Can someone legitimately wonder why Lindsey Graham remains on good personal terms with Donald Trump despite the latter’s constant trashing of Graham’s close friend, the late John McCain? Sure; Graham spent the weekend golfing with Trump as the Barr letter went out to Congress. But are people asking because of their concern for either McCain or Graham?
GRAHAM: I could give a damn what he thinks about me and John McCain. The bottom line is that my relationship with John McCain was one of the highlights of my time as being in Congress. He was one of my dearest friends. And it’s OK for John McCain and Donald Trump to disagree. It’s not OK, in my view, for the president to go after John McCain personally. I’ve said that a thousand times. But the bottom line here is I’m going to help President Trump. I don’t care whether Mr. Jefferies likes it or not. I’ll honor my friend until the day I die. But this president feels like people around McCain were out to get him. John McCain wasn’t.
BOLDUAN: Just square this — I do want — a lot of folks wonder and I’ve wondered it, too. How do you square this one? John McCain was one of your closest friends in the world.
GRAHAM: Well, it’s easy.
BOLDUAN: And Donald trump has attacked him relentlessly, even in his death.
GRAHAM: Well —
BOLDUAN: How do you work with someone with the capacity to attack someone like that?
GRAHAM: There are two sides to this story. President Trump is the president of the United States. I represent the state of South Carolina. They want me to work with this president. I want to have influence with this president because he is president. I think he’s doing a damn good job, quite frankly, on national security and economic policy. And I will continue to help him.
To all those people who bring up this narrative, you just hate Trump. You don’t really care about McCain and me. I know this — this is a game. You’re not offended about me and McCain. You’re trying to use me to get to Trump. I’m not playing that game. If you think the only way to honor John McCain is to tell this president, I won’t work with you, I won’t ever help you, that’s your agenda, not mine. My agenda is twofold, to honor my friend for the rest of my life in every way I can and to help this president be successful. And I’m not into this idea the only way you can help honor John McCain is to trash out Trump. President Trump has been good to me in the sense that he’s allowed me in his world. He’s made decisions, I think, based on some input I’ve given him. He’s subject to changing his mind. I want him to be successful. I’m the Senator of South Carolina and I’m going to do what the people of South Carolina want me to do, help make this president successful.
It might help, of course, if Trump set aside his weird jeremiad against the now-dead McCain in the first place. It’s not as though Trump doesn’t have a plethora of targets in a post-Mueller world, so why keep taking shots at McCain? It makes no sense tactically — McCain’s long gone — and it makes no sense strategically or electorally either. McCain remained popular in his home state until the end, and now Democrats think Arizona’s ready to turn blue, or at least a bluish shade of purple. What possible good can it do Republicans in Arizona to have Trump metaphorically pissing on McCain’s grave?
At least I hope that’s metaphorical.
Graham offers up the right mix of high dudgeon and reality in this response, though. What business does Hakeem Jeffries have in quantifying Graham’s affection for McCain anyway? If that criticism came from the McCain family itself, that would be different, but Jeffries hardly has standing to cast judgment on Graham for doing his job, and neither does the media. Like it or not, America has one president, and Graham wants to make sure that he can have some influence over him. He doesn’t have the luxury to stamp off in a huff — and based on what happened with a couple of Republicans who did, he’s likely making the correct choice, even if it might not be the most emotionally satisfying option.