In between host Maria Bartiromo’s hard-hitting observations — such as opining that President Trump’s impeachment is actually “a crisis for the Biden administration" — Graham claimed, “If you do not stand up against the impeachment of President Trump after he leaves office, you’re an incredibly weak figure in American history.”
Well, if Graham wants to talk about incredibly weak figures in American history, he only need look in the mirror.
There’s the weakness of his reasoning. “President Trump is trying to heal the nation,” Graham told Bartiromo. “Pursuing impeachment after he leaves the office will further divide the country.” Left unoffered was any explanation how Trump’s words to the rioters — “We love you. You’re very special" — are helping to heal the nation, or how not impeaching will unite the country when Republicans claim that, as Graham told Bartiromo, Biden will usher in “the most aggressive socialized policy effort in the history of the country.”
Constitutional arguments — supposedly Graham’s forte — didn’t go any better. The Bartiromo interview featured a new letter from Graham to Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer, in which he wrote, “Both the plain text and the evident purpose of Congress’ constitutional impeachment power make manifestly clear that the Congress is without the constitutional power to impeach a president, once he has left office.” That is at odds with the views of most constitutional scholars, who say that the Constitution is unclear on whether a former official can be impeached.
Then there’s the weakness of Graham’s memory. “Vice President Pence stood in the breach against unconstitutional calls to overturn the 2020 election,” Graham wrote in his letter to Schumer, apparently forgetting that he himself did plenty to stoke those calls. “Do not concede, Mr. President,” he said on Bartiromo’s program on Nov. 8. “I have no confidence" in Georgia’s election results, he told Fox News in December, adding that “there’s a civil war brewing” in the state. Even in Sunday’s Bartiromo interview, Graham couldn’t resist blaming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the riots — “Where was Nancy Pelosi? It’s her job to provide Capitol security.” But now we’re supposed to believe that he cares about unity?
And perhaps most notably, there’s the weakness of Graham’s spine. In former president Barack Obama’s recent memoir, he described Graham as “the guy who double-crosses everyone to save his own skin.” The senator’s behavior since Trump’s rise bolsters that view. In late 2015, Graham told CNN, “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” In another interview that year, he called Trump a “jackass" who “shouldn’t be commander in chief.” But upon Trump’s election, Graham quickly became a devotee of the president, always ready with a defense for Trump’s conduct. One particularly low point came during Trump’s first impeachment trial, when Graham — who argued that President Bill Clinton’s lies demanded impeachment to restore “honor and integrity to the office” — claimed that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to try help sway a U.S. election wasn’t impeachable conduct.
Politicians putting their careers above principle are hardly a new phenomenon. But they seem to be especially common in today’s GOP. Just 10 House Republicans were brave enough to impeach a president who incited a mob to breach the Capitol. And while Republican senators such as Ben Sasse (Neb.), Susan Collins (Maine) and even Mitch McConnell (Ky.) have signaled their openness to voting to convict, only Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have actually committed to doing so. It’s hard to see that number growing much as the vivid images from the insurrection fade.
Last week, I predicted that some day Trump will lose his grip on the GOP, only because of his advanced age and the fact that he has no obvious, competent successor. But Graham’s weakness, and the prevalence of that weakness in his party, show just how vulnerable the GOP is to another Trump. And while the country survived this Trump, next time we may not be so lucky.