And then there is Graham, who would seem to occupy his own distinct category of Trump-era contortionist. Certainly he embodies elements of the other groups: a desire to carve out his own parallel universe of work on certain issues that have always been important to him, especially on foreign policy; an instinct to avoid the distraction of weighing in on every Trump offense (“Don’t chase every barking dog,” he says); and a personal library of readily surfaceable aggressions from the 2016 campaign, in which Graham called the future president a “kook,” “crazy” and “unfit for office,” among other things — and which are easily juxtaposed today with Graham’s sycophantic raves about the president’s stellar golf game and reminders that Trump “beat me like a dog” in the 2016 presidential primary (no doubt delighting Trump with his nod to the president’s canine-themed pejoratives).
Graham’s rush to Trump’s side is particularly baffling because not long ago, he was best known for his bipartisan deal-making on issues like climate change and immigration. He subscribed, at least theoretically, to the country-over-party credo of his departed Senate co-conspirator John McCain. McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer and eventual death coincided approximately with Graham’s emergence as Trump’s most prominent Senate defender and whisperer. This combination of factors gave rise to the “What happened to Lindsey Graham?” question, which has become synonymous enough with the South Carolinian’s national political identity that he felt compelled to own it on the stump.
“What happened to me?” Graham asked in Greenville. “Not a damn thing.” The crowd gave him a standing ovation.