Elected to the Senate in 2002, in his quest for a more serious persona, Graham fastened himself to McCain. “Lindsey for some reason had sort of a man-crush on John McCain,” said his friend, Senator Steve Largent, Republican of Oklahoma. One southern senator confided to me that he and a number of his colleagues had dubbed Graham “Little Brother”. Graham trotted after the larger than life McCain like a spaniel. In McCain’s presence, “Little Brother” tried to puff himself up as big, too. But the senator I spoke with dismissively waved him away as a chronic self-aggrandizer and hypocrite, and flicked away Graham’s foreign policy talk as aspirational clichés.
Graham has climbed the greasy pole within the Senate, to a position that historically has been rewarded by his state with a lifetime tenure. He succeeded to the seat that Strom Thurmond held for 48 years before he died at 100. From Graham’s chairmanship of the Senate judiciary committee he has taken up the defense of Trump, to unmask the dastardly conspiracy of “Obamagate” and to handle the confirmation of a justice on the supreme court, to pack it with a conservative majority for a generation to come. But just at this consummate moment of his career, events have conspired to dissolve his facade and expose his flagrant hypocrisy.
Graham’s relationship with Trump flourished from the date McCain was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Basking in Trump’s presence, Graham happily demeaned himself. Trump, he said, “beat me like a dog” in the 2016 primaries. Before a Republican gathering, he demanded unquestioning loyalty. “To every Republican, if you don’t stand behind this president, we’re not going to stand behind you,” he said. Graham argued that unstinting support for Trump extended beyond any policy issue but required embrace of Trump’s view of himself as a victim of his host of enemies. “It’s not just about a wall. It’s about him being treated different than any other president.”