Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested Thursday that Donald Trump’s bare-knuckle feuding with Republicans in Congress is a conscious ‘political strategy,’ and ‘there’s nothing crazy about it.’
Institutional Washington has watched with a mixture of shock and horror as the president picks fights with leaders of his own party, but Graham – who has been on the receiving end of many Trump barbs – told radio host Hugh Hewitt that there’s a method to the apparent madness of cannibalizing fellow Republicans in public.
The South Carolina GOP senator pointed to his own conference’s failure to muster enough votes to fund the border wall that won Trump a groundswell of support from Republican voters last year.
‘He’s making a conscious decision to let his base know that when I said, “I want to build the wall, I meant to build the wall”,’ Graham said of Trump’s speech Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona.
‘He’s running against Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and others. The Congress is very unpopular, particularly with the Republican base, so there’s nothing unhinged about it.’
‘It’s a political strategy that I’m not so sure is smart,’ Graham fretted, ‘but it’s a very thought-out strategy. There’s nothing crazy about it.’
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (left), whom Donald Trump has clobbered in the past, told radio host Hugh Hewitt (right) on Thursday that the president’s attacks on members of his own party in Congress are part of a ‘thought-out strategy’
Graham said of Trump’s wild campaign rally Tuesday night that ‘he won giving these kinds of speeches’ and its was a chance for Trump ‘to go back to his base and fire them up and put pressure on the Senate and the House to do things he wants’
That political strategy found Trump tweeting Thursday morning about his disgust with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
‘I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They didn’t do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!’ Trump wrote in a pair of tweets.
An hour later he took another shot at McConnell – this time over stalled efforts to replace the Obamacare medical insurance law.
‘The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed! That should NEVER have happened!’ Trump tweeted.
Graham seemed to shrug it off, saying: ‘There’s nothing ordinary about Donald Trump, okay? … This is not an ordinary guy. These are not ordinary times.’
Despite Trump’s approval ratings dipping below 40 per cent in some polls, voters think far less of Congress.
A polling average compiled by Real Clear Politics shows that barely 1 in 7 Americans – just 15.4 per cent – approve of federal lawmakers’ job performance.
One pollster this month put that number at a dismal 9 per cent.
The last time a national poll put the overall congressional approval rating at 40 per cent or above was May 2006.
Those dismal showings mean members of Congress must tread lightly before punching up at a president whose base is larger, louder and more loyal than their own.
Trump has harshly criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to deliver on legislation that would fulfill many of his campaign promises
The president used his Twitter platform on Thursday to bash McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan over the failed Obamacare repeal effort and a needless coming fight over raising the federal debt limit
Graham batted away Hewitt’s questions about Trump’s gear-shifting speeches this week that included a raucous campaign rally sandwiched in between somber, teleprompted addresses on Afghanistan and military veterans.
‘He won giving these kinds of speeches,’ the senator said of Trump’s wild moments in Phoenix, concluding that the rally was a chance for Trump ‘to go back to his base and fire them up and put pressure on the Senate and the House to do things he wants.’
‘He’s not the first president to use the bully pulpit to try to push the country in a particular direction or to keep his base on board.’
Graham, a congenial South Carolina Republican, talked turkey about Trump’s need to punch down at a Congress whose approval ratings are in the dumpster
The last time a national poll put the overall congressional approval rating at 40 per cent or above was May 2006; now it sometimes reaches single digits
‘The President can be very disciplined,’ he conceded. ‘His Afghan speech was excellent in terms of substance and tone. He listened to the generals, unlike President Obama who ignored sound military advice. President Trump’s going to take it.’
‘He goes to Phoenix and kind of goes nuts on stage, but that’s Donald Trump.’
‘The rally is Donald Trump going back to base politics, firing up his base to create political pressure and to keep his people on board for his agenda,’ Graham said.
He also advised Trump to ‘stop watching cable TV’ because ‘nobody else watches it. … Quit watching this junk!’
Trump, he said, called him one night at 11:00 and told him to ‘turn on the TV.’
‘And I said, “Mr. President, you’re watching MSNBC at 11:00. If you stop watching it, their audience goes down by half”,’ he recalled.
Graham said Trump should turn off cable TV hosts like CNN’s Don Lemon, whose job is to please an audience that ‘wants to hear [him] say something bad about Trump’
The three major cable news networks, Graham charged, are spouting endless noise in order to capture specific market shares with calculated political biases.
‘Don Lemon’s a fine fellow but he’s paid to be, [CNN’s] audience wants to hear Don Lemon say something bad about Trump. People watch Fox who will say something good about Trump.’
And ‘if you watch MSNBC,’ the message is ‘”Let me tell you why I hate Trump more than you do”.’
‘It’s all a game. It’s all about ratings. It’s all about making money.’