Even before I read The New York Times's in-depth story on Senator Lindsey Graham and his undying loyalty to Donald Trump, “Tap Dancing with Trump: Lindsey Graham’s Quest for Relevance," I had to laugh. The title immediately made me think of Liberace, who could tap dance, but was smart to stick to his day job as a piano player. At some point, Lindsey is going to trip and fall to his knees with all that tap, tap, tapping around Trump. And his fall will either be because of Lindsey’s obvious self-loathing or a criminal indictment.
It’s confounding that Lindsey thinks he won’t end up like Mike Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, Paul Manafort, and a laundry list of others who also tried to tango, cha-cha, foxtrot, and rumba with Trump, and who all ended up dissed by their dance partner, and invited to dance at their local prisons. Even Liberace couldn’t tap-dance around all the burned, buried, and indicted bodies that have brushed up against Trump.
Lindsey’s day job used to be that of a U.S. Senator, and back in the day, he and his late-friend John McCain were considered moderate Republicans who worked for comity and bipartisanship. The famous story of the two of them doing shots of vodka with their former colleague, Senator Hillary Clinton, comes to mind. There was a time when so many admired Graham for the fact that he was willing to buck his party and work on meaningful legislation, like immigration, with senators from across the aisle.
But no more. The senator from South Carolina loathes those on the other side, and he’ll sink to incredible depths to prove his lust for Trump-land consequence. Graham had the gall to go after Hunter Biden, the son of his friend, Joe Biden. Graham apparently reached out to the president afterwards, and told him that he did the bare minimum of trashing Hunter, just to appease the Trump base. Graham’s side denies this, but President Biden spoke for many when he said, “Lindsey’s been a personal disappointment because I was a personal friend of his.”
Where is that kind, moderate and level-headed “personal friend”? Graham is alienating and confounding everyone with his two-faced life. After the January 6 insurrection, on that very evening, a livid Graham took to the floor of the Senate, and said, referring specifically to Trump and his antics, that “enough is enough.”
Lindsey’s face was beet red, and saliva flung out of his mouth. For some that was a signal that he was returning to the old Lindsey – but not so fast. There was something behind that ferocious anger that was a signal for more sinister things to come.
Graham was, using a Southern expression, “Madder than a wet hen.” That wet hen went wild the night of January 6, and looking back, the anger seems to be not so much about what happened to our country, but perhaps stemmed from what was happening to Lindsey personally. Maybe Graham has been a personal disappointment to himself, because of his personal friendship with Trump?
Well, now the hen has giddily clucked, clucked, clucked his way to the back to the other side of the proverbial coop following the attempted coup. He was accosted in an airport by Trump supporters, and after that, and for other reasons that remain unknown, he morphed back into Trump II. He now wants us all to know that he wasn’t madder than a hen, just silly happy, like a hyena, for his friend Donald.
“That was taken as, ‘I’m out, count me out,’ that somehow, you know, that I’m done with the president,” he told the Times. “No! What I was trying to say to my colleagues and to the country was, ‘This process has come to a conclusion.’ The president had access to the courts. He was able to make his case to state legislators through hearings. He was disappointed he fell short. It didn’t work out. It was over for me.”
Wow! That is a real tap dance away from the very obvious meaning of his January 6 tirade. Graham, according to the article, has left his colleagues on both sides of the aisle baffled as to why he is twisting himself so tightly around Trump? The Times explains it this way, “It is that yearning for relevance, rooted in what he and others described as a childhood of privation and loss, that makes Mr. Graham’s story more than just a case study of political survival in the age of Trump.”
Like many of us, he had a rough childhood, and dealt with the early deaths of his parents. But he persevered primarily by being whip-smart, and that intelligence got him through college and law school, and then politics came beckoning.
One of his former law partners, a lifelong Democrat, described it this way, “Lindsey came to me and said, ‘What do you think?’ Lindsey and I talked a lot over time about issues, and there’s no doubt Lindsey was a Democrat on all social issues.” Which might explain his willingness to cross the aisle, but there’s no sign of the old Lindsey anymore. He has shimmied his way into the bigoted embrace of Trump.
He and Trump – an accused rapist, admitted sexual assaulter, known racist, and confirmed insurrectionist – are now verifiable pals. After the election, Graham went so far as to call Georgia’s top election officials, on Trump’s behalf, and ask about the state’s voting results. That call, as everyone now knows, is part of a criminal investigation. See, just like all the others before him, Flynn, Stone, Giuliani, Cohen, and Weisselberg, his name is now synonymous with Trump and criminality. When will they learn?
Graham apparently has gone to great lengths to learn how to play golf – obsessively, like his friend Donald. Graham and Trump even hosted a “Trump Graham Golf Classic” fundraiser in May with an entry fee of $25,000. His obsession with hitting the links with Trump at Mar-a-Lago prompted Trump to say to a friend, according to the Times piece, “Jesus, Lindsey must really, really like to golf.”
To be honest, Graham probably despises golf – and Trump. The former whip-smart, tolerant Lindsey is now nothing more than a dogmatic, ass-licking Trump sycophant. My suspicion is that Graham’s anger and the bile that spews from his mouth is due to the unimaginable self-loathing he must be going through, partly by becoming Trump’s tap-dancing partner.
One of the famous lines from Seinfeld by Jason Alexander’s character George Costanza, said, “A George, divided against itself, cannot stand.” At some point, Lindsey, divided against himself, will not stand. He will either fall through the eruption of this self-loathing, or an issuance of a criminal indictment.
In the meantime, if you need to find the duplicitous Graham, he won’t be in Washington, D.C. on the Senate floor protecting American democracy. He’ll be on the Mar-a-Lago golf course while Trump drives, putts, and whacks his balls into the dark hole that is Lindsey Graham.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.