Who, this Lindsey Graham?

My headline makes it sound like Biden was threatening Graham when he made these comments yesterday to CNN. Not so. This wasn’t Grandpa Joe promising to make Graham pay, this was him claiming that Graham’s own conscience would eventually swallow him up for carrying Trump’s water on Burisma.

Which is, uh, not correct. What would swallow him up is losing a Senate primary because he allowed his personal affection for Biden stop him from doing the president’s bidding. Graham’s been in Congress for 25 years and doubtless is hoping to follow the example of his friend John McCain by serving until he’s physically unable to go on. If the price of that is sharing, or pretending to share, Trump’s suspicions about Joe Biden’s corruption, so be it.

Three points in rebuttal, though. One: Graham *is* doing Biden a favor, sort of, by sniffing around the Burisma matter. He resisted doing that for weeks despite lots of grumbling in public and private by TrumpWorld. As we near Trump’s impeachment trial, arguments have gotten louder that the Senate should call Hunter Biden and maybe even Joe Biden himself to testify. Whether there are 51 votes to allow that is unclear, but I suspect Graham will point to the new Judiciary Committee probe as proof that their testimony at the trial is unnecessary. “We don’t need to call them, my own committee is working on that.” He’s placating Trump, in other words, in order to keep the Bidens off the hotter hot seat of impeachment. I may be wrong, but that’s my bet.

Two: Biden’s probably right that Graham believes there’s nothing corrupt about the Burisma matter, or at least nothing corrupt beyond the usual corruption of a famous politician’s child cashing in on an opportunity he didn’t earn. That might also explain why he was reluctant to have his committee investigate the matter, because he fears it’ll turn up nothing big — nothing that implicates Joe, anyway — and then TrumpWorld will hate him for that. But it’s inane for Biden to say that Graham shouldn’t bother looking into an allegation of corruption about a friend that’s been brought to his attention just because Graham knows in his heart or whatever that Joe Biden’s a wonderful guy. That idea, that friends don’t investigate friends, itself smells of a particular brand of establishment corruption. It’s complicated in this case by the fact that Republican interest in Burisma would drop virtually to zero if Biden quit the race tomorrow, but the point stands. *If* Graham thinks Biden really might have thrown his weight around as VP to get the Ukrainians to back off his kid’s company then he’s doing the right thing but looking into it.

Three: Biden’s entire shtick as a candidate is that he’ll somehow restore bipartisan compromise to Washington. He spent decades working with Mitch McConnell and his caucus, both as a colleague and as vice president. If he beats Trump, Senate Republicans will supposedly embrace their old friend and together they’ll make the sort of mutually agreeable deals that the parties reached in the late 1990s. That’s the theory. The problem: No one except Biden himself actually believes this. Lefties in the Senate aren’t going to compromise on a centrist agenda, and Republicans will certainly revert to obstructionism post-Trump as they search for a new ideological identity. But if Biden were right that there’s a glimmer of hope for compromise, logically it would begin with a Republican known for being a moderate on policy, who partners frequently with Democrats on legislation, and who knows Biden well and holds him in high regard. That would be … Lindsey Graham. He’s the acid test of Biden’s theory that a new era of bipartisanship is right around the corner.

And here he is, leading the charge against the Bidens and Burisma in Congress. So what’s left of Grandpa Joe’s campaign pitch in light of his stabbed-in-the-back lament here about Graham?

Not a good look for Joe. He does get off one killer line about Graham, though: “Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians wouldn’t yield to.” Lindsey must have cringed when he heard that one.