Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
Some thought Sen. Lindsey Graham was a rare point of light in the darkness of the Republican Party; a principled conservative who would stand up to Donald Trump. He embodied the waning hopes of “bipartisan” opposition to an impulsive and ill-informed president.
After all, the South Carolina Republican had denounced Trump during the 2016 presidential primaries.
On Election Day, Graham let it be known that he didn’t vote for Trump. When Trump took office, he criticized the travel ban, which several federal judges found unconstitutional.
When the White House ties to Russia came under investigation, Graham said any Trump underling working inappropriately with Russia, “needs to pay a price.”
During the confirmation for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Graham declared Trump could face impeachment if he revived the practice of waterboarding, a violation of U.S. laws against torture.
“If you start waterboarding people,” Graham said to Gorsuch, “you may get impeached. Is that a fair summary?”
When Gorsuch tried to duck the question, Graham pressed him until the nominee finally escaped by agreeing, “No man is above the law.”
For those who still yearn for bipartisanship in Washington, Graham was the GOP outlier who might become the trend, the man who might lead Republicans to stand up to a president fond of flouting democratic norms.
Principles are so last month. Graham now says he’s “all in on Trump.”
“I am like the happiest dude in America right now,” a beaming Graham said on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday. “We have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.”
What exactly did Trump do to salve Graham’s “good conscience”?
The senator cited three actions. Trump launched a cruise missile attack on Syria for a reported chemical weapons attack. He sent Vice President Mike Pence to South Korea to warn North Korea that Trump’s patience was not unlimited and sent U.S. naval forces to the Korean peninsula to underscore his warnings. And he put Iran “on notice” because “Iran is running through the Mideast. They are toppling every government they can get their hands on,” Graham said.
Last May, Graham said Trump had not “displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as Commander in Chief.”
On Wednesday he said, “I am all in. Keep it up, Donald. I’m sure you’re watching.”
In the capacious annals of sycophancy in Washington, Graham’s reversal stands out for its abject surrender. Many psell out their stated positions for the sake of proximity to power. But few grovel with Graham’s happy face enthusiasm.
As for putting Iran “on notice,” that was the only significant action taken by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It drew a shrug from Iran (which, by the way, has not overthrown any governments in Middle East), perhaps it was mere words. A spokesman said, “We have not been asked to change anything operationally in the region.”
The cruise missile attack on Syria was, depending on which Trump administration official you believe: 1) a prelude to a military solution of destroying the Assad regime; or 2) a prelude to a political solution among the warring parties.
Graham hasn’t seemed to notice that it can’t be both and it may be neither, just the rash act of an incoherent man unfit for the office he holds.
While Pence talked tough on North Korea, the naval carrier group Trump claimed to have sent to the Korean peninsula was actually steaming in the opposite direction. Trump’s tough talk was empty talk–and he didn’t even know it. The White House explanation? “Never mind.”
Graham is right about one thing: Trump was watching. He was watching his one-time critic slink back into his good graces after he let the bombs fly. It’s an instructive lesson—Trump’s “bipartisan” opponents are easily cowed.
Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 and Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA.
This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.