Lindsey Graham: From ‘John McCain’s Wingman to Donald Trump’s Carnival Barker’
When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s embattled nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, addressed members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC at a hearing on Thursday, September 27, the Committee’s Republicans were not shy about stridently coming to his defense—including Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley. But the Committee’s most over-the-top political theatrics, hands down, came from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who painted Democrats as a lynch mob full of tyrants who had no qualms about destroying a decent, honorable man. Graham, during his shameless rant, pointed the finger at senators who have been on the fence about whether or not they will vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation—declaring that a vote against Kavanaugh would be tantamount to a vote for lynching and mob rule. And Graham’s comments were so cartoonish that Joe Scarborough, one of the anti-Trump conservatives at MSNBC, denounced the South Carolina senator as having “gone from being John McCain’s wingman in politics to becoming Donald Trump’s carnival barker.”
Graham, angry and emotional during his outburst at the September 27 hearing, declared, “To my Republican colleagues: if you vote ‘no,’ you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I’ve seen in my time in politics.” Though he didn’t mention them by name, Graham’s heavy-handed comments were obviously aimed at Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake—three GOP senators who have often been cited as possible swing votes in Kavanaugh’s nomination. Graham was determined to shame and coerce them into voting for Kavanaugh whether they liked it or not. And Flake has announced that he is a “yes” vote on Kavanaugh.
Scarborough isn’t the only conservative who has been critical of Graham’s tactics. The evening of September 27, veteran GOP strategist Steve Schmidt was interviewed by Brian Williams on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” and said of Graham, “He’s corrupted by ambition, corrupted by politics—and it’s tragic, because this country could use a statesmen right now.”
Schmidt went on to say that Graham has been “corrupted by the Trump era. To see him become sycophantic, to see him become dishonest and angry and sneering is just tragic—certainly not the person I once knew. But again, if you hang around politics enough, you tend to get disappointed by people, and he is a profound disappointment.”
Kavanaugh’s appearance at the September 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing followed the gut-wrenching testimony of 51-year Palo Alto University college professor Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that Kavanaugh attempted to her rape her at party in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC in 1982. In contrast to the overwrought and tearful Kavanaugh, Ford was composed as she recalled the alleged events of 36 years ago. Graham, during his outburst, avoided attacking Ford—who he tried to paint as being a victim not of Kavanaugh, but of a Democratic Party smear campaign.
Although Graham reached a new low on September 27, this wasn’t the first time he has been over-the-top in his support of Kavanaugh and President Donald J. Trump. Graham, even before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, played the role of the ugly partisan—angrily attacking Democrats’ request for an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations and claiming that they were manipulating Ford for their own political gains. Appearing on Fox News’ program “Fox News Sunday” on September 23, Graham asserted, “What am I supposed to do, go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?
Graham never had an interest in seeing to it that Kavanaugh was genuinely vetted, or that the sexual abuse allegations of Ford and two other women—Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick—were adequately investigated. His only interest has been helping to make sure that Kavanaugh’s confirmation was rammed through the Senate as quickly as possible.
The fact that Graham’s attempt to strong-arm fellow Republicans into voting for Kavanaugh was sleazy doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. That became apparent when Sen. Flake, the morning of September 28, announced that he was a “yes” vote on Kavanaugh. Even after Ford’s convincing testimony—and even though he isn’t seeking reelection this year—Flake was afraid to buck his party. That same morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans voted 11-10 to have a full vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Possibly, some Blue Dog Democrats in the Senate will cave into pressure from Graham and Trump and vote for Kavanaugh as well. In 2017, three Democratic senators voted to confirm Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch: West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitcamp—all of whom are seeking reelection in the 2018 midterms.
Graham has once again demonstrated that he is a Republican first and an American second—not to mention, as Joe Scarborough asserted, “Donald Trump’s carnival barker.”