Once bitter enemies, President Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have become fast friends and, together, the object of sustained media fascination. This friendship was on full display Thursday at a White House roundtable on immigration:
"Lindsey. Used to be a great enemy of mine, now he's a great friend of mine. I really like Lindsey. Can you believe that? I never thought I'd say that but I do like him a lot," recalled the president.
"Thank you. I like me too, so we have something in common,” replied the South Carolina senator.
“Aww,” gushed the press.
And while that exchange is certainly charming, it shouldn’t come without warning. There is a corrosion that occurs inside certain politicians that spend too much time in the president’s direct orbit. Graham risks letting his policies and his personality get hijacked by his newest friend, who just so happens to be the leader of the free world. Just look at Vice President Mike Pence.
When the cast of the Broadway production of “Hamilton” belittled him with a public airing of grievances shortly after the election, Pence didn’t lash out. He didn’t demand an apology (although Trump did). He instead met the boos with humility and the barbs with modesty, telling reporters that the protest is “what freedom sounds like.”
Fast forward about a year.
When the starting lineups of the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers kneeled at half-time, this time around Pence stormed out of the stadium. There wasn’t any statement about freedom of speech. Instead the vice president lectured athletes on their disrespect of the flag, the military, and the nation. That browbeating could’ve been excused until it came to light later that the whole thing was an orchestrated stunt meant to prove a point. It was cheap. It was petty. And it only could have happened in the Trump-era.
Now Graham runs the same risk with his flattering phone calls and intimate games of golf. Granted, that type of politicking seems necessary with Trump in the White House. But already that closeness has inspired a loyalty that defies logic. Compare and contrast pro and anti-Trump Grahams:
As a Trump cheerleader in December 2017, Graham told CNN that what concerned him “about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook not fit to be president.”
As a Trump critic in February 2016, Graham told Fox News that he thinks Trump “is a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.”
Clearly, as the presidential friendship blossoms, the senator’s memory dims. One wonders to what length Graham will go, and perhaps what positions he might sacrifice, to keep the budding friendship alive. Caution is in order.