Senator Lindsey Graham has always been one of those Republicans who talks a lot about bipartisanship, but mostly in the service of conservative causes like larger defense spending, an aggressive foreign policy, or (back when it was Republican orthodoxy) immigration reform. So he is especially prone to sanctimonious lectures about bipartisanship aimed at Democrats.
He’s put this talent to conspicuous use in this week’s Ford-Kavanaugh hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. After Kavanaugh’s angry, tearful, and hyperpartisan tirade yesterday, Graham upped the ante this morning. But unlike the judge he spoke from the perspective of an alleged tradition of bipartisanship that Democrats had destroyed:
Graham deftly turned from touting his own lack of partisanship (“I voted for [Sotomayor and Kagan]. I would never do to them to what you’ve done to this guy”) to warning his fellow-Republicans to stick to the party line now:
To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.
And he was more specific than Kavanaugh in identifying the motive for the alleged Democratic conspiracy against the judge:
What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020. You’ve said that, not me.
Aside from the specific arguments he was making, Graham rallied committee Republicans into similar displays of partisan anger. It was after his “questions” for Kavanaugh at Thursday’s hearing that Republicans abandoned the device of utilizing Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell and just whaled away at their Democratic colleagues until the end of the day.
Today, in explaining his support for Kavanaugh Graham was quieter, and rambled quite a bit. But the message was the same — the bipartisan paradise had been lost:
Strom Thurmond voted for Ginsburg – you will never convince me it was because he agreed with her philosophy; I think he saw in her a qualified person. Fritz Hollings voted for Scalia … 96, 97 votes. What’s happened? Most of the nominees to the Supreme Court never had a hearing. It was always just assumed they were qualified and they are not hacks… Elections do matter. When it comes to President Trump, elections do matter.
But now, that’s over forever, and Republicans are justified in baring their teeth and growling:
This has never been about the truth. It’s been about delay and destruction. And if we reward this … it is the end of any concept of the rule of law. It is the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart. And if I am Chairman next year … I’m going to remember. There’s the process before Kavanaugh and the process after Kavanaugh.
Orrin Hatch is retiring this year, and it is widely assumed that Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley will move over to the chairmanship of the Finance Committee. Since John Cornyn is in the Senate leadership, that puts Graham next in line to lead the Judiciary Committee.
Graham is telling the world that he’s going to abandon the frayed traditions of the committee, which he’s already helped batter in this hearing. I’m sure his old rival and now golfing buddy Donald Trump will approve. And it gives Democrats one more bit of incentive to take the Judiciary Committee gavel out of Lindsey Graham’s hands in November.