
Not only is it an honest explanation, but an accurate one, for the best reason to support Ted Cruz over Donald Trump (or Trump over Cruz) is to choose the lesser of two evils. Graham has done so in a manner befitting the sense of irony and self-detachment identified by Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. As a candidate, Graham was caught in a bind: a politician charged with being a typical Washington politician, yet far more forthcoming than a Dr. Carson or other anti-politician poseurs.