Sign up for the Opinion Roundup email newsletter
In his autobiography, "A Promised Land," Barack Obama makes it clear he wasn't a big fan of South Carolina's Sen. Lindsey Graham.
He wasn't one who the former president felt comfortable relying on. He likes to play the role of the sophisticated, self-aware conservative, disarming Democrats and reporters with blunt assessments of his party's blind spots, but then when it came time to actually cast a vote he more often than not found a way to wiggle out of it.
That surely described my assessment of Lindsey Graham when I first became aware of him during the Republican impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying about the sexual relationship he had with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Graham was a young congressman from South Carolina who wound up as one of the House managers in the 1999 Senate trial to argue why Clinton should be found guilty and removed from office.
The New York Times' Peter Baker's 2000 book chronicling how it all unfolded — "The Breach" — details the role that Graham played in the effort to oust the Democratic president. The South Carolina Republican already was exhibiting his propensity to flip flop like he's done during his time now in the U.S. Senate — once a fierce critic of candidate Donald Trump who morphed into his biggest apologist after he became president.
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in 1998 when Republicans first started considering enacting articles of impeachment against Clinton, then-Rep. Graham lamented how many of his fellow Republicans were being exposed for their own sex-related indiscretions. The Republican speaker of the House had just been forced to step down.
"I'm a sinner too and I'll probably be confessing my sins before this is over," Baker quotes Graham telling a group of colleagues. When asked what he was talking about, the 43-year-old Graham replied, "I'm single. I'm not gay and therefore everything I do is a sin."
He's still single 23 years later and pitifully often has to endure whispers about his sexuality. It's OK to be gay in Wisconsin — we have two openly gay members of Congress who enjoy robust public support — but it's still not OK among the rabid evangelicals who back Graham in South Carolina.
Despite his early reluctance to judge Clinton's escapades, he was named one of the dozen managers when the House voted to impeach the president. He then turned into one of Clinton's fiercest prosecutors.
"To set aside an election is a very scary thought in a democracy," he told the Republican-controlled Senate, but then added "when he chose to lie, when he chose to manipulate the evidence to witnesses against him and get his friends to go lie for him" he became unfit to be president.
Two decades later he has had no problem advocating to set aside a presidential election, helping Trump spread the lie to his agitated followers that he was cheated out of victory. He even called the Georgia secretary of state to ask if there couldn't be some "tinkering" of the vote there.
Like our own Ron Johnson, Graham has become unhinged and nothing short of farcical in his allegiance to Trump and his cult.
It was no surprise that while he insisted a president should be ousted for lying about sex 22 years ago, he voted this month to acquit a president who incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that wound up with five dead people, including a cop. What was more astounding is that Graham, just after the Trump rioters sacked the Capitol, commented that Trump will share the blame in history. That didn't last long — never does with absurd politicians like Lindsey Graham.
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr was one of seven GOP senators with the courage to vote to find Trump guilty. Incensed at his colleague's audacity, Graham is now pushing Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to run for Burr's seat in 2022, claiming that Burr's vote will actually work in her favor. Burr is retiring and Graham insists the region needs two senators who will back Trumpism and whatever it is it stands for.
Just what we need.