Don’t get Lindsey Graham angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. Or … maybe you will. The one-time opponent of Donald Trump has unleashed his inner political Hulk over the last couple of weeks, a move Graham says was prompted by the abhorrent “McCarthyism” in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, smearing a man who would have made any Republican president’s short list of Supreme Court candidates.
Graham tells Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he’s breaking a long tradition of his and will campaign against key colleagues in the next few weeks in an attempt to make Senate Democrats pay for their behavior. “I’ve never been more pissed in my life,” Graham declares:
“All I can say is this is going to the streets at the ballot box,” Graham, R-S.C., said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’ve never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That’s about to change. I’m going to go throughout this country and let people in these purple states, red states, where Trump won know what I thought, know what I think about this process.” …
Graham has transformed himself from a critic of some of Trump’s policies, and an opponent during the 2016 presidential election, to one of the president’s closest allies. In recent weeks he became one of the fiercest GOP defenders of Kavanaugh and promised a “full-scale” inquiry into Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to find out whether there was any wrongdoing in how they managed the sexual misconduct allegation Christine Blasey Ford leveled against Kavanaugh.
He celebrated his new standing on Sunday, and took credit for helping Kavanaugh win confirmation.
“I am happy that those who try to destroy his life fell short,” he said. “I’m glad that those who try to overturn the rule of law and replace it with mob rule lost. I’ve never been more pissed in my life. This is character assassination. This is wanting power too much. To the extent that I came to the aid of this good man and help defeat this debacle, I am happy as a clam.”
Not everyone appreciates his transformation into the Political Hulk. Frank Bruni wrote a lament about Graham’s descent from Trump opponent to his “slobbering manservant,” accusing him of betraying John McCain for political gain:
Trump’s belittling of McCain never ceased, and Graham took proper offense — for a while. Then Trump became president, started inviting Graham to play golf and Graham parted ways with his nerve and his spine. What beautiful fairways you have, Mr. President. What a virile tee shot.
That’s the sad part I mentioned. And this is the absolutely pathetic twist: McCain, battling brain cancer, stopped spending much time in Washington, and as his health deteriorated, Graham’s ardor and cheerleading for Trump intensified. McCain, you see, wasn’t just Graham’s friend. He was his road to greater relevance. And Trump presented a veritable expressway. So Graham switched vehicles and directions, and pressed the pedal to the metal.
That’s pretty overwrought even for Bruni. When asked about it by Wallace, Graham proved brevity to be the soul of wit. “If I made you upset because I would not legitimize McCarthyism,” Graham told Bruni by proxy, “then good.”
At CBS News, former conservative radio host Michael Graham offers a welcome to Lindsey Graham 2.0:
That’s right: A conservative jurist whose case became a cause celebre of the far-Right….saved by three of the most Establishment Republicans in Congress.
Jeff Flake wrote an entire book criticizing the Republican Right’s embrace of President Trump. And yet it was his call for another FBI investigation—and willingness to cast a “yes” vote as promised when no corroborating evidence was found— that made it possible for Sen. Collins and Sen. Manchin to stay on board.
Susan Collins is never going to be mistaken for a Tea Party Republican. But her powerful speech laying out her reasons for supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation was both a blistering indictment of the Democrats’ treatment of the judge and a compassionate statement of the need to support women when they come forward to tell their stories of sexual assault. Collin’s speech was pitch-perfect and made a case that (to be blunt) old, white guys would have a tough time making themselves.
And Lindsey “Grahamnesty” was the MVP of the Kavanaugh case. Who could have seen that coming?
I think this misses the point in a couple of ways, as amusing and as accurate as it is in general. First, Kavanaugh wasn’t a “far right” cause celebre; the power of Graham’s and Collins’ support shows it was a mainstream center-right fight as well. Second, this was much less about ideology than it was in standing up for the norms of due process and fair play. It was a moment to fight, a proper hill on which to die in political terms, and this time nearly everyone recognized it as such.
No one is mistaking Graham or Collins for Ronald Reagan or William F. Buckley. Their newfound appreciation comes from their willingness to fight back against the scorched-earth tactics of the Left, after having seen that mainstream establishment Republicans will get targeted no matter how long they’ve been part of the club. That willingness to fight is what makes Graham 2.0 popular.