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

Oddly, given what he said about Donald Trump before the 2016 election, Lindsey Graham is in the running for most devoted Senate admirer of the president.

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

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.”

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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.

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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.