Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) positioned himself as a “Fox News hero” last week, defending Brett Kavanaugh, furiously condemning Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, issuing unsubtle warnings about political retribution, and even sharing some unkind words about Christine Blasey Ford.
But the South Carolinian still has some additional plans in mind.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and prominent defender of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, called Sunday for an investigation into how the allegations of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford became public.
“We’re going to do a wholesale and full-scale investigation of what I think was a despicable process,” Graham, of South Carolina, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
This may sound like some hollow posturing from a politician looking for a new round of headlines, tacking on some threats to the senator’s high-profile tantrum. It’s not. If Republicans maintain control of the Senate majority, Graham is all but certain to become the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
When he spoke yesterday about what “we” intend to do, the GOP senator was talking about what he would have the Judiciary Committee do under his tutelage.
This comes on the heels of Graham’s vow to use his chairmanship to investigate the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails in years past. He told Roll Call in August that he’s “appalled” by the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation, adding, “I promise you that the people who put the Clinton investigation in the tank, they’re going to have their day too.” (There is literally no evidence the FBI probe into the former Secretary of State’s email protocols was put “in the tank,” but the South Carolinian has long been fond of Clinton-related conspiracy theories.)
Taken together, Graham, once seen as one of the chamber’s more constructive Republicans, is already making plans to pursue partisan vendettas with his gavel – assuming voters keep his party in control.
As for his enraged tirade last week, McClatchy’s Emma Dumain, who’s followed Graham closely, wrote on Twitter over the weekend about his anger. She made the case that Graham keeps talking about his confirmation votes in support of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan because he considered them qualified nominees, even if much of his party wasn’t pleased with his decision. From Dumain’s Twitter thread:
“Andrew King, a former Graham aide, said it like this: ‘Here’s a guy who feels he has put himself out there on behalf of the judiciary, keeping the judiciary sacrosanct, making sure these hearings are about qualifications and not about anything more and he’s been excoriated’ in [South Carolina].
“So it’s deeply personal for Graham. He feels he took a big risk in voting for Kagan [and] Sotomayor. Granted, Dems might argue they’re taking a bigger risk now voting for Kavanaugh given [sexual misconduct] allegations, but Graham still sees himself as someone who should be a model for bipartisan fairness…. [H]is obsession with these two votes, and him bringing them up constantly, suggests to me he’s deeply hurt that he took a risk years back and Dems won’t extend the same courtesy.”
This entire position might seem compelling were it not for the fact that Graham gladly went along with the Republican scheme to keep Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat open for a year, refusing to even consider Merrick Garland – a mainstream, compromise nominee – as part of an unprecedented display of raw, partisan power.
If Graham were serious about “keeping the judiciary sacrosanct,” and making sure Supreme Court nominations “are about qualifications and not about anything more,” then he abandoned his own principle in 2016, and in the process, forfeited any right to self-righteous fury in 2018.
This won’t interfere with Graham’s plans to launch partisan hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019, but it’s recent history the rest of us should keep in mind as his antics grow more brazen.