When a previously undisclosed recording of a politician causes a controversy, it’s generally because he or she is heard saying or doing something provocative. In recent weeks, however, this model has been turned on its head.
In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack, for example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was surreptitiously recorded talking about Donald Trump and the then-president’s responsibility for the insurrectionist violence. In the behind-the-scenes tapes, the chamber’s top Republican lawmaker actually came across pretty well: McCarthy is heard drawing ethical boundaries and telling his ostensible GOP allies that he was prepared to do something somewhat courageous.
The real problem, of course, is that McCarthy quickly retreated, abandoned his plan to be brave, and spent the rest of 2021 covering for Donald Trump, despite obviously knowing better.
Evidently, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is in the same boat. Business Insider reported:
New audiotapes have surfaced of Sen. Lindsey Graham, a known Trump ally, criticizing Trump and praising Biden after the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The tapes were played on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” during an interview segment with New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin. Martin interviewed Graham on January 6 directly after the riot, and the senator spoke candidly about then-President-elect Joe Biden and the former president, Trump.
The South Carolinian covered a fair amount of ground, especially about the significance of the attack on the Capitol. “Moments like this reset,” Graham said. “People will calm down. People will say, ‘I don’t want to be associated with that.’ This is a group within a group. What this does, there will be a rallying effect for a while, (then) the country says, ‘We’re better than this.’”
The senator went on to say that Joe Biden struck him as the ideal leader given the circumstances, adding, “I mean, how mad can you get at Joe Biden?”
As for the outgoing president, Graham concluded that Trump “went too far.”
Around the same time, the senator personally reviewed Trump’s voter fraud allegations and found them to be pitiful, more suitable for “third grade” than national politics.
We can keep going down this road. “Trump and I, we’ve had a hell of a journey,” the senator said after the riot. “I hate it to end this way. Oh my God, I hate it.... All I can say, is count me out, enough is enough.” A day later, the Republican lawmaker went on to say, “When it comes to accountability, [Trump] needs to understand that his actions were the problem not the solution.”
If we were to stop here, the Republican senator would probably look pretty good. He made fair, reality-based observations, rooted in fact.
And then, like McCarthy, Graham decided to ignore everything he was right about. As Talking Points Memo noted, “Several weeks later, Graham, as we know, went out of his way to help Trump during the Senate impeachment trial before crawling to Mar-A-Lago to cement his loyalty to the ex-president once more. He also made a big show of gushing over Trump’s ‘magic‘ with the GOP.”
Earlier this year, Graham announced he might withhold support for Mitch McConnell next year unless the Republican leader proves he has a “working relationship” with Trump.
We need not speculate about whether Graham knows better: His own words prove that he was aware of the truth. He just lacked the political wherewithal to follow through.