Graham touts Trump's 'pro-life' posture in pandemic response

Lindsey Graham praised Donald Trump's pandemic response because of its "pro-life" foundation. Maybe he meant some other Donald Trump?
Image: Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, gives a statement after closed-door briefing on Iran in the auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center on May 21, 2019.Mamdel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file
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By Steve Benen

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared this week on Family Research Council ​President Tony Perkins' program, and they predictably touted Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic. But as Right Wing Watch noted, the Republican senator celebrated the president's efforts in one unexpected way.

"I believe if we'd let it run its course, Tony, you'd have a couple million people dead right now. Look, 70,000 people [have] died with us locking the whole world down, so the president put life -- he is pro-life in the real sense of the word -- he put life ahead of his economic success," Graham said. "The economy came to a grinding halt -- not because of anything bad about the economy -- to save lives. Now we're trying to balance how to turn it on. I think he's done a really good job."

Maybe the South Carolinian was referring to some other president?

I'm mindful of the broader circumstances. Graham is a prominent White House ally, running for re-election in a state Trump is all but certain to win easily. The senator, like nearly all Republicans, has strong political incentives to excuse, ignore, spin, and paper over the administration's many costly failures during the COVID-19 crisis.

But for Graham to take stock of Trump's recent actions, tout the president's "pro-life" posture, and celebrate the president's willingness to "put life ahead of his economic success," is ... odd.

NBC News' First Read team published an analysis yesterday morning with a memorable lead, unrelated to Graham's assessment: "Let's accept the premise offered by President Trump, Chris Christie and others: It's worth sacrificing American lives to get the U.S. economy restarted. But then what? What's the plan for what comes next?"

For many observers, it's hard to miss the fact that Trump is not prioritizing American lives over other considerations; he's doing the opposite. At one event this week, the president argued, for example, "The people of our country are warriors.... I'm not saying anything is perfect. And, yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open."

Around the same time, Trump acknowledged that "there'll be more death" in the coming weeks and months, which Americans will simply have to accept.

The president also made this amazing declaration on Tuesday:

"[F]or those people that have lost somebody, for the people that have lost a loved one, even a close friend, you know, nothing can ever happen that's going to replace that. You know, I don't care what kind of a year you have from an economic standpoint, nobody is ever going to replace that. But I think, from an economic standpoint -- purely an economic standpoint -- I think next year is potentially going to be one of the best years we've had."

It's possible that Graham is referring to Trump's earlier posture -- from, say, March -- as one in which the president prioritized his "pro-life" beliefs and "put life ahead of his economic success."

But if that was true a couple of months ago, how exactly would the senator describe the president's current approach to the pandemic?