To cleanse the palate, via the IJR, we’re very, very far away from Graham famously calling Trump a “kook” during the 2016 primaries, aren’t we? I mean, good lord.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President!
You’re keeping your promise to make America safer and more prosperous.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 14, 2018
It’s hard not to notice that Graham posted that photo a mere 48 hours after Mark Sanford’s political career was ended by Republican primary voters back in Graham’s home state of South Carolina. In reading a story about Sanford’s loss somewhere online, I scanned down to the comments and saw various righties celebrating and vowing that “Graham’s next!” Yeah, huh? Fun fact about Graham: Despite the populist base hating him to an almost McCain-ian degree for his amnesty promotion and hyper-interventionism, not only has he never lost an election, he’s never had a close election. The best an opponent’s been able to do against him, whether in a House or Senate race, primary or general, is a 10-point loss. He’s a deft campaigner, boasts lots of well-connected, well-funded friends, and is keenly aware of the base’s disdain for him and therefore unlikely to be caught by surprise like Sanford was. He may hold his seat forever.
In fact, his relationship with Trump is proof positive of what a shrewd bottom-line pol he is. He made no secret of his contempt for POTUS during the campaign and has confronted Trump at times since then behind closed doors. But unlike Sanford, he’s been careful to always be respectful and complimentary in public. That may have to do with their contrasting political identities. Graham is a dealmaker, the guy who’s forever searching for bipartisan compromise on issues like immigration reform. Sanford is the man of principle, the guy who’ll not only vote no on your pet legislation but happily tell the media why it’s contemptible. Graham realized early on that his agenda would go nowhere for the next four years unless he swallowed his pride and cultivated Trump’s friendship. Sanford, the libertarian apostle of small government, didn’t care about that. And why should he? He figured out long ago that there’s no support for small government in Congress regardless of who’s president. His agenda was going nowhere regardless. Sanford’s now staring at unemployment while Graham might be staring at a cabinet position at Defense or Justice eventually.
Here he is again polishing his brand as a defiant Friend of Donald for the benefit of South Carolinians, telling his critics exactly what he thinks of their disapproval of his Trump cuddliness. Normally profanity on cable news is accidental; in this case it may well have been rehearsed, with Graham knowing that a swear-laden defense of Trump (on CNN, no less!) would make news back home and remind populists that he’s not so bad after all. Call him what you want, just don’t call him stupid.