Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hit the headlines Thursday for his outburst at Democrats questioning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — but he now says that his former colleague John McCain’s temper would have eclipsed his anger.
Graham blasted Senate Democrats during a hearing about sexual assault allegations made against Kavanaugh, who has repeatedly denied them. Kavanaugh was testifying after Christine Blasey Ford, who says Ford assaulted her at a high school party in 1982, also testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A furious Graham lambasted Democrats for what he cast as their attempts to destroy Kavanaugh for political purposes.
“Boy y’all want power, God I hope you never get it, I hope the American people can see through this sham,” he yelled.
“To my Republican colleagues,” Graham said. “If you vote no, you are legitimizing the most despicable thing I’ve ever seen in my time in politics.”
In Thursday’s blow-up, Graham highlighted his own bipartisan streak, noting he had voted for both of former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court picks.
“When you see [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor and [Justice Elena] Kagan, tell ‘em Lindsey said hello because I voted for them,” he told Kavanaugh before turning again to Democrats. “I would never do to them what you’ve done to this guy.”
“This is not a job interview, this is hell,” he added.
The fiery blast from the Republican known for his work across the aisle with Democrats drew immediate praise from conservatives and the White House.
But others, particularly left-wing commentators, attacked Graham and suggested he had changed since the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain. McCain died last month after battling brain cancer, and the two were close friends who frequently worked together in their bipartisan efforts.
Former McCain adviser Steve Schmidt said on MSNBC on Thursday that Graham had been “corrupted.”
“He’s corrupted by ambition, corrupted by politics, and it’s tragic because this country could use a statesman right now. And Lindsey Graham, for a long time, was on a path, that he’d be that person — that he’d be a figure of courage. That he’d be a serious person in a frivolous era.”
“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, meanwhile accused Graham of having gone “from being John McCain’s wingman in politics to becoming Donald Trump’s carnival barker.”
Left-wing HBO host Bill Maher said Friday that Graham “needs the stabilizing influence of his dead boyfriend,” an apparent reference to McCain.
But Graham, perhaps anticipating that criticism, dismissed such claims, saying that McCain’s anger would have been so great at the hearing, “he would have made me look like a choir boy,” according to The State.
The outlet reported that in fact, it was McCain who taught him to pick and choose his battles.
“I was hot as a fire, and then I met John. And John said … ‘Use it. You got capital, use it,’” Graham said. “I wanted to use whatever capital I had to do things and I will do that.”
However, he also conceded that he got “emotional” during the hearing: “I got pissed.”
Republicans on Friday agreed to a delay in a Senate vote to allow for a limited FBI investigation, after a request by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.