What’s the deal with Lindsey Graham?

John McCain must be rolling over in his grave

After Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) death, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on the floor of the Senate “it is going to be a lonely journey for me for a while. I am going to need your help, and the void to be filled by John’s passing is more than I can fill.” As he left the floor, Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York gave him hugs.

Graham and McCain after meeting with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and other Senators [CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is not mere hyperbole, or typical political rhetoric. Graham considered McCain his best friend, and accompanied him when he went to North Vietnam to visit the Hanoi Hilton where he was kept as a prisoner of war for five and a half years. And this friendship extended into Graham’s politics. He has described himself a “Reagan-style Republican,” and has been described as a fairly conservative Republican with “a twang of moderation” and as having “an independent streak.” These are all descriptions that would have suited McCain well also.

And his independence was more than just rhetorical. He angered the tea party by pledging to work with the Obama administration despite McConnell’s pledge to do everything he could to ensure that Obama was not re-elected. He reached across the aisle on climate change, immigration, and was a member of the “gang of 14” Senators who worked in a bipartisan fashion to clear up a backlog of unconfirmed judicial appointments. He seemed an early leader of the “never Trump” movement, outraged over Trump’s attacks on his friend McCain, he told the BBC that he would never support Trump due to his “judgment, temperament.”

You’ll be glad to know that Lindsey Graham has found a new friend since McCain passed, and his name is Donald Trump. Observers are mystified how this one-time never Trumper has become the President’s biggest cheerleader in the Senate. When first asked about Trump’s abrupt announcement to withdraw forces from Syria, Graham called it an “Obama-like mistake,” certainly the most serious insult a Republican can lob. But a lunch with Donald later and Graham is 100% on board. Where once he joined McCain in defending the independence of the Senate as an institution, he is now calling on Trump to ignore Congress, declare and emergency and simply go ahead and build a wall. He is now a regular golfing partner of the President’s, and we all know how much Donald Trump likes to golf.

Graham’s problem seems to be that he is a permanent sidekick. He’s C3PO to R2D2, Robin to Batman, Dr. Watson to Sherlock, Paul Shaffer to David Letterman. Without a person to follow, he is lost. John McCain was obviously a natural leader, so Graham, looking for someone to attach himself to, was immediately drawn to him. Without McCain, he became a ship without a mooring. But when he attacked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during the Kavanaugh nomination fight, he earned some attaboys from the President, and he thus found a new patron.

The truth is that Graham is rudderless without someone to guide him. My guess is that he will be one of the last to abandon Trump just because he needs a place to settle. It will be interesting to see how he responds if Trump is handily defeated in the next election, as I expect is likely to happen.

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