Lindsey Graham is pathetic.

During an interview with the New York Times, the Republican senator from South Carolina tried to justify his continued support for Donald Trump after seemingly cutting ties with the insurrectionist-in-chief after Trump's mob attacked the Capitol. He'd publicly declared on the Senate floor, “Enough is enough!" and “Count me out." But we apparently took his words out of context.

"That was taken as, 'I'm out, count me out,' that somehow, you know, that I'm done with the president," he said. "No! What I was trying to say to my colleagues and to the country was, 'This process has come to a conclusion.' The president had access to the courts. He was able to make his case to state legislators through hearings. He was disappointed he fell short. It didn't work out. It was over for me."

Trump didn't sue over hanging chads. He clogged the courts with nonsense suits based in lies about the election. He pressured the Department of Justice to declare the presidential election "corrupt and leave the rest to me." He demanded Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find" votes for him. He actively plotted a coup that resulted in a violent attack on the Capitol, leaving cops Republicans claim to support beaten and traumatized.

“This process has come to a conclusion" is not how a sitting senator should describe January 6. But Graham's slime trail follows the easiest route to power. He's like Aaron Burr but without Leslie Odom Jr.'s vocal chops.


What's even more disturbing than the image The Times paints of Graham "sitting in his Senate office behind a desk strewn with balled napkins and empty Coke Zero bottles" is how present Graham appears to have been, from the start, during Trump's coup. We knew Graham had asked Raffensperger if he could just toss out all the mail-in ballots from areas that went big for Biden (purely coincidence, we're sure).

Graham urged Trump not to concede the election until he'd exhausted all his legal challenges, but Graham's a lawyer and should've known Trump had no valid legal grounds to contest his ass whooping. We're not talking about 537 votes in Florida, but at the very least 44,000 votes in three states. The election was damn well over on November 7, but Graham knowingly stoked the flames that would almost consume the Capitol on January 6. He listened to Trump's late-night rants about a “stolen election" and even contributed $500,000 to Mr. Billionaire's legal defense. The Times doesn't explain whether this money came from Graham's personal account (highly unlikely given his estimated net worth) or the $111 million he raised for his re-election campaign (roughly $110 million more than he needed to beat a Black Democrat in South Carolina).

But now Graham wants us to believe he's "determined to steer Mr. Trump away from a dangerous obsession with 2020."

"What I say to him is, 'Do you want January the 6th to be your political obituary?'" he said. "'Because if you don't get over it, it's going to be.'"

It's true that Trump should stop actively undermining democracy and setting the stage for future political violence, but January 6 isn't something Trump should just “get over" like he's the dopey lead in a romantic comedy whose girlfriend dumped him. People died on January 6 because of Trump's “dangerous obsession." Election Day 2020 should've ended Trump's political career. In a just world, January 6 would serve as the end of Trump's personal liberty.

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The Times claims that Graham "has from his school days chosen to ally himself with protective figures he calls 'alpha dogs,' men more powerful than himself." Steve Schmidt, senior strategist for John McCain's 2008 campaign, puts this less charitably: Graham is a “pilot fish" who lives off "the detritus of larger fish." When McCain's presidential ambitions failed, Graham moved on to Trump. Pilot fish aren't "loyal or faithful. Just hungry. “

An ever-ravenous Graham turned his attentions to Joe Biden shortly after he won the election, even while encouraging Trump's coup efforts. Graham had called for a special prosecutor to investigate Biden's son, Hunter, but he told Biden in a private phone conversation that this wasn't personal, just business. Biden wasn't moved. It was obvious Graham was “trying to have it both ways."

That's not a practical strategy now that the GOP has gone full-on MAGA. Graham was one of 19 Republican senators who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, against Trump's petty wishes, and the Aiken County Republican Party promptly censured Graham for supporting Biden's socialist scheme to create jobs and rebuild the state's crumbling infrastructure.

Graham is a political pilot fish who might soon starve for lack of a reliable meal ticket. He shouldn't look to us for pity.

[The New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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