Somebody check the sky. Are pigs falling?
That’s an understated way of saying: Something’s happened to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He’s gone full court, full steam ahead conservative, fully on the same side as President Donald Trump. And have to say, it’s not only about time. It’s refreshingly, cheeringly, notably high-fives-all-around time.
It’s like the Republican Party is back, and Graham’s the face of its return.
“You’ve got a decision to make, America,” Graham said, during a recent interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News about the whole Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh nomination show. “Do you want to live in the world of Senator [Mazie] Hirono, where you’re guilty until proven innocent because you’re a Republican, you don’t have a presumption of innocence, or do you want to live in the [Senator] Susan Collins’ world where you will actually be heard, listened to and evaluated?”
That lays it out pretty well.
“The Hirono standard is horrific,” Graham said.
Indeed it is. The “Hirono standard,” for instance, turns every man into a suspect — simply because of his sex. But more than that, the “Hirono standard” opens the door for every American citizen, male or female, to see that very cherished notion of innocent until proven guilty — a bedrock of U.S. justice — stripped and replaced with a more mob rule type of governance, one that says those with the loudest voices and largest political endowments are the trifecta of judge, jury and jailer.
“If you legitimized this process,” Graham said, “the rule of law [would give] way to mob rule.”
That Graham is making this argument, and so forcefully, is both applause-worthy and at least somewhat astonishing.
This is the same guy of campaign season 2015-2016, after all, who called Trump a “jackass” and a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” who ought to be booted from the Republican Party. This is the same Graham who then proudly tweeted, “I voted @Evan_McMullin for President. I appreciate his views on a strong America and the need to rebuild our military.”
And this is the same Graham to whom Trump, in early 2016, referred to as a “disgrace,” as “one of the worst representatives of any representative in the United States,” and as unfit to “run for dog catcher.”
But boy, what a switch a couple of years brings.
The new Graham — the post-John McCain-death Graham, as some in the political circuit have been whispering — is on fire for conservative principles. He’s unafraid to speak up and speak out, even if it sides him with his one-time political enemy, Trump.
Graham was one of the fiercest defenders of Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill, telling the protesters basically to take a flying leap; recommending Trump renominate the candidate if the vote on the Senate floor failed; and doubling down, post-nomination, about the left’s craziness, describing how the newly sworn justice had been treated like a “slut whore drunk.” His words; his politically incorrect, cut-to-the-chase words.
And then this — a little show of humility: “To President Trump, thank you for sticking by Brett. To Brett, thank you for having the courage to stay in there when a lot of people would quit. I’m forever grateful to both Brett Kavanaugh and President Trump.”
So, what’s the deali-o — is Graham a GOP giant who’s finally rousing from slumber, with plans to stick around a while, or simply a political hack sniffing political winds so as to lay the groundwork for another run at the presidency?
Political realities say caution lights are in order. After all, conservatives have been screwed to the wall by Republicans who promise much and deliver zilch — and not just once or twice. For years, and years on top of years.
But even if Graham’s good GOP-ing is just a phase, in the end, so what? It’s still to be enjoyed while it lasts. The smart voter, the smart godly voter, never puts full faith in a politician anyway.
A smart Graham, though, would realize that it’s just the type of tough-talking, no-nonsense, come-and-get-me-copper rhetoric he’s now showing that won Trump the presidency in 2016 — that won the hearts and imaginations of a grateful conservative base then, and that will drive out these same hungry conservative bases in the midterms and beyond.
And not just a smart Graham — a smart Republican Party. It’d be great to see a whole host of Republicans, not just Graham, awaken from their long years of slumber and start behaving like the bold leaders, the strong defenders of the Constitution, voters gave them standing to be. Whatever happened to Graham to ignite his fire, it’s working.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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