Graham for U.S. Senate

In the race for U.S. Senate, we endorse incumbent Lindsey Graham.

Graham, a Republican, though reliably conservative on most issues, is too independent a thinker to simply vote the party line. He is willing to work with Democrats when conscience leads him to break with fellow Republicans and when he believes he is acting in the best interests of the nation.

But claims that he is a liberal are warrantless. His lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union is 91, the same as the man he replaced, the late Strom Thurmond.

He has been a tireless supporter of the Bush policy in Iraq and an early proponent of the surge strategy. He also has championed federal spending restraint, lower taxes, efforts to promote energy independence and a strong national defense.

But we believe he also has shown political courage in backing causes that were opposed by most of his GOP colleagues and many constituents at home. Most notably, he, along with Sen. John McCain, worked with a group of Democratic senators to fashion an immigration reform bill that balanced punitive measures with provisions for allowing the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States to earn citizenship.

That bill, opposed for different reasons by both Democrats and Republicans, ultimately failed. But it demonstrated Graham's willingness to work for compromise and pay the political price if he feels strongly about an issue.

Graham, who is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, also was a key supporter of legislation outlawing torture of prisoners held by the U.S. military. And he supported efforts to expand health care for military personnel well beyond what the Bush administration advocated.

Those who worry that Graham is not conservative enough might want to consider voting for his Democratic opponent, Bob Conley. Conley, a commercial pilot, a flight instructor and an engineer from North Myrtle Beach, is running to the right of Graham on a variety of issues. Conley was a Republican until deciding to run in the Democratic primary. He also supported Ron Paul, the libertarian Texas congressman, in the Republican presidential primary.

Conley favors building a better fence along the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. He also would bring home the 30,000 U.S. troops now in South Korea to protect the border, and he would oppose any form of amnesty for immigrants now in this country.

Conley opposed the recent congressional bailout of the financial sector. He blames loose monetary programs, bad loans and an unregulated derivatives market for the meltdown, and would allow the marketplace to correct itself.

He believes the nation could become energy independent by opening up shale oil fields for exploration, using so-called "clean coal," drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, and requiring all federal government vehicles to run on alternative fuels.

He would draw down U.S. troops in Iraq and hand the nation off to the Iraqis. He opposes interventionist policies and believes the nation should take care of U.S. interests first.

Graham, we think, offers a more measured approach to all those issues and would better serve the interests of South Carolina and the nation in the Senate for another term.