Most of the declared and likely GOP presidential candidates visited Iowa over the weekend to serve comfort food and salivate over how many people they would kill if they got the country's top killing job. It was a fierce competition to see who could most creatively slake the Iowa crowd's thirst for indiscriminate mass killing. But the winner, as it typically will be in these contests of macabre one-upmanship, would have to be Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Like most events in Iowa, the Lincoln Day Dinner is a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party, and thus something that the Iowa Republican Party bills as crucial for any candidate who has any hope of competing in the Iowa caucuses. While some GOP candidates this cycle may call the Iowa GOP's bluff on that greatest scam of them all, the Iowa Straw Poll, most were still willing to cover the airfare Saturday's day dinner. The candidates served the attendees foodstuffs that represented their personal brands. Scott Walker dished out Wisconsin cheddar cheese and exotic Miller beer "as he stood near a Harley Davidson motorcycle," Bloomberg reports. "Former Texas Governor Rick Perry offered ice cream sundaes, while former Florida Governor Jeb Bush served meatballs and chips and salsa." Jeb Bush is careful not to set expectations too high in Iowa.
While the attendees gnoshed on their treats, the candidates took ten minutes each to outline their plans for maximal overseas killing.
Rick Santorum's plan to defeat radical jihadists is to bomb them not just into the soil, but back in time. He outlined his vision through a rhetorical vehicle that structurally resembled a joke. "I've been very very clear about how we're going to deal with [ISIS]," he said. "They want to bring back a 7th-century version of Islam. And so here's my suggestion: We load up our bombers, and we bomb them back to the 7th century." Zip zap zoop, ka-pow. Give the man some of Rick Perry's famous Texas Ice Cream.
Scott Walker, meanwhile, attempted to parlay his recent trip to Israel into credibility for his plain-vanilla foreign policy hawkishness.
"I've got news for your Mr. President - we need a commander-in-chief who calls it what it is - radical Islamic terrorism and we need to act on it," Gov. Walker told the crowd of over 1,300 GOP loyalists at the Iowa Events Center.
Gov. Walker was the last of eleven likely candidates to speak and set the most aggressive tone. Fresh off of his five-day trip to Israel, he announced the U.S. needs a president who makes it clear that country is an ally and that Islamic terrorists are clear enemies.
"We need to have a commitment, because I don't know about you - but on behalf of my children and yours - I'm not gonna wait for when the next attack is made on American soil, I'd rather take the threat to them before they take it to us," said Gov. Walker.
As usual, there was little acknowledgement over the course of the event that President Obama has been bombing ISIS in multiple countries, without explicit authorization, for nearly a year.
Then it was time for Grahamnesty. Lindsey Graham is a strange bird. He's heretical on certain counts, like his interest in comprehensive immigration reform and his bizarre belief that not only is anthropogenic climate change real, but that there should be a policy to address it. Pretty ghastly stuff. But he bets he can make up the deficit to primary voters by offering the boldest killing policy of all.
Graham warmed up the crowd with some acceptable jokes about how Sen. Chuck Grassley is cheap and he fears that Sen. Joni Ernst will castrate him. Who among us, etc. And then in his "folksy manner," as NPR reports, he declared that as president he would drone people for their thoughts while disregarding the legal system:
"If I'm president of the United States and you're thinking about joining al-Qaida or ISIL — anybody thinking about that?" he asked to laughs. "I'm not gonna call a judge. I'm gonna call a drone and we're gonna kill you."
And that was how Lindsey Graham once again raised the bar for acceptable hawkishness in the 2016 GOP presidential primary field.
Graham told CBS News Monday morning that he'll make his announcement June 1 in Central, South Carolina. All indications point to this being his announcement that he's running for president, for a couple of reasons. One: the ironclad law of Everybody Except John Bolton Is Running For President. Two: he specifically said "I'm running" on CBS, "because I think the world is falling apart."
It is unlikely that Lindsey Graham will win the Republican presidential nomination. But as we've written before, he'll serve a powerful role in the primaries: to get a party that's already quite hawkish to push its rhetoric into previously unexplored frontiers of hawkishness. And if you so much as think, for one second, that Lindsey Graham can't pull this off, Lindsey Graham will "call a drone" and kill you.