For those who think of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as the late John McCain’s sidekick, or as a very unsuccessful, moderate presidential candidate in a year when Donald Trump won Republican voters’ hearts and minds, his transformation in recent months has been jarring. The senator has put himself in the role of mediating between the President and Congress — and, in that role, quite a bit of the President’s philosophy seems to have rubbed off on him.
The Trumpification of Graham was on full display Thursday as, red-faced and jabbing his finger, he roared to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s defense as the judge sat quietly smirking. The committee’s attempt to question Kavanaugh about Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations was part of the “most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” Graham declared. Kavanaugh has “nothing to apologize for.”
His ire reached a peak on Thursday night when, after chowing down on some Chik-Fil-A with Hannity, he tore into Blasey Ford.
“I am now more convinced than ever that he didn’t do it. He is the right guy to be on the court,” Graham said on air.
Then: “Ms. Ford has a problem, and destroying Judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem.”
His outraged pronouncements came along with threats before the Judiciary Committee: “Let me tell my Democratic friends,” he said, “if this becomes the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees.” It was a message he repeated numerous times, including before the vote on Friday. “If I am chairman next year, if we keep the majority … I’m going to remember this. There is the process before Kavanaugh, and the process after Kavanaugh.”
What Graham seemed to be suggesting was that his party would block Democrats from placing a nominee on the Supreme Court. He was, perhaps, a bit behind the ball with his threat: Republicans had already blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination for 11 months on the ridiculous claim that a nominee could not be confirmed in an election year.
Yet, the suggestion that a nominee who is the subject of multiple sexual assault allegations might deserve a second thought? “A national disgrace!”
The threat rang hollow, and a bit naïve. You can’t take a hostage that’s already dead, and you can’t break a democracy that’s already broken.
But when Sen. Jeff Flake seemed to indicate he would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh until an FBI investigation went forward, Graham let slip a hint about what may lie behind his bewildering level of agitation: Fear.
“Somebody’s gotta explain this to Trump,” he told reporters. “So, I guess that’ll be my job.”
For shamelessly recasting himself as Trump’s errand boy as his 2020 reelection fight looms, Senator Lindsey Graham is our Duke of the Week.