South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham bristled Tuesday at a comment from MSNBC host Joe Scarborough that Graham “sold his soul” to support President Donald Trump.
Graham and Trump had a contentious relationship during the Republican presidential primaries, when Graham was among the pack of candidates who lost to Trump. After a few collisions based on personalities and policies, Graham has emerged as a senator who often speaks out in support of the president.
That earned him a dig from Scarborough, who noted that although Graham is popular in South Carolina, Scarborough is no longer a fan.
“Lindsey Graham has a Republican primary in 2020, he was having trouble in the state of South Carolina and recent polls show that among Republican senators he has one of the better approval ratings with the rank-and-file in the Republican Party in the state of South Carolina,” Scarborough said.
“He basically sold his soul — political soul — sold his political soul for, you know, 20 percentage points inside his own Republican Party,” Scarborough said. “I guess unlike John McCain, Lindsey Graham didn’t have the confidence and the assurance in his voters that he could speak truth to power and still get re-elected in his state.”
Graham was asked about the comment Monday when he appeared on Fox Radio host Brian Kilmeade’s show. First, the senator talked about McCain, beginning with the 2008 presidential campaign.
“I remember how poorly he was treated, how he was written off as a war monger, a demented old man. I remember when John McCain said we need to stand up to Assad in Syria. We need to have a no-fly zone to protect the Syrian people, how he was treated particularly on that network. All I can say is that I want President Trump to be successful. He beat me. I’ve tried everything I can to help him, where it makes sense. I push back when I think he’s wrong. I like him,” Graham said, according to a Fox Radio transcript.
“John McCain was my dearest friend in the senate, one of my dearest friends in the world. And the one thing I’ve learned from Senator McCain is that you always put the country ahead of anything else. I’m the senator from South Carolina; people want me to help this president and we have disagreements, and when we do I try to work through them,” Graham said.
“So, cable chatter is just cable chatter, and nothing’s going to change my relationship with Senator McCain. He was a big influence on my life, taught me a lot about foreign policy,” Graham said. “And I think President Trump is doing a very, very good job. And I’m certain he’s going to get re-elected, I really believe that.”
Graham later returned to the subject.
“The one thing I’m not going to worry about is pleasing Joe Scarborough, that’s not on my list,” Graham said, noting that he had bigger fish to fry as he summed up the issues facing the nation and those where he and Trump work together.
“What I am worried about is making sure that we have the right foreign policy during dangerous times,” he said, later adding, “He destroyed ISIS, very pleased. He adjusted his policies on Syria, he actually changed his mind which is a — I think a sign of strength. He’s engaged North Korea differently. I hope it works; I want to give him the space. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. He’s moved in military assets in case Iran threatens our troops and Iraq. He says Maduro must go, which was right. I just want him to speed up Maduro leaving. I want him to take Cuba on more directly. I like this president’s domestic policies, he cut our taxes. He regulated the country. He’s took great conservative judges,” Graham said.
“I make no apologizes to anybody with wanting to work with President Trump. And when I find that there’s a difference, I’m going to speak. I had a real difference with Syria, and to the president’s credit he adjusted his policies. I worry about where North Korea is headed. But we’ll give the president the space he needs to see if we can get this thing over on our terms,” he said.
After Kilmeade told Graham he wanted the senator to have a chance to defend himself, Graham fired back.
“I don’t feel like I need to defend myself against a cable talk show host on MSNBC. I’m a United States senator representing the people of South Carolina who overwhelming support President Trump. John McCain was my dearest friend in the world,” Graham said.
Earlier in the show, Graham touched on a difference with Trump: The president, while in Japan, agreeing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un‘s insult against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“I don’t think it is very helpful to agree with Kim Jong Un when he makes political observations inside of America,” Graham said.
Graham noted that he has concerns about North Korean that the president doesn’t share.
“[F]iring the missiles, to me, was a step backward. Trump believes he’s just trying to get attention, Kim Jong Un. We’ll soon find out if Trump is right to have this much confidence and Kim Jong Un wanting a deal. I will support the president’s ability to give North Korea space.
“The goal is verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization at the Korean peninsula. I’ll give the president the space he needs to get there. But what I fear is that they’re trying to wait Trump out in North Korea,” Graham said.
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