South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was criticized for his lackluster defense against President Trump’s attacks on Graham’s friend, the late senator John McCain.
Graham explained to CNN that he felt as though his critics were using him to portray Trump in a bad light.
“If you think the only way to honor John McCain is to tell this president, ‘I won’t work with you; I won’t ever help you,’ that’s your agenda, not mine," Graham said.
But then, he continued, “President Trump has been good to me in the sense that he’s allowed me in his world. He’s made decisions, I think, based on some input I’ve given him. He’s subject to changing his mind, and I want him to be successful.”
The first part of that statement was what caught the attention of listeners and observers because it implied that Trump had done him an important favor—Graham serves as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he suggested that Trump had been “good” to him by accepting his guidance. As a result, Trump had—and still has—Graham in his pocket.
Graham’s ardent defense of the president came as a total surprise after his 2016 presidential campaign, in which he called Trump crazy and unqualified. But now, he is one of the most important figures in the Trump administration largely for the sake of his own political future.
And Graham’s alliance with Trump paid off. Graham gave Trump the legislative approval he needed for his agenda, and in exchange, he received support from Trump’s huge crowd of supporters. According to a recent poll, Graham’s approval rating among S.C. Republicans has risen from 51 percent in April 2018 to 74 percent in less than a year.