Of all the performatively human politicians to be exposed by the Trump Age as little more than Faustian opportunists willing to abandon all pretense of conviction for the chance to feel the tiniest surge of borrowed power, however dark the source, few are as transparently pathetic as Lindsey Graham. The Republican Senator from the great state of Joining Us Now Via Satellite has a demo reel of racking himself in the balls that Johnny Knoxville would envy, often presenting himself as the soberly genteel, charmingly homespun voice of reason in a party ruled by unctuous reptilians and hollering bullies (even flatly calling them out as such, on tape) before turning right around and (again, on tape) enthusiastically endorsing them, as a means of pursuing his own desperately aggrieved, warmongering agenda. It’s a political strategy that guarantees him all the cable news spotlights this blushing Southern belle could ever want, and it’s one ideally suited for a country that can barely remember what happened four days ago, let alone before the November fog descended. And of course, it’s also profoundly sad, but only if you believe anything still matters.
Still, even if you’ve been long since hollowed, there are probably a few empty gallows chuckles to be found in this latest clip of Graham appearing on CNN in between CNN appearances, an incredible pirouette in which Graham dodges a question about Trump’s privately spreading conspiracy theories about doctored Access Hollywood tapes and Obama’s birth certificate by saying this: “You know what concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook not fit to be president.” As CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out last night, those words originated not with the press, but with some clearly biased, untrustworthy partisan hack named 2016 Lindsey Graham. “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office,” Graham said of Trump in February that year. Just another fake news personality passing off their opinionated hatred as “political commentary”!
Still, it was a crazy time, those wild, early months of 2016, when the American political system was just experiencing the first painful, lycanthropic convulsions of finally shrugging off its statesman skin to reveal the dumb, rapacious beast within. Everything was changing so rapidly that one minute Lindsey Graham might be joking (again, on tape) that his erstwhile presidential rival Ted Cruz could be murdered on the floor of the Senate and “nobody would convict you,” and the next he could be on The Daily Show, watching that same clip while giggling like a naughty schoolgirl in the same breath as offering Cruz his full-throated support, then adding that said endorsement “tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump.”
And hell, it hasn’t gotten any less confusing after the election: Graham—who also once called Trump a “jackass,” prompting Trump to give out Graham’s private cellphone number to his troll army—has since become a bootlick so embarrassingly fawning that last month he voluntarily tweeted out how amazing Trump was at golf, even masochistically debasing his own political career the way he knows his master likes.
Hey, whatever it takes to earn a base-level tolerance from a man who once publicly branded you a “lightweight” and “idiot.” Whatever’s necessary to preserve the dignity of a party that’s so bravely, demonstrably willing to smash themselves repeatedly in the face and smile through broken teeth if it means owning the libs. However they can push through a bloated monster of a tax bill—one whose repercussions they will spend the paltry remainder of their days trying desperately to pin on someone, anyone else. “Failure’s not an option,” Graham said this week, even if it means adding a clause that requires him to spend every noon donning a boater and singing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” while Trump hoovers burgers.
And as Graham continues to play both sides—condemning Trump as “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” for his anti-Muslim stance in 2015; then gleefully celebrating last month that, with Trump, “the gloves are off” and that he likes that Trump “understands that we’re in a religious war”; and then just yesterday, in the exact same interview where he decried the media’s hypocrisy, coming back around to condemning Trump for propagating “racism and religious bigotry” in his recent tweets—the only thing we can be sure of in this topsy-turvy world is that Lindsey Graham will find a camera to start weaseling his little weasel way toward whatever side ensures his own survival in the moment. At least he has the courtesy to document his cravenness for our petty enjoyment, I guess.