Lindsey Graham’s “Defining Moment”

Published: September 23, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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“… And you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham, in remarks to Senate colleagues shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Photo: Jim Bourg/Pool Image via AP)

Here’s what the “principled” Senator repeated to The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, at the magazine’s sponsored conference just two years ago:

“If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait till the next election.”

“You’re on the record,” Goldberg says.

“Hold the tape!” Graham adds.

Remember what Senator Graham said about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign? Role the tape:

“I want to talk to the Trump supporters for a minute. What is Donald Trump’s campaign about?”

“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” Graham said. “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”

In 2015, Graham told CNN, “This is a defining moment in the future of the Republican Party. We have to reject this demagoguery, and if we don’t reject Donald Trump, we’ve lost the moral authority … to govern this great nation.”

Those sharp, unambiguous words took place before Graham had his “burning bush” moment and decided that “to get along, I have to go along” with Trump.

“Well, Merrick Garland was a different situation,” Graham told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “You had the president of one party nominating, and you had the Senate in the hands of the other party. A situation where you’ve got them both would be different.”

However, there is one small detail Graham has overlooked in his rationale.

He never mentioned this caveat in his previous statements. He never said, “… we’ll wait till the next election” … unless one party holds both the Senate and the White House.

Throughout his Senate career, the angry South Carolina senator has been outspoken in his positions and frequently directed that anger at both Democrats and the media for calling him out on his own words. (And this is the Senator who had a close, personal relationship with Senator John McCain. What would McCain say, if he were alive?)

Have Democrats changed their positions on issues?

Of course, they have. But they’ve never looked into a TV camera, twice, and stridently said, “use my words against me,” “Hold the tape!”

Sadly, Graham’s not the only Republican reversal-ist.

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernest, before:

“… in a July 2018 meeting with the Des Moines Register editorial board, she said it would be ‘absolutely fair’ to expect Trump in 2020 to go through an election cycle before making a new court appointment. “So, come 2020, if there’s an opening, I’m sure you’ll remind me.”

Now: “I would support going ahead with any hearings that we might have, and if it comes to an appointment prior to the end of the year, I would be supportive of that.”

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, before:

“It only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court justice,” Grassley said when he declined considering Obama’s nominee.

Now: “While there was ambiguity about the American people’s will for the direction of the Supreme Court in 2016 under a divided government, there is no such ambiguity in 2020.”

Remember the moment from the 2016 campaign when Sen. Ted Cruz, running for president, was outraged after Trump made crude remarks about his wife, Heidi?

“Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi, the hell, alone!”

Now: Cruz is a card-carrying member of the Republican “Burning Bush” Society who takes his marching orders from the redoubtable Mitch McConnell. (So much for the “people should have a voice,” pretense).

But Graham clearly stands head and shoulders above his Republican colleagues as he is always willing to vehemently argue with anyone who challenges his reversals. If there was any “moral authority” left in the Republican Party, it’s been shredded.

The only defections come from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine, both of whom stated earlier that a Supreme Court appointment should wait until after the election. (Utah Sen. Mitt Romney got off the fence and has expressed support for a Trump nominee.)

As for the silence from most of the remaining Republican senators, it is better to shut up than stand up.


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