What Happened to Lindsey Graham?
from New York Times, I'm Michael Barr. This is the deal. Today two years ago, he called Donald Trump, a Kook a big crazy and unfit for office. Now, he lavishes praise on the president at every turn what happened to Lindsey Graham. It's Tuesday March fifth. I mean, you don't even know which way the wind is blowing with the sky. Well, I'm talking actually about Lindsey Graham. I don't know what happened to the Lindsey Graham that I knew because he hasn't been showing up lately seems to be adrift morally, politically, I think it's mystifying to a lot of people. It certainly miss defined to me what happened to Lindsey Graham, what happened to Lindsey Graham, Lindsey Graham, blah, what happened to Lindsey Graham. The thing about Lindsay Graham is is one of these figures in Washington that comes with kind of a non verbal reaction at this point. Mark Leyva veg wrote about Graham for the New York Times magazine, you mentioned his name anytime over the last six months to twelve months, and you get this combination. Grimness? Shrug follow up question. Yeah. What's going on? And in all the sort of Trump era Republican mysteries. When we ask ourselves. What happened to this person? Why is this person changing his or her mind so much now about Donald Trump Lindsey Graham, kind of is the? Signature mystery of the Trump era is far as what these conversions look like. Lindsey Graham grew up in a very small town in South Carolina. The town of central South Carolina and his parents owned a bar there called the sanitary cafe and they own it. But they lived in an apartment right behind the bar. The shared a restroom with the patrons of the bar. And he went from there is the first member of his family to go to college. His parents died when he was in his early twenties. He joined the military eventually got into politics, and then was elected to congress and eventually was elected to the Senate where over the years, he's become known as kind of a reliable conservative pretty partisan Republican Lindsey Graham through the Bush years still Bama care from day one voting against the Obama years. He led the fight on Benghazi demanding he was known as someone who was a truth teller within his caucus. He's been a champion for our military veterans and a fighter for South Carolina. He was seeing much likes. Cain was as someone who you could have a conversation. You could deal with all eyes on Lindsey Graham and another democratic member trying to come up with some sort of bipartisan compromise and really want a lot of bipartisan respect a lot of respect across the aisles took on some pretty unpopular issues within his caucus eighty percent of the people at light CDs. Kids have a better life eighty percent of the people light to begin to fix broken immigration system. Immigration. We won't be debating about the science. We'll be debating about this Aleutians climate change. I mean, he was a big deal maker to this day is remembered and remember to sort of a key word because it's very past tense as someone who could speak some truth to power and someone who was seen as a reasonable independent conservative. Lemme tell you about center McKay. And he also was like a side kick the Gilligan to John McCain's skipper. He would die for this country. I love him to death. He was always the two of them had sort of similar sense of humor reason why. Is not married is because he can't find anyone that loves him as much as he. And was always again, very derivative of the energy that John McCain brought to everything that John McCain did. So two thousand fifteen I'm Lindsey Graham, and I'm running for president of the United States Lindsey Graham two thirds going to run for president he lost. So I never liked him as much after that. Because I don't like and relegates Donald Trump insults. John McCain war here. He's award. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured. Okay. I hate to. Is John McCain a euro? And Donald Trump said, no, he's not I like people who weren't captured. I don't need a poll the tell Donald Trump is not good to say that John McCain's loser. Because it was captured in a time of war, windy Graham, McCain best friend was extremely took great umbrage at this. I don't care if he drops out stay in the race. Just stop being jackass called Trump. I think it was a jackass. Can I got called the jackass by this guy? And then I said to myself. Hey, didn't this guy? Call me like four years ago. Yes, Donald Trump. Then at a campaign event decided I wrote the number down. I don't know if it's the right number. Let's try to to yell out Wednesday Graham cellphone number which to my memory has never been done before in American politics predictably the crank calls the threats commenced immediately, Lindsey Graham cell phone. I think he's a Kook I think he's crazy. I think he's unfit for office. So the phone thing happens the relationship did not improve. Over the course of the campaign. He's race baiting. Zena phobic religious big to say the least. And then even when Donald Trump was elected, even when he became president, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain were still none too happy with the fact that Donald Trump was president they kind of held their powder for a while, they weren't terribly vocal. But there were certain the Cajun's where Lindsey Graham was actually quite vocal and really wasn't trying to hide his feelings at all after the Charlottesville demonstration, and ultimately murder, our president the United States, and these people showed sympathy toward me and my gender. It would bother me. And I would urge the president to dissuade them the fact that he's sympathetic to their goals. Lindsey Graham was extremely outspoken about how the president should not have spoken out seemingly in favor of the white. Nationalist Custer calls is hate it is unamerican they are domestic terrorist. And we need more from our president on this issue. And also about the summer later when? Donald Trump and President Putin had that joint press conference in Helsinki. And the president seemed to side with President Putin over the conclusion of his own intelligence that Russia meddled with the election of twenty sixteen. He's misjudging. I don't think he was paired as well. As the should've been Lindsey Graham was not shy at all about speaking out. This was a NIST opportunity we reinforced and narrative that's bad for us as a nation. It came across a week. But then something weird happened. I am like the happiest dude. We've got a president and national security team that I've been dreaming of for eight years out light the president. I wanna help him a hope he's successful. He's been a friend to me. President Trump has the smarts and the moral courage to listen to his generals. I am all in keep it up down eleven. Sure, you're watching a President Trump deserves the Nobel peace prize, and then some fee don't light me working with President Trump to make the world a better place. I don't give a shit. So that's what people are asking what happened to Lindsey Graham. And I was asking myself. I mean, I don't think there was a sharper pivot from vehemently anti-trump to enthusiastically pro-trump more so than Lindsey Graham within the Republican party. So I decided that I would spend some time Lindsey Graham and see if I could ask him enough questions that maybe he could shed some light on this for me. Chair where did you start your conversation with Graham? So just start with this. I mean tonight ask Lindsey Graham how he was getting along without John McCain and this job. I miss him a lot. I mean, I haven't seen him since John McCain had passed away which would have been August s still own occasion wanna pick up on call. So it was a relationship. That was was like. A political marriage. And he said he was doing. Okay. He misses him. He thinks about him all the time. Love the contest love being relevant. He kept himself, Rome. But from there he jumped immediately to how John McCain made him feel which was relevant. Being relevant in the way, you stay relevant. Is you stay engage. There's a lot of space here to take on tough issues 'cause most people shy away from them. John, and I were relevant together. I mean, it was like we're sharing a meal together. We're sharing a value system together. And that value system was relevance. And I was confused by the word I said, what do you mean by that? And he said relevant is like in the middle of everything relevant is you're making a difference, which you says political influence and tower use it John McCain was always surrounded by an entourage. He was always surrounded by cameras. He was always surrounded by a sense that because John McCain was there something momentous was happening and Lindsey Graham by virtue of residency in that orbit was able to reap that also. And so how does Graham explain to you how his relationship with Trump develops? And how this volition kind of lands with him having a relationship withdrawal. Trial race bedding religious xenophobic in. Did you mean that on when you said that stuff? I didn't vote for thought his campaign was beautiful from general now, would you vote level for whatever the gas name has no in the door that dude cell, but I lost. I mean, the people have spoken. So okay. Let's say how we help this guy. David. I think he knew intuitively that he needed to build a relationship fairly quickly in part because of political realities and South Carolina, and the fact of his reelection coming up in twenty twenty but I didn't call. So he called me about six weeks after he said, let's tall. Donald Trump sort of short circuit of the process by calling him. I says I don't have fun. Phone number said, there's a reason for that. Throw it out because you ruined it. He took me to the place of the Oval Office. And they had lunch and Lee talk for our Inc really seemed to get what I think what caught any said, you know. No, we've had our differences. But like, so I'll be glad if you are president much success. Do you like him on a superficial we golf together, we have a little remorse? This best. What's changed? So you feel a genuine will. So. I want to be sigma points. He's kinda tough job. Sure. I mean, he did have a whole group of old friends, right? The guy is president of the United States. The stuff is coming at it. It mocked to in three. He feels completely under siege. From the Muller stuff. And he is trying to navigate all things that come with being down Trump. But there's a Saturday him that. I'm pulling for him. Said re before now like meeting, but give me a timeframe. In the last year. Yeah. For what actually happens in the past year between Graham and President Trump that explains this they're spending a lot of time together never been called as much about president in my life. What is weird and this flattering and the time they're spending together the votes, Lindsey Graham was casting for the Trump agenda. Judges have been good the tax cuts. Deregulation work is rebuilt a military there on tax reform, whether repealing the Affordable Care Act that was both in two thousand seventeen but into twenty eighteen on foreign policy. I'm hoping him that we can do some things. In North Korea. That maybe we couldn't have done it. Windsor grandma's certainly ascended to the role of one of Donald Trump's two or three closest advisors on the hill, the backdrop to this though is that Lindsey Graham's best friend, John McCain is going through a very very public difficult illness and Donald Trump, basically didn't let up at all. He was still criticizing John McCain for his vote against the Affordable Care Act repeal of two thousand seventeen but also John McCain through his office, even through his illness was not shy about criticizing Donald Trump for things like Helsinki Charlottesville, and Donald Trump was not one to let this lie and was going to bash John McCain right back. So you had this situation where Lindsey Graham and the president were becoming very close in public friends. Whereas John McCain was dying a very very slow and tragic in public death. So I think people began to ask this question. What was going on with Lindsey Graham in maybe a more personal framework because John McCain, and he were known to be so close and John McCain. Obviously was very sick. And I wonder did you ask Graham about how McCain felt about this developing relationship between Graham and Trump considering their past and McCain's placing it. Yeah. I did hear until. He's president and abseiled you. Once the election's over embrace, people should at what marred the most about you. Now, if you go to the at Phnom forgive me by that few could work with a bomb, anybody to our stand this guy's orbit. So in a way, you're minding John McCain of his own example, but also appealing to the ego. The John McCain, obviously had in very very high measure, and do you know if McCain essentially blessed this or said, I understand Lindsay unlucky blessed? It I think that's probably too strong. But I think John McCain as well as anyone understands politics. Also, look he hit other things to worry about he was dying. He was getting his legacy and his affairs in order. He was not at his best in the last Europe is life when he was battling brain cancer and so forth. So what Trump is? I don't think inconsistent. What I've done with others. But here's the difference. Warm port. And he's receptive. So John McCain passes away in August. And then just a few weeks later, you had the crescendo of the bread Cavanaugh hearings. I mean, we all remember, you know, very very powerful day where there was a sense for about maybe two thirds of the day that Justice Cavanaugh was in real trouble that Dr Ford's story was extremely compelling. Then all of a sudden Republicans on the committee were speaking in Lindsey Graham, gave this real show stopping speech this system unethical sham since I've been in politics. And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn't have done. What you've done to this guy that the moment, you know, people thought, you know, might have really changed the momentum of this thing. Boy, I'll won't power God. I hope you never get it. Right. And in which he essentially a sales the democratic members of the committee for basically being power, hungry, and our and sm-. Cheering and ruining Brett Kavanagh's life. Did you feel like any way you had an audience in the White House, can you? There was not audience pissed everything genuine just like your gas. Westbound. Fears down straight. I've had a fixed up of all ally. I just think I don't want to ruin the issue 'cause we can't get along up here. It was a very pitched in partisan setting. Obviously, I think the collateral damage. There's what it did was reputation across the aisle, which is not been repaired yet. But in a sense that sort of played to some very very strong suit that Lindsey Graham had beginning with being something that was delightful to the president of the United States and his base. The president is it. He has allowed me in that space. In after cabin been more. Imagine he likes to fire after the cavenaugh hearings. I think the question that everybody has on some low level about what happened to Graham is now the question, we're all openly asked what happened to Lindsey Graham. Did you actually pose that question? Yes. I did. You see a little sick and tired of the what's what's happened into Lindsey Graham question. Is just like yelich. Okay. Nothing. If you know anything about me, it'd be odd for me. Now, what is this the work with him to be try to be real in a sense? He uses the notion of relevance as a catchall. But to what end I mean because you're up to the end to the objectives. Is that I want the uncharitable way of describing this would be oppertunistic the charitable way of saying, this would be influence, and the fact is one of the central dynamics of Washington circa twenty nineteen circa the Trump administration is that never has the decision point been so wrapped up in the mercurial -ness of one single person as it is right now in Donald Trump's orbit and Lindsey Graham as made himself part of that orbit. Now, it might not last beyond next week. It might not last beyond his reelection. Who knows where this is going to end Lindsey Graham pose that question himself to me. But for now, he seems to think it's very very advantageous for him politically, but I wanna linger on that word opportunism because if you. Look at the chronology one view. And perhaps it's the most cynical view is that Lindsey Graham in the name of relevance attached himself to the biggest star Republican politics for very long time. And that was Senator John McCain. And then when Senator John McCain declines, and ultimately dies Lindsey Graham looks for the next biggest star to attach himself to in that happens to be Donald Trump. And so despite the fact that these two men disdain each other, and represent very different sides of the publican party, the constant is Lindsay Graham seeking out the star it is and a one point I just sort of like blurted out trust him meeting president. And it took them awhile answer seemed taken aback by that. And what he said was I trust him to want to be successful, which you know, is kind of a non answer. What president doesn't want to be successful? Right. I mean, I think if I were to ask him do you trust John McCain? He would say I trust John McCain to love America into always do what is right for America. And to always work for a cause greater than himself. F-? I remember asking him at one point getting Donald Trump believes they caused greater than himself. And he said something to the effect that Donald Trump's showman. He's a larger than life figure. He wants to be successful. Look, there are a lot of people who say Lindsay, you know, better. How can you live with yourself? What are you doing? And he couches it in the virtue of look, I believe very strongly in certain things around Syria around Afghantistan around judges. It is about. Outcomes that I've got knocked to up here working with the president to get some outcomes. It could be really good for the country. Nothing from porn view. Good for the world being relevant to Donald Trump being in his orbit helps me influence the things that I think are good for our country. And then and good for your re-election, high cynically said and also good for Lindsey, Graham's reelection. He don't wanna get reelected union their own. He's sort of glibly said, well, if you don't wanna be reelected, you're in the wrong business. I mean this question of what is going on Lindsey Graham is so present around him. It's come to define him so much that he felt completely at home. Even raising the question rhetorically on the stump in South Carolina. There was a Republican lunch. We went to in Greenville where he was saying. What happened to me? And he said it twice and he said. Not a damn thing and people kind of like nodded knowingly, and what he was doing was sort of owning the question he was sort of taking it as part of his political identity. But at the same time he was being defined about it too. And he kept talking about how like look all the smart people in Washington. They hate us the people in the media. They hate us. You know, they hate him him being Donald Trump, you know, essentially as sort of an old populist refrain, which is they don't they look down on our way. Literally the next day and his office in Washington. He was talking about how you showcase your issues. This is what you do when you're running for election. He was he was being one of the smart people. He was talking to me wise, guy wise guy, and he was essentially giving away the game as if you know, his Senate office in Washington and a luncheon hall in Greenville, South Carolina were completely different worlds that have nothing to do with each other. And it sounds like at the end of the day. He is being honest and that nothing did happen to him. He is the same guy. Yeah. Here's the thing. I was pretty struck by how honest candidate he was in talking about what his game was what he was doing him explicitly saying you showcase your issues, meaning use as certain things when you're running for re election, essentially tests are not yet certain audiences. He said facetiously, but not really physicians -ly, you know, you'll recall that in twenty ten John McCain turned himself into the most Repub the most conservative Senator in the Senate when he was running for reelection and twenty. Ten that was the reelection. When John McCain's would have tried to disassociate himself with the term maverick. When in fact, two years earlier, he had based entire presidential campaign about being a maverick people at that point were asking what's going on with John McCain. So I think in a sense he was pointing out the synergy between his hero eight years ago, and what he was going through today. But again, that's a pretty transparent way of looking at describing what is happening to someone when they are essentially doing political contortions. Graham is one a good politician to someone who is fully aware of what the political reality is for him as a conservative or someone who wants to be reelected in a very conservative state in a very conservative party. And is someone who knows very much how Washington works that. He's up front about what this is. And what isn't and the degree to which this is an opportunistic transactional relationship. Yeah. He would call it politics. Mark. Thank you very much. Thank you, Michael great to be with you. Very very much. Wow. Wow. I came to the right place over the weekend. Lindsey Graham spoke at the annual gathering of the conservative political action conference where he once again freeze, President Trump and boasted about their close relationship. Be more proud of the fact that he talks to me and asked my opinion, and we've got a lot in common now I like him and he likes him and. Every business has mission court to Google clouds mission is to protect yours. That's why they've make security features into every layer of their cloud from encryption and custom hardware chips to shark-proof undersea fiber optic cables that are part of their global network. Plus they're world class team of security engineers, help defend your company twenty four seven three sixty five hundred you put more focus on the things that drive your business forward. Learn more at G dot co slash cloud, secure. Go make it will protect it. Here's what else you need to. On monday. The chairman of the House Judiciary committee cheering requested records from more than eighty individuals and organizations connected to President Trump as the committee launches a sweeping investigation into whether the president abused power and obstructed Justice. The request were delivered to Trump's business partners White House staff and family members, including the president's two sons, Eric and Donald junior, and they touch on everything from the president's payments of hush money to women to his financial dealings with Russia. At the White House on Monday. Trump was asked about the new investigation like operate all the time with everybody, and you know. No. The times reports that way the Chinese company developing five G cellular networks around the world is planning to sue the US government for banning federal ages from using the company's technology. The ban is based on the Trump administration's fear that Wally is a national security threat whose products could allow the Chinese government to spy on and disrupt American communications Edwards in the loss. Wall way will argue that the twenty legislation that ours. It's technology with influential agencies, violates the constitution by singling out one organization for punishment without a trial. That's it for today. I'm Michael bovin seat. The daily is supported by all of us research program New York City, which is dedicated to supporting breakthroughs in health research. They're looking for one million or more people to share health information. So that researchers can use the data to conduct health studies and improve the long term health of the community information at join all of us dot org slash NYC.