Shameless Lindsey Graham Sold Out To Trump For ‘Relevance’ & PEZ
People have expressed concern that Lindsey Graham's shameless about-face regarding Donald Trump is due to Russian influence or what's known as "kompromat." That's not a Russian salad dressing but compromising material about someone. However, this theory requires that Graham is a character from a Shakespearean tragedy rather than your garden variety sell-out puppet job who is desperate for attention.
During an interview with the New York Times, Graham admitted that his primary objective is to remain "relevant." That feels more like a quote from a mid-'90s Madonna interview than one with a US senator. Madonna never lowered her dignity to perform with Courtney Love, even at the height of grunge. Graham has had no problem becoming bosom buddies with Trump, a man he once described as a "race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot."
Politics, [Graham] explained, was the art of what works and what brings desired outcomes. "I've got an opportunity up here working with the president to get some really good outcomes for the country," he told me.
Graham is senator of our home state so we can appreciate his focus on "outcomes." South Carolina could use some infrastructure, maybe some schools. Tell us more about these "really good outcomes," Lindsey.
An outcome of particular interest to Graham, at the moment, is getting re-elected to a fourth Senate term in South Carolina, where Trump owns commanding approval numbers, especially among the hard-core Republicans who in the past questioned Graham's devotion to their conservative cause.
Wait, hold up: Graham's trying to stay "relevant" so he can work with Individual 1 to further his larger goal of ... keeping his job. That's it? There has to be more to serving in the Senate than just getting re-elected.
"If you don't want to get re-elected, you're in the wrong business," he said.
Supporting Trump can certainly help Graham get re-elected in South Carolina. Over the past year, Graham's approval rating among Republicans has increased from 51 percent to 72 percent. That's enough to hold off any primary challenge in 2020. All he had to do was cozy up to Trump and personally attack Democrats while defending Brett Kavanaugh from accountability. This might've permanently damaged his working relationship with Democrat Chris Coons, a longtime colleague, but who cares? His new bestie is the president of the freaking United States!
"I have never been called this much by a president in my life," [Graham said.] His tone reflected a mixture of amazement and amusement, with perhaps a dash of awe. "It's weird, and it's flattering, and it creates some opportunity. It also creates some pressure."
Has Trump possibly filled the hole in Graham's heart left by the death of John McCain? Susan Collins, who is always wrong, said McCain was like a "father figure" to Graham, but he describes McCain more like an "older brother" or "commanding officer." Regardless, it was simply a "collaboration" or a "political marriage" and what he has with Trump is for real.
"I personally like [Trump]. We play golf. He's very nice to me."
During the 2016 campaign, Trump gave out Graham's personal cell phone number. He also called Graham a "disgrace" -- while campaigning in his home state -- and said he was "one of the worst representatives of any representative in the United States." But it's important to note that he wasn't president then. Graham didn't even vote for Trump: "I voted for Evan — whatever the guy's name is." (It's Evan McMullin, and we voted for Hillary!) Now that Trump colluded his way into the White House, Graham wants in his considerable "orbit," and he's willing to do just about anything to maintain favored status.
When asked if he "trusts" Trump, Graham responded like he was talking about a common mobster: "I trust the president to want to be successful." Wow! We all feel much better now. He even keeps moving the goal posts on Trump's involvement with Russia.
"I told the president that if you colluded with the Russians, if your campaign sat down and worked with foreign intelligence operatives to manipulate the results of the election, that'd be the end of us, " Graham said.
That's quite a profile in courage: "If conclusively proven that you've committed multiple crimes and thus impeachment is inevitable and you're now useless to me, then well, that's the end of this relationship. I don't care how good a golfer you are."
In the meantime, Graham will stay as close as possible to the president.
"Relevance," Graham said, returning to the word as if it were a mantra. "That was John McCain's word."
If McCain were alive today, we think his word would've been "barf."
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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. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).