Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) had yet another moment of apparent self-awareness Friday.
“I didn’t think Trump would win,” Graham told the Senate Judiciary Committee before it approved moving Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate. “I would like to tell him that you had a choice to make for the Supreme Court vacancy of Justice [Anthony M.] Kennedy, and I think you did a good job, Mr. President.”
It was far from the first time the senior senator from South Carolina found himself praising a president he deemed unfit for office two years prior — as you can see in the video above — but Friday marked perhaps the biggest vindication for Republicans who have embraced Trump’s presidency: one vote away from a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
And for Graham, it was the latest in a series of political victories under Trump that included tax cuts, ending U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
On the campaign trail, Graham called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” In January, Graham said those adjectives don’t apply anymore.
One year after calling Trump a “kook,” Graham blamed the media for labeling Trump a “kook.”
In his outreach to the White House, Graham has adopted many of Trump’s viewpoints and much of his terminology: The investigation of the Trump campaign was “biased,” the FISA process “needs to be looked at” and there may be a “deep state” working against the president.
Graham’s sycophancy is nothing new:
- He once tried to oust Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) from power. Now he says Republicans “were too hard” on Gingrich.
- In late 1998, he said Congress would be “wiped out” if it impeached people “for being silly and doing inappropriate things.” The following year, he asserted that “impeachment is about cleansing the office.”
- In 2016, he worked with Republicans to hold open a Supreme Court seat for more than a year. Now he is accusing Democrats of delaying Kavanaugh’s nomination for political gain.
But never has Graham cozied up to a former political enemy more than with Trump. At times, Graham will even shift mid-sentence to second-person in what amounts to nothing more than a direct appeal to Trump.
“I don’t think we’re going to find anything new from [Kavanaugh’s] supplemental FBI investigation,” Graham said on Fox News on Monday, before pivoting. “Here’s what I would tell the president: I would appeal the verdict of the Senate to the ballot box. … I would renominate him and I would take this case to the American people.”
Minutes after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called for reopening Kavanaugh’s FBI background check Friday, Graham had a moment of self-realization.
“Somebody’s got to explain this to Trump, so I guess that’ll be my job,” Graham told reporters. “If I’m nothing, I’m practical, okay?”