Donald Trump is a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” Lindsey Graham declared in December. “I think Donald Trump is all-over-the-board crazy,” the South Carolina senator said the following month, after he had dropped out of the presidential race. “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office,” Graham said in February. “I cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative, nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief,” Graham said earlier this month.
All of which makes this report from CNN just a little infuriating:
Graham urged GOP donors at a private fundraiser Saturday in Florida to unite behind Trump’s campaign and stressed the importance of keeping likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from the White House. The fundraiser was hosted by former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal Al Hoffman, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who also co-chaired Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.
Graham’s office is being coy about the whole thing. His spokesman, Kevin Bishop, has suggested the report is “thinly sourced” but isn’t actually refuting it. Instead, he’s stressing that Graham—who has been clear he’s against the idea of a third-party presidential bid from a conservative more to his liking—is focused on Senate and House races this fall.
Graham’s long-held position, then, seems to be that Trump is a dangerous bigot who is unfit for office, but also a dangerous bigot who is worth supporting if it will help his Republican colleagues keep their jobs.
Graham’s coyness over the CNN story might have something to do with this nugget: Florida GOP fundraiser Teresa Dailey told CNN that Graham, in CNN’s words, “reiterated … that he has no plans to formally endorse Trump because it would not necessarily help Trump.” That, if true, suggests the senator believes he’s more helpful as an establishment foil than as a public ally. Which … gross.