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Sen. Graham would benefit greatly from an Orwellian ‘memory hole’

Sen. Lindsey Graham, President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President Donald Trump listening to Sen. Lindsey Graham speak during a rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, on November 26, 2018.

The term “memory hole” derives from “1984” George Orwell’s dystopian novel of a future totalitarian state in which the leadership not only changes its mind about anything, but is able to erase from the historical record its former position, by flushing all evidence of it down the metaphorical “memory hole” which causes the no-longer-convenient past to have, basically, never existed because all record of it is erased and anyone brave or stupid enough to attempt to recall such banned memories would face consequences too horrible to contemplate.

Maybe we are heading in the “memory hole” direction. I don’t think so, and I certainly hope not. But such a system would be convenient for some, like, for instance, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who would benefit greatly by flushing down the memory hole all record of the many things he said about Donald Trump before he was elected.

Graham, who, in his previous incarnation as John McCain’s best Senate friend gained a reputation as something of a blunt-speaking truth-teller, is in the running for most devoted Senate admirer of the current White House incumbent.

A few months ago, in his current incarnation as Donald Trump’s leading lickspittle, Graham went on “Fox and Friends” to defend Trump against allegations that his attacks on “the Squad” (four young, female non-white first-term Democrats in the House including Minnesotan Ilhan Omar), had been tinged with racism. He began Trump advocacy thus: “If you think he (Trump) is a racist, that’s up to you. I don’t.”

The questions of whether Trump is racist, or whether attacking the Squad members proves a charge of racism are subject to debate. But on the subject of whether Trump is a racist, Graham would have to explain the contrary testimony of a senator who said, in 2015, when Trump was seeking the Republican presidential nomination:

“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party, he doesn’t represent the values that our men and women in uniform are fighting for.”

The same senator also said: “I’m not going to get into the mind of Donald Trump, because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of space there…. I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.”

You probably guessed, but the person who said those things in 2015 was Lindsay Graham. The same Sen. Graham later put on his press critic hat and said: “You ask what concerns me about the American press is I think there’s this endless attempt to label the guy as some kinda kook who’s not fit to be president.”

Yes, that’s right. Lindsay Graham, who literally said of Donald Trump: “I think he’s a kook” said he was troubled by those who “attempt to label the guy as some kinda kook.”

Of course, you could, if you were trying to be fair to Graham, note that when he made the remarks highlighted above, Graham was himself a candidate against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, so he might have had an incentive to say unkind things about one of his rivals for the nomination, although if you bent over a little less far backward to be “fair,” you could note that it’s possible (in fact, it’s done all the time) to run against a fellow Republican for the party’s nomination and not call your opponent “crazy,” “unfit” for the office he’s seeking, and a “kook.”

But if you note that, also note that after leaving the race, Graham, endorsed Jeb Bush as the best candidate to stop Trump. And after Bush dropped out, Graham endorsed Ted Cruz. And after Trump had locked up the Republican nomination, Graham cast his presidential vote for Evan McMullin, a former House staffer who launched a late independent bid to provide an option for Republicans who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Trump.

My thanks to a guy on Twitter named Dustin Giebel who posted this collection of Graham remarks about Trump, before and after his great conversion from “I think he’s a kook” to “what concerns is those who try to label the guy is some kinda kook.”

My thanks to George Orwell for creating the metaphor of the “memory hole” and my thanks to America and, in this case, the internet, for making it harder to flush things down that hole.

And my thanks to oft-quoted but seldom-read-anymore Ralph Waldo Emerson who, in his most famous essay, Self-Reliance” famously explained in advance Graham’s excuse for shall-we-say updating/revising his position on Trump. Wrote Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

P.S. Hat tip to Max Boot, whose Washington Post column yesterday headlined “Will the GOP’s born-again Trumpers ever pay the price for selling out?” set me off on this, although my continuing regret that I ever bought into Lindsay Graham’s “maverick” pose always makes me a sucker for this argument.

Comments (28)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/11/2019 - 09:33 am.

    Someday, it will become convenient for Senator Graham to forget he ever supported Trump (“Trump? You mean like in bridge? No, I don’t play it.”). At that time, he will dredge up his old remarks as proof he was never taken in by the man.

  2. Submitted by Joe Smith on 12/11/2019 - 10:46 am.

    Senator Graham was totally wrong on President Trump and his administration. After Graham witnessed strong borders by Trump making Mexico stop Triangle citizens at their southern border, he liked Trump more. After Trump got our economy going, he liked Trump more. I’m sure he is nervous about Trump exposing the Swamp (he is a big part of it), as all career politicians are. Being very Hawkish, I’m sure Graham, loved President Trump destroying Caliphate territory in a month, he liked Trump more. After Trump put in safe guards eliminating onerous regulations, stimulating the economy, Graham liked Trump more. In short, Graham, like many Americans, are enjoying the Trump economy and attempts at changing a corrupt DC.
    Look at Trump’s support from minority communities, black voter support up from 8% to 35%, folks can and do change their minds. Admitting you were wrong is perfectly fine, Graham is doing that now.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/11/2019 - 11:39 am.

      Someday when history is written about this era, it will be agreed that Trump was thoroughly corrupt and a Russian tool, perhaps a traitor. It will also be written that Graham was the victim of blackmail, either overt or in the form of voter pressure. My hope is that the Trump era won’t end in the end of American Democracy. Then there will be no honest history written.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/11/2019 - 01:58 pm.

      More imaginary numbers.

    • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 12/11/2019 - 03:50 pm.

      Do you mean:

      After Trump decided to waste billions on a wall that is easily scaled, he liked him more?

      Or after Trump goosed the stock market by taking money from our children’s and grandchildren’s piggy bank and giving it to CEOs and board to buy back stock, he liked him more?

      Or after Trump continued Obama’s effort to take back ISIS territory (albeit at a faster pace), then allowed ISIS to gain strength (per DoD Inspector General report) by green lighting a Turkish attack on the Kurds, he liked him more?

      Or after Trump told the world that we will sacrifice our allies like the Kurds, he liked him more?

      Or after Trump rolled back environmental protections to please his big money donors, he liked him more?

      Or maybe Graham is just putting party ahead of country.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/11/2019 - 11:08 am.

    “After Graham witnessed Trump’s election, and the fanatical devotion of his supporters, he decided that the time had come to throw his full support behind him.”


  4. Submitted by Misty Martin on 12/11/2019 - 11:25 am.

    Hold on . . . did President Trump have a “Damascus Road” experience and I missed it! No? Oh, well . . . then it’s the same old lies and tweets, different day, I suppose. Wasn’t the economy very good under President Bill Clinton and he actually reduced the national deficit? Yet, the Republicans wanted to impeach him for (gasp!) lying! Under oath, yes, but still . . . My, how our values have changed . . . just ask Senator Graham. He has amnesia it seems, much like our dear President Trump who asserts “I don’t know (him/her)” whenever he feels the need to widen the gap between himself and wrongdoers who might take him down. How many people have been thrown under the bus by now? I’ve lost count.

  5. Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 12/11/2019 - 11:38 am.

    Graham 2015: “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party, he doesn’t represent the values that our men and women in uniform are fighting for.”

    Graham 2019: “You ask what concerns me about the American press is I think there’s this endless attempt to label the guy as some kinda kook who’s not fit to be president.”

    Jerry Nadler 1998: “There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come. And will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.”

    Jerry Nadler 2019:”Well, I don’t remember saying that, but if I said it, I said it, but no, I don’t agree with that today.

    “Memory holing” doesn’t fit the narrative, sir. We reserve that term for what is going on in the public schools and Universities. The ruling class calls these changes in rhetoric “evolving”.

    Everything is evolving these days. Not everyone likes all the evolutions.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/11/2019 - 01:55 pm.

      “Jerry Nadler 2019:”Well, I don’t remember saying that, but if I said it, I said it, but no, I don’t agree with that today.”

      In most circles that is called, “honesty”, an unknown and unused word in Trump land. So all Graham has to do is say, I no longer agree with what I said then.

      1 additional point, Clinton’s impeachment was about sex in the oval office, Trump’s is about betraying the country in the oval office, Some of us can tell the difference in the gravity of the 2 acts. Suspect the right wingers think the sex is worse than betraying your country, but don’t look at all those extramarital affairs of Trump, they don’t count!

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/11/2019 - 02:04 pm.

      But note that Nadler’s 1998 comments were in the context of the Clinton impeachment, which involved issues of morally objectionable personal behavior (lying to Congress about it was a convenient justification for making personal conduct an impeachable offense).
      The comparison would be valid if Trump were being impeached for lying about his affairs with women of dubious character.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 12/11/2019 - 04:04 pm.

      Poor old Jerry is just an amateur at this game. Took him 21 years to execute the maneuver.

      Now, Lindsey is the Babe Ruth of double speak: he can turn on a dime, find true fire and emotion in his contempt and spin to the other side at a moments notice.

      And as previously mentioned by RB he will show his agility sometime in 2021 with Trump outrage and love and honor for his old friend John McCain.

  6. Submitted by Charles Thompson on 12/11/2019 - 11:41 am.

    Oops, Graham just upset the Ukraine did it meme. Not going to make Donald happy with him. Some one tell Don he can’t fire a sitting senator.

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/11/2019 - 01:32 pm.

    All politicians have “memory hole” issues. Even Amy K. and Bernie.

    Even journalist can and do have “memory hole” issues.

    I suggest the writer of this article listen to L. Graham opening statement at the IG hearing.

    Maybe L. Graham’s opening statement would solicit several “name calling” articles directed at the “investigators” at the FBI and the politicians and journalist who perpetuated this fraud of an investigation.

    Or perhaps the writer of this article would actually use the “L” word in association with a democrat? If memory servers me correctly – that has never been done in the last 2 years?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/11/2019 - 07:06 pm.

      RG, you had me going until the “who perpetuated this fraud of an investigation” Trumps own appointed folks said it was valid, Where is the rationale that it was a “fraud of an investigation” ? Seems Mueller ended up with “convicted or gotten guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies” from this perspective that sure as “H: doesn’t look like a “fraud of an investigation” are you suggesting that the deep state changed all the laws and law enforcement techniques etc to get all those convictions? You do know that the record holder for deep state convictions how ever is Ronnie Reagan his administration racked up 138.Evidently that deep state stuff (most of us refer to it as the law) was working way back then as well!

      • Submitted by Michael McMahon on 12/12/2019 - 05:00 pm.

        Those convictions from Mueller had nothing to do with Donald Trump. If you are wondering where the evidence of a “fraud of an investigation” is read the IG report. Read the executive summary… The IG declared (arguably) that the investigation met the minimum standards to get started. However, beyond that it was indeed a fraud. If you don’t see that you just can’t handle the truth. It will be proven that there was criminal activity on the part of the FBI in order to prolong an unlawful surveillance on at least one American citizen in order to spy on the Trump campaign and administration. It will be born out in the Durham investigation. Maybe after that report comes out you and the rest of the left will finally admit passing on a false narrative for nearly three years. I doubt it though.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/12/2019 - 03:39 am.

      Hmm, maybe you should hold some more investigations, the last one didn’t say what you wanted it to say. Who’s up after Durham, since THAT one seems to be circling the drain already…

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 12/12/2019 - 06:08 pm.

        Impaneling a grand jury isn’t exactly circling the drain.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/13/2019 - 09:31 am.

          How much taxpayer money needs to be spent investigating those who would dare look into the actions of Trump? We all know he and his devotees will accept no results other than “it was a massive deep state conspiracy, spearheaded by Clinton loyalists,” but what happens when that result does not come up in the next investigation?

          PS Any US Attorney can convene a grand jury. It proves nothing, other than that the US Attorney convened a grand jury.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/13/2019 - 10:08 am.

          Keep on keeping on, I’m sure you’ll get ’em THIS time. Its helpful that you all have already given us all the lines we need.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 12/13/2019 - 07:54 am.

      “Fraud of an investigation”

      We definitively now know that the Russians went to considerable lengths to affect the 2016 election.

      You say we should not have investigated any of this?

      It is like Fiona Hill calling out House Rs for spreading Putin talking points. Their immediate reaction is shock and denial. Then Nunes opens every session with “Russiagate, Russiagate, Russiagate”

      We all know the very simple truth: Trump’s ego precludes any acknowledgement of Russian efforts to help him. Any follower who deviates from that is tweeted out for disloyalty.

      This is no different from the Ukraine mess: any thinking person knows it was not a “perfect call”. Do you think it was a “prefect call”?

  8. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 12/11/2019 - 01:46 pm.

    I love the generous take that Graham has evolved in his views because of all the positive things he has witnessed from the great leader. I’ve also got the proverbial bridge I’d like to sell to a couple of the great leader’s acolytes posting here.

    • Submitted by cory johnson on 12/12/2019 - 06:07 pm.

      You are only half right. Besides the positive actions of Trump, Graham has also witnessed the horrific actions of the Democrats (Russia collusion farce, Kavanaugh hit job). Leftists must expect him to flush those events down a memory hole.

      • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 12/13/2019 - 10:14 am.

        Graham is attacking Trump on the basis of his character and his intellect. “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party, he doesn’t represent the values that our men and women in uniform are fighting for.” It has very little to do with whatever policies Trump might have had in mind and absolutely nothing to do with whatever those Godless, unpatriotic Democrats might have planned. It is about the fact that Graham accurately described Trump then and now he grovels at Trump’s feet. There’s the hypocrisy. Glad I could clear that up for you though Eric did it far better.

  9. Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 12/11/2019 - 03:59 pm.

    When I look at and listen to Senator Graham, I see a sad old man, who is desperately fighting to hold onto a shred of power and influence in Washington.

    He sucks up to Trump, contradicting his own every best perception and statement, to refuse to see the truth (he said he wasn’t going to read any of the House Intelligence Committee’s sworn testimony about Trump’s perfidy with Ukraine, for instance–head in the sand).

    These guys–Kennedy, Nunes, Jordan, Collins, et al., think we’re not watching them, not connecting the dots and comparing their statements from one day to the next.

    But we are. Thanks for pointing that out, Eric.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/13/2019 - 03:52 pm.

    I think it’s kind of interesting that Eric seems think that no memory holes already exists. Memory holes have been a standard feature of our political system for a long time. The scope and control of those holes may not be as extensive as those Orwell envisioned… yet, but if you think perceptions are not managed by selective memory or purged records you haven’t been paying attention.

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