South Carolina Republican Sen Lindsay Graham used his chance to memorialize a former colleague on live television to pivot to touting the GOP’s chances in the 2022 midterm elections.
In a bizarre moment during a Newsmax interview on Wednesday, which was first reported by Mediaite, Mr Graham was asked by host Eric Bolling if he wanted to say a few words about former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died this week at 82. Mr Reid served with Mr Graham before his retirement in 2016.
Mr Graham opened his remarks with an apparent jab at his deceased colleague, calling him a “real partisan guy”, before quipping that the two got along: “I liked him personally.”
“I mean, he believed in what he believed, and I can deal with people who believe something different than me. I always trusted Harry,” said Mr Graham.
He then added: “I want his family and friends to know that they’re in my prayers. He was a good man. He fought hard for his causes. And he will be missed, but I’m excited about 2022. I’ve never been more excited about the future of the Republican Party then than I am right now.”
The odd moment was followed up by Mr Graham proudly embracing former President Donald Trump, whom Mr Graham said he missed, despite the South Carolina Republican’s very public vow to “count me out”, apparently in reference to support for Mr Trump, in January after the deadly attack on the US Capitol.
“I think we’re gonna clean their clock in 2022,” he would add of the Democratic Party.
Mr Graham withdrew from the 2016 Republican primary after a poor performance in a crowded field dominated by Mr Trump, whom he would go on to not endorse in the general election. His current Senate term ends in 2027.
He has maintained a careful balancing act regarding his support for Trump; the senator was one of Mr Trump’s loudest critics during the 2016 primary, and conversely one of his biggest boosters in the Senate during Mr Trump’s presidency. In the months following 6 January, Mr Graham has again remarked that his loyalty remains with the former president, plainly citing Mr Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP.
“Can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no,” he said in May.
He added of Rep Liz Cheney, a Republican critical of Mr Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol: “I’ve always liked Liz Cheney, but she’s made a determination that the Republican Party can’t grow with President Trump. I’ve determined we can’t grow without him.”
Mr Reid’s death this week was marked by numerous members of his own party, who celebrated his work on the Affordable Care Act and other issues, as well as former House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican with whom he frequently disagreed on policy grounds.
“We disagreed on many things, sometimes famously. But we were always honest with each other. In the years after we left public service, that honesty became a bond. Harry was a fighter until the end. RIP, my friend,” tweeted Mr Boehner.
I am sad tonight but grateful for the friendship I had with Harry. We disagreed on many things, sometimes famously. But we were always honest with each other. In the years after we left public service, that honesty became a bond. Harry was a fighter until the end. RIP, my friend. https://t.co/rA0oAEq7uN— John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) December 29, 2021
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