What If Lindsey Graham Isn't Compromised, What If He's Just LIKE THAT?
Bob Woodward's book Fear was released Tuesday so someone should get around to reading it to Donald Trump next week (Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls "not it!"). It exposes a great deal of dysfunction within the White House but also reveals the corruption that has seeped out of it like a failed sewer line into other branches of government. Perhaps there's no better or more disappointing example than Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Graham, of all the Vichy Republicans who capitulated to President Trump, was the loudest Cassandra about candidate Trump. He scathingly
summed up Trump in 2015 as a "race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot ... who doesn't have a clue about anything." Trump didn't spend 2016 at Clue! Academy. He actually ramped up the race-baiting and overall bigotry. Trump's election should've propelled Graham to the front lines of the NeverTrump conservative resistance with Evan McMullin, the guy he actually voted for, but instead he shifted course literally on election night, tweeting that Trump "defied
laws about accepting aid from a hostile foreign power the odds and overcame many obstacles to win a stunning victory." Dude, this is the presidency. You're acting like Trump won the 2016 World Series.
Woodward's book describes Graham as playing a "starring role" in the Trump White House, practically "moving in" and attempting to exert his influence because, I dunno, maybe in this "race-baiting, xenophobic" administration he can get the trains to run on time. Collaboration with Trump has become the new "patriotism" and Graham is such a model collaborator, he should strut his stuff on a Paris runway.
Graham quickly wormed his way into Trump's good graces. He flattered him with a bunch of bare-ass lies about how only Trump, "the ultimate deal maker," could "right the ship" in Congress. Yeah, asshole's been divorced twice and sued
literally thousands of times, but he'll resolve all the partisan rancor in Washington. This shameless self-abasement was enough to win Graham some golf dates with the putter-in-chief, and Trump pressed him relentlessly on why he wasn't his number one guy.
Trump wanted Graham's "100 percent" support instead of the "82 percent" he believed Graham was putting out (top off but bra still on, etc.). I'm not sure how Trump was getting these figures -- probably Ivanka and a slide rule. Graham massaged the issue, telling him he was a "good commander-in-chief" and that he was "cleaning up" Obama's mess. This satisfied Trump so he later offered Graham an ambassadorship to Pakistan. Graham shrewdly turned this down because he knew what's just where you send away the mistress so she'll stop asking you to leave your wife. He wanted to stay close and push Trump toward his own "hawkish view of foreign policy." Idiots claimed during the election that Trump was less "hawkish" than Hillary Clinton, and even if they were right (idiots usually aren't, though), Graham was actively working to undermine Trump's possibly one good idea. Trump even wondered when we might get around to ending the war in Afghanistan and Graham insisted NEVER! because "good vs. evil never ends." Yo Joe!
Last September, Graham reportedly advised Trump to "encourage" China to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and replace him with a general "they control." That's gangster shit and is also precisely why so many other nations hate us. Graham isn't even Tom Hagen to Trump's Sonny Corleone. He's like Connie Corleone in
The Godfather Part III. If I'm gonna live in a gangster movie, I want it to at least be a good one.
But this doozy Woodward drops regarding Graham and the late John McCain is really sickening.
Torn between his longtime friendship with the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his efforts to influence Trump, Graham worked to repair the relationship between them by arranging a dinner with Trump, McCain and McCain's wife Cindy.
Graham tried to trade his supposed friend's soul for some Groupon promo codes. That's just low. Trump also offered to buy off the McCains by making Cindy an "ambassador focused on human trafficking," which she already does pretty well without him.
Graham later boasted of "managing" McCain so the GOP could screw poor people without the senator's whispers of conscience getting in the way.
Graham said his “chief job is to keep John McCain happy," to keep the senator from bucking his party's leadership," Graham said.
One of the few "good Republican" things about Graham was that he bucked the hardliners in his party on immigration. He was involved in the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill, which wasn't enough to get past the GOP-controlled House. Despite becoming BFFs with repulsive racist Steve Bannon (they spoke "every day" before Bannon left the White House), Graham still tried to promote sane immigration policies, which mostly failed and only resulted in Trump insulting people and eventually jailing immigrant children.
I confess I hoped that Putin had a file a foot deep on Graham, and his whiplash-inducing about-face was a clear indication he was compromised somehow. But Fear raises the very real possibility that Graham just thought he could control the mad king. The New York Times op-ed revealed that a lot of people believe they can use Trump to their advantage. "Fear" isn't strong enough to describe how it feels to learn that people like Graham are willing to look evil in the face, shrug, and say, "Maybe we can cut a deal?"
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.