Sen. Lindsey Graham’s greatest consistency is his inconsistency. The South Carolina Republican is reliably unreliable.
Remember his speech on January 6 last year, when Donald Trump’s insurrectionists were trashing the Capitol, and Graham broke with the lame-duck president? “Count me out,” he said. “Enough is enough.” He defied Trump that day and voted to certify Joe Biden’s election.
He said he’d “never been so humiliated and embarrassed for the country,” but he apparently made a miraculous recovery. He voted against impeaching the leader of the failed coup and flew to Florida to play golf with the man he once called a “race-baiting xenophobic bigot.”
Graham has said he feels Trump is so essential to the party that he has told Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to step down or be thrown out if he can’t loyally serve Trump, who is waging a raging vendetta against the Kentuckian.
This is relevant because Graham has suggested he might support one of the judges Biden is considering for the Supreme Court.
He’s already started putting conditions on that endorsement, and look for more ahead. Graham said he “can’t think of a better person” for Biden to pick than Judge Michelle Childs of the US District Court for the District of South Carolina, Graham’s state. She’s “highly qualified” and of “good character,” but he wouldn’t make a commitment.
Lest that sound reasonable, remember that he supported Trump’s endorsement to replace justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020 right before the presidential election and said he already had enough votes for confirmation – before the nominee was even named.
He supported McConnell’s blocking president Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland (now Biden’s attorney general) for 293 days in 2016, saying it was too close to the presidential election (nearly eight months). But when Trump tapped Amy Coney Barrett barely six weeks before the 2020 election, Graham made a 180-degree pivot. He announced his support even before her nomination was announced and helped push it through in 27 days.
Judge Childs, 55, is a graduate of Graham’s alma mater, the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Graham is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on the next nominee. Biden chaired the committee in 1991 when president George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas for the high court.
Biden was widely criticized for his treatment of law professor Anita Hill, who testified Thomas had sexually harassed her in a prior job. Hearings were contentious, and from nomination to confirmation took an unusual 99 days. Biden eventually voted against Thomas’s nomination and called Hill in 2019 to apologize for his handling of the case.
Thomas remains angry three decades later, judging by comments in a 2019 documentary.
Graham will play a critical role in the confirmation process. If he announces his support, it is virtually assured approval. But, as I said, he is reliably unreliable. He has left himself many exit doors. Bear in mind, that anything he says about advance endorsements is a questionable, judging by his record.
Graham defines being a Republican today as being unswervingly loyal to Trump – not the party and certainly not the principles on which our democracy rests – and that is why he wants to dump McConnell and why I doubt he will vote for anyone Biden nominates, even Judge Childs.
He will have no trouble finding excuses. Fox News, Tucker Carlson and their team of vipers will be spewing out an endless stream of attacks, no doubt declaring the nominee a communist, illegal immigrant and, gasp, a liberal, plus anything else they can invent in their fact-free world.
If Childs isn’t the nominee, look for Graham to say he could’ve backed his fellow South Carolinian, but the new woman (it makes no difference who she is) is too liberal and divisive for him. The only black Republican in the Senate is Tim Scott of South Carolina, and he is likely to follow Graham’s lead.
The clincher for Graham may be his master’s voice. You can bet your rent money that Trump will denounce anyone Biden picks, especially one who is black and female. When Trump and his MAGA mob of racists go on the attack, look for any wavering senators to retreat in terror. Republicans who never complained about the Supreme Court being too white are now frothing at the mouth over Biden’s intent to nominate a black woman.
This is the party that overwhelmingly in both the House and the Senate opposed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, while they endorsed a slew of voter-suppression measures in the Red states. The racist attacks already are underway.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), that ardent defender of minority rights, said naming a black woman is “offensive” and “an insult to black women.” What’s more, since black women are a mere 6% of the population, it proves Biden doesn’t “give a damn” about the other 94% of Americans.
Sen. Roger Wicker, a white Republican from Mississippi, said Biden’s nominee would be a “beneficiary” of affirmative action who will “misinterpret the law.” He predicted no Republican would vote for her.
“The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” Wicker said of Biden’s decision to appoint a black woman. He appears to be upholding the tradition set by one of his Mississippi predecessors, Sen. Theodore Bilbo, an outspoken opponent of expanded voting rights for minorities.
The GOP’s negative response to putting a black woman on the Supreme Court helps explain why blacks and other minorities will continue voting overwhelmingly Democratic. According to the Associated Press, 90% of blacks who voted chose Biden in 2020. There is only one black Republican in the Senate, and there are two in the House, compared with 57 Black Democrats.
Jews are the second-largest bloc of consistent Democratic voters. In 2020, Biden beat Trump nearly three-to-one among Jewish voters. That came after Trump said, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” His frequent use of antisemitic tropes and suggestions of dual loyalty also played a role.
Biden said he intends to announce his choice by the end of this month. Under rules written by McConnell to slide through Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, Democrats need 50 votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker; they don’t need any Republicans as long as their own party sticks together.
Biden knows he can’t depend on Graham for any support when the South Carolinian faces Trumpian demands. In fact, he could decide he could best serve his masters by leading the opposition. After all, Biden and Graham were friends until the South Carolinian joined attacks on Hunter Biden, which he said was necessary to satisfy Trump supporters.
Douglas Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant.