Lindsey Graham Has Already Blown His Chance to Stand Up to Trump

During the long week of mourning for the late Sen. John McCain, perhaps the oddest side story was the one about what in the world was going on with his erstwhile best bud, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. At a time when one might have expected Graham to proudly take up McCain’s maverick mantle, he was weakly backing the president’s puerile behavior one day and then saying it “pissed him off” the next. By the weekend it was clear that rather than going his own way, after having served faithfully as “Top Gun’s” Goose to McCain’s Maverick, Graham has decided to transfer his filial loyalty to a new father figure: the man in the White House.

This is not entirely unexpected. Graham has been madly signaling for the past few weeks that he wants Trump’s approval. Most notably, he seems to have made a deal to let Trump fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions once they get through the Supreme Court confirmation and the midterms. The man who said of Trump back in 2016, “I think he’s a kook, I think he’s crazy, I think he’s unfit for office,” has been shamelessly sucking up at various times since the inauguration, most memorably when he spent hours on the golf course persuading Trump to bring together Democrats and Republicans for a deal on the Dreamers — only to have the president kneecap him at the last minute.

Early on it appeared that Graham was one of the legions of politicians and staffers who believed they could flatter Trump into making better decisions. Along with many other observers, I wanted to give the South Carolina senator the benefit of the doubt. But like all the others, he overestimated his skills at manipulating Trump. Trump will not do what he doesn’t want to do, particularly if there are other people around him who are trying to get him to do what he really wants to do. In the case of immigration, he knows that his base is deeply aroused by the prospect of punishing Latinos and Muslims for daring to come to America at all — and he…

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