The Washington Post is out with a new report charging that GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) received “special treatment” as a lawmaker while serving as a reservist in the Air Force.
According to the Post, Graham retired this year after spending 33 years in the Air Force — 24 of those years he spent as a reservist while he was in Congress.
The Post’s in depth look at Graham’s service revealed that his first 10 years in Congress, while serving as a reservist, the Air Force promoted the South Carolinian twice “even though documents in his military personnel file reveal that he did little or no work.” He then was granted a military lawyer position in the Air Force reserve but, according to the Post, never did it.
After he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, Graham was designated by the Air Force Reserve as a “key federal employee,” a category for a small number of lawmakers and senior government officials.
Over the next 10 years, he rarely put on his uniform. According to his personnel file, between January 1995 and January 2005 he received credit for a total of 108 hours of training — the equivalent of less than a day and a half per year.
During that span, however, the Air Force kept awarding him promotions. In 1998, he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Six years later, he was promoted to colonel by President George W. Bush.
Speaking to the Post, Graham explained that his duties as a lawmaker made cutting out time for the reserves difficult, saying that those were the “wilderness years” in his service record.
“At one time I almost thought about getting out because I felt like, okay, what am I doing here?” he told the Post. He noted that he did not feel “guilty” however, because he was not being compensated.
Graham said he still feels he earned his promotions to lieutenant colonel and colonel because they were granted by looking at his full record, before becoming a lawmaker.
“I think when it came to being Colonel Graham that they looked at my entire record, and I’ll put it up against anybody who’s ever served,” he said to the Post. “I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but I was one hell of a judge advocate.
In addition to the questions about his promotions, the Post further took issue with the ways in which Graham has described his service.
From 2006 until the start of this year, Graham’s official biographies stated that he worked as a senior instructor at the Judge Advocate General’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., the training hub for the service’s legal corps. That description has been cited in virtually all news coverage of Graham’s military career.
In fact, Air Force officials said they had no record of Graham teaching any courses on behalf of the school or even visiting it during that period.
Other uniformed lawyers said Graham’s assignment was widely perceived as a no-show job granted to a politician with whom the Air Force brass was eager to curry favor.
In interviews with the Post, Graham acknowledged never going to the Maxwell Air Force Base and doing “zero.” He said that while he was assigned to be an instructor there he was able get his superiors to send him to work on detention policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Graham said he kept the inaccurate job description in his biographies because he didn’t want to draw attention to his war-zone missions. Although many of his trips to Afghanistan and Iraq were documented by the news media and publicized by the Defense Department, Graham said he tried to minimize coverage for fear that the Pentagon would view his desire to serve there as a political stunt.
“I never took time to change it,” he said of his biographies. “I probably should have. At the end of the day the one thing I didn’t want to talk about was being deployed overseas. If I start putting that out there . . . I thought that would screw everything up.”
In all, according to the Post, Graham “deployed overseas 19 times while in Congress, serving a total of 142 days.” He is slated to receive a monthly pension of $2,773 after retiring at age 60.
In an email to supporters Monday, according to The Hill, Graham’s campaign manager Christian Ferry slammed the Post for conducting a “political hit job.”