Column: Stand back, because Lindsey Graham keeps flip-flopping like crazy

A man goes up an escalator.
Sen. Lindsey Graham answers questions from reporters while on his way to a vote on Capitol Hill last year.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is expected to be confirmed this week after a bipartisan group of senators voted on Monday to advance her nomination. So far only three Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have said they will support Jackson. We don’t need to rehash all of the reasons why.

At least not in earnest.

Some GOP senators will say it’s her judicial philosophy. Others claim she’s soft on crime. But at the end of the day we all know the criticism has nothing to do with her.

Opinion Columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and navigating life in America.

President Biden could have nominated a clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, and Republicans would have found reasons to say no because that’s just where we are right now. Though I would argue that Sen. Lindsey Graham’s “no” was predictable for reasons other than toxic partisanship. Less than a year ago, the South Carolina Republican voted to confirm Jackson for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and we all know there’s nothing Graham likes to do more than contradict himself.


One minute he says he “cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative, nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief.” The next it’s: “Donald Trump was my friend before the riot, and I’m trying to keep a relationship with him after the riot.”

You could call him a chameleon, except when he changes his colors everyone can still see him coming. He’s more like one of those inflatable wind dancers you see at the strip mall, just a-flipping and a-flopping, going wherever the breeze takes him. On Oct. 28, 2013, Graham tweeted that until more information about the survivors of the attack on Benghazi, Libya, was available, he was going to “block every appointment in the U.S. Senate.” Two days later he said he was looking forward to confirming Jeh Johnson as secretary of Homeland Security.

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It’s as if his moral compass always points to S — and the S stands for “survive.”

Doesn’t matter what the issue is, his primary objective is survival.

How else do you explain being besties with Sen. John McCain when they were a part of the Gang of 8 together, to basically being the golf buddy of the man who despised everything about McCain? Other politicians can certainly be called out for being a hypocrite, but Graham’s brand of political hypocrisy is so cynical it makes you wonder what exactly the Palmetto State sees in him.

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His credentials for election were obviously sound. He’s born and raised in South Carolina, served in the Air Force, became an assistant county attorney, state representative. On paper he’s the perfect person to represent his community. But the problem is he’s too busy looking out for his career, and he doesn’t care if that requires some nonsensical backtracking.

Take the confirmation hearing and his attempt to turn the historical significance of the moment into an attack.

“Here’s where we are in 2022,” he said. “The only person qualified to go to the Supreme Court as an African American woman is a liberal. You can be equally qualified as a conservative, but you need not apply because your ideology disqualifies you.”


Graham hails from a state that was not only the first to secede from the Union, but also threatened to secede from the Confederacy because other states refused to join South Carolina’s call to import more enslaved people. He hails from a state that gave us Strom Thurmond. He hails from a state that in 2021 announced a plan to expand a highway by displacing hundreds of homeowners, 94% of whom are Black or brown. According to the Washington Post, this would mark the third time these communities have been ripped apart by infrastructure. And Graham takes all of this history, douses it with gas, and lights it up in a very performative way.

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“Her record is overwhelming in its lack of a steady judicial philosophy and a tendency to achieve outcomes in spite of what the law requires or common sense would dictate,” he said. Yet, despite all of his supposed concerns, he was one of three Republicans — along with Murkowski and Collins — to vote in favor of confirming Jackson for the appeals court last June. It was reminiscent of the time Graham defended the Confederate flag one week by saying “it works here” and the next week saying “I hope that, by removing the flag, we can take another step towards healing and recognition — and a sign that South Carolina is moving forward.”

Seems to me if the state really wants to move forward, it would get rid of Graham. Because for nearly 20 years, the only movement to which he’s been truly committed is talking in circles.