- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

Sen.-elect Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, is not afraid to buck the powerful.
When House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, failed to fully enact the 1994 Contract With America, Mr. Graham, then a member of the House, led a handful of disgruntled Republican colleagues in an unsuccessful coup to oust him.
And when Republican lawmakers lined up fast and furious behind George W. Bush's campaign for the presidency, Mr. Graham chose to back campaign-finance reformer Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
But his biggest role on Capitol Hill was as a prosecutor in the impeachment trial of President Clinton.
"I am a conservative who will look independently at the ideas that come through the Senate. If I think it will help my country and state, I will sign on. If I think it's a bad idea, I will oppose it," said Mr. Graham, who was elected in November to succeed 100-year-old retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond.
Mr. Graham says that he will continue to follow his conscience as a senator.
"I shouldn't be written off as saying no to an idea just because I'm a conservative from South Carolina. At the same time, don't assume I'm going to be with you just because I'm a conservative from South Carolina," he said.
Mr. Graham was swept into office during the 1994 Republican revolution, one of many conservatives who vowed to enact federal reforms on how the government does business.
He remains committed to outlawing abortion, protecting gun rights, and reducing federal spending and taxes.
He served eight years in the House before running for the open Senate seat against Democrat Alex Sanders, former president of the College of Charleston.
Mr. Graham said he is ready to "push the envelope" on reform measures in the Senate but that he also is prepared to switch from the speedy pace of the House to the cumbersome legislative crawl more common among members serving in the upper body.
"I'll walk backwards that way I won't get ahead of them," he said.
He also said he hopes to fill the "conservative vacuum" left by the retirements of Republican Sens. Phil Gramm of Texas, Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Mr. Thurmond.
"It's time for a younger generation of conservatives to step up to the plate. I would like to do that but to be thought of as a reformer," Mr. Graham said.
The impeachment process taught him a lot about the constitutional process and politics in Washington, he said.
"I thought the president's conduct, when it was all added up, was unworthy of the office."
But Mr. Clinton's actions weren't the only behavior put into question during the impeachment trial.
When Rep. Bob Livingston, Louisiana Republican, stunned lawmakers in December 1998 by confessing on the House floor the night before the impeachment debate began to having an extramarital affair, Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, took the credit.
Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call first disclosed the affair, but Mr. Flynt said his investigation uncovered four women who contended they had had affairs with Mr. Livingston. Mr. Flynt had offered a million dollars for tawdry information on House managers of the impeachment trial.
"It was very hard, and a lot didn't get in the paper, but it was not a pleasant experience," Mr. Graham said, referring to what he said was pressure on prosecutors and witnesses during the impeachment.
"And particularly female witnesses, it was not pleasant for them, but I admire people who are willing to stand their ground during the tough times," he said.
Mr. Graham said the challenge of his generation of leaders is to strengthen the military to protect the country from terrorism. He said he hopes to land a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He is also interested in a spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where many of the president's federal judicial nominations remained bottled up when the panel was under Democratic control.
"I feel like I can add something to the cause of getting conservative judges confirmed. The Judiciary Committee is not for the faint-hearted, and having been in the House during impeachment, I think that is probably good training for me in taking on the battle ahead," Mr. Graham said.
"Confirming judges is the role of the Senate, but it has taken on a political agenda that is very unhealthy it's become base politics at its worst," he said.
His single lifestyle, meanwhile, has captured the attention of gossip columnists, who often report on his dinner companions.
At 47, Mr. Graham will be among a handful of bachelors in the Senate. He said he hopes to have a family one day, but couldn't resist playing on the marital history of Mr. Thurmond, whose two wives were considerably younger than he. The second was a former South Carolina beauty queen who was 44 years younger.
"If I do the Strom Thurmond thing, then my wife will be born in two years and I'll have my first child in 21 years, so I have a lot to look forward to. I don't know if I can do everything Strom did, but I'm willing to give it a whirl. I'll go to the Miss South Carolina pageant in 20 years and pick out the winner," Mr. Graham said.

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