Speed Reads

the dark side

Lindsey Graham says his revived friendship with Trump is an attempt to 'harness' his 'magic'

Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) close alliance with former President Donald Trump has long been something of a puzzle, especially when Graham announced early Jan. 7 that after the siege of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, he was done with Trump — and then quickly went back to hanging out with Trump and defending him. Graham told Axios' Jonathan Swan in an interview broadcast Sunday that his rekindled relationship with Trump is a mixture of friendship and ideological pragmatism, but not political expediency.

When Swan asked if Graham could have won re-election in November without being a big Trump booster, Graham noted that since he already won, "I could throw him over tomorrow. Why aren't I?" Right, Swan said, "that's what I really don't understand." Graham said Swan doesn't understand him very much, and Swan agreed. "I don't. That's why I'm asking you."

"I could say, you know, that's it, it's over, it's done," Graham said, not conceding that he did say that exactly two months earlier. "That's just too easy." It's harder to take the flawed leader of a movement he thinks is "good for the country" and "see if we can make a go of it," Graham said. "Mitt Romney didn't do it, John McCain didn't do it, there's something about Trump. There's a dark side and there's some magic there. And what I'm trying to do is just harness the magic. To me, Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan, and P.T. Barnum." Swan laughed at the evident compliment.

Trump "could make the Republican Party something that nobody else I know can make it," Graham said. "He can make it bigger. He can make it stronger. He can make it more diverse. And he also could destroy it."