One of the more sordid chapters of the Donald Trump era has been the manner in which the Republican Party has contorted and distorted itself in order to fall into line with him. With few exceptions, the powers that be in the GOP have tolerated behavior from Trump that in past years would have brought irate calls for a president to resign. And that would have been the case whether the president was a Democrat or a Republican.
A classic case of this contortion and distortion is Lindsey Graham. For much of the time after Trump came down the escalator of Trump Tower, South Carolina’s senior Senator was one of Trump’s most trenchant critics. For instance, take this blistering CNN interview from July 2015.
After Trump took one of his many cheap shots at Graham’s longtime friend John McCain, Graham told CNN’s Kate Bolduan that Trump was a “jackass” who didn’t really understand the sacrifices our soldiers make. To Graham’s mind, that meant Trump was not qualified to be commander-in-chief.
Or this equally blistering interview from December 2015.
In the wake of Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration, Graham slammed Trump as “a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” who didn’t speak for the GOP.
Most famously, in 2016, Graham famously blasted Trump as a “kook” who was unfit for office. And on, and on, and on.
But in the last few years, Graham has grown ever closer to Trump–directly contradicting his own image as a maverick Republican. The Washington Post summed up Graham’s gradual change of heart last October.
Graham may have drawn even closer to the Trump family last week when he publicly urged Donald Trump Jr. to defy a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee–a committee, remember, that his controlled by his own party. That sparked calls for Graham to resign at once. For much of the week, the hashtag “#LindseyGrahamResign” trended heavily on social media. Even when Graham claimed that Donald Jr. should just plead the Fifth, it didn’t slow down the firestorm of calls for him to resign.
On Saturday, Graham delivered his answer before a friendly audience–the South Carolina state Republican convention. Just before Graham took the stage in Lexington, near Columbia, this video played on the screen.
The video mostly featured audio of Vice President Pence praising Graham for his support of Trump while on a recent visit to South Carolina. One of the last clips was of Graham going on his now-infamous tirade denouncing calls for a fuller investigation of Brett Kavanaugh as an “unethical sham.”
Tom Barton, the political reporter for The (Columbia) State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, was on hand for the festivities. He got a glimpse of the reaction to Graham’s railing about Kavanaugh–and it was predictable.
Graham then took the stage and proved beyond any doubt that “Lindsey the Maverick” is dead.
Wow. That sounds like something you would expect from the man Graham once called a “jackass.”
One can quibble about whether Graham should resign for his “advice” to Donald Jr. But it’s beyond belief that Graham couldn’t have rejected calls for his resignation in a more civil manner. Even allowing for him being on edge from the pummeling he took this weekend, or the stress of having to guard his right flank, telling his critics to “go to hell” is so far over the line that it isn’t even funny.
Regardless of party affiliation, it is not acceptable for a United States Senator to talk to his constituents in this way. And when a Senator thinks that this is acceptable behavior, it’s time for that Senator to go.
Fortunately, there may be someone who is in a position to hold Graham to account at the ballot box. Former South Carolina state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison is “exploring” a challenge to Graham in 2020. However, he sounded like he doesn’t have much more exploring to do, based on his response to Graham’s outrageous and, yes, deplorable, comments.
It’s hard not to agree. The people of South Carolina deserve far better than a Senator who thinks it’s even remotely okay to tell them to “go to hell.” And with Jaime Harrison, they have a chance to get better.
But let’s not sugarcoat it–this race would be a very heavy lift for a Democrat, even without an incumbent Republican president atop the ticket. Harrison deserves a lot of praise for being willing to take this on. And Graham’s outrageous response to the calls for him to resign prove why we need a credible Democrat to run against him. Harrison has a really good chance of being that candidate, but he’s going to need a lot of help. Click here to donate.
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