Few politicians can match Lindsey Graham at his craft. The Republican senator from South Carolina is a master of hypocrisy, and the Trump era has been a breakout time for his robust talents, with his finest work on display.
In 2015, he famously called Donald Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” then became his golfing buddy and, with Mitch McConnell, his chief enabler.
In 2016, when McConnell and Senate Republicans stole a Supreme Court nomination from President Obama, Graham pledged to live by the new standard being set, however dubious.
“I want you to use my words against me,” he said. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”
He could not have been clearer, but then, he was quite clear in his characterizations of Trump.
Now, of course, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left a vacancy on the court less than two months before the next presidential election, and Graham is all-in for forcing a replacement on us as soon as possible. He and McConnell play rhetorical Twister to rationalize why this can be done, despite the standard they set by denying President Obama’s nominee a hearing and leaving a Supreme Court vacancy for more than a year. But this is hypocrisy writ large, on full display.
And instead of trying to justify it, Graham should just be clear: “Republicans have the power to do it, so we’re gonna do it, nya-nya.”
Sticking his tongue out at Democrats and the majority of the country would be in keeping with the personality that has emerged. Graham claims that “after Kavanaugh, the rules have changed as far as I’m concerned,” and thank you for mentioning that. Few senators have ever been as intemperate as Graham was in 2018 when he defended Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, the intemperate Brett Kavanaugh, against accusations of sexual assault.
After hearing from Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school, Graham threw a hissy fit as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying Blasey Ford had “problems,” and that Democrats had used her to smear Kavanaugh. He called her accusations “a charade,” and an “unethical sham.” Never mind that it was the responsibility of senators to fully vet a nominee for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. (Anyone remember Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill?)
There were efforts to explain Graham’s outburst — one, that he was an ethical man and a champion of bipartisanship who had “played fair” with Democrats and felt double-crossed by them. But to accept that you would have to ignore Graham’s embrace of Trump after having warned the nation and the GOP against making him president.
And now, with his hissy fit hypocrisy established, he’s working on a masterpiece — to ram through Justice Ginsburg’s replacement in spite of his pledge to do no such thing, and sticking his tongue out at Democrats again.
If this were about immigration policy or some other bill moving through Congress, if I were pointing to a politician who had changed his mind about a less important issue, well, I would not see any of that as something that posed a profound threat to our democracy. But here we are — Republican senators enabling a reckless and racist president, flagrantly twisting rules and standards to take and keep power for power’s sake, undercutting the already tattered public faith in our most important institutions. To save the country from this pack of liars and hypocrites, Americans need to shift the balance of power in the next election.