Sen. Lindsey Graham Is the Imp Whispering 'War' in President Trump's Ear

Technically he's been yelling it at all of us for years now.


Sen. Lindsay Graham
Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

Lindsey Graham's sole contribution to the discussion during his failed run for the Republicans' 2016 presidential nomination was a fevered insistence that we need to ramp up our military actions overseas, engaging in more war in more places to fight terrorism and evil. The South Carolina senator's monomania became comic in one debate, when his response to whatever he was asked, regardless of its relevance to the question, was to push for more foreign intervention.

He was soundly rejected—remember, he polled so poorly he never even made it to the "grown-up table" debates—and he then refused to support Donald Trump in the general election. But these facts have not stopped him from whispering "war" in Trump's ear whenever possible.

According to Bob Woodward's book Fear, as recounted over at The Daily Beast, Graham has been taking every opportunity he can as a Trump golfing buddy to encourage the president to take a "more aggressive military posture" overseas. He even told Trump the U.S. should try to encourage China to assassinate the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

That obviously has not happened, but Graham is still playing Gríma Wormtongue, trying to convince Trump to fly with the hawks by appealing to his ego:

"Do you want on your résumé that you allowed Afghanistan to go back into the darkness and the second 9/11 came from the very place the first 9/11 did?" Graham asked the president, rhetorically, in an effort to encourage Trump to step up U.S. troop commitments there.

"Well, how does this end?" Woodward recounts Trump asking. "It never ends," Graham replied, in rhetoric reminiscent of the Trump-maligned neoconservatism of George W. Bush. "It's good versus evil. Good versus evil never ends."

Some people are concerned that Graham is getting more and more of Trump's ear. One unidentified GOP congressional aide told The Daily Beast, "We would be at war with half the world if Lindsey had it his way." But another Trump golfing buddy and failed presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has been the foreign policy angel on the shoulder opposite Lindsey Graham's devil. The Daily Beast notes that Paul's non-interventionist attitude has kept some of those hawkish impulses at bay.

The result: Our overseas involvements are holding steady in a stagnant status quo. Our troops are stuck in Syria, but we haven't gotten into a full-on war with an attempt to assassinate President Bashar al-Assad.

Mind you, our military interventions themselves have gotten harsher, even if we aren't sending more troops. Our drone strikes are deadlier than ever and likely killing even more innocent people, but we won't know for sure because the Trump administration has apparently stopped bothering to calculate casualties.

In the context of Graham's constant "There are Islamists hiding under the bed with knives!" fearmongering in Trump's ear, perhaps Paul's occasionally awkward attempts to curry Trump's favor—encouraging him to use the junk-science polygraphs to track down leakers, say—makes a little more sense. If libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives prefer dialogue and negotiation rather than war against foreign nations, it does make sense to set a good example at home.