Lindsey Graham responds to Biden: I’m not going to let our friendship stop me from investigating Burisma


He’s 99 percent right and I said so on Saturday in writing about Biden’s whiny critique of him. Of all the shots Grandpa Joe could take at Graham, complaining that he’s a bad friend because he won’t conclusively presume his and Hunter’s innocence in the Burisma matter is among the lamest. Even in the context of a presidential campaign in which Biden is running as the candidate of establishment restoration, scolding a longtime Senate colleague for following up on an accusation of corruption instead of being a buddy and ignoring it reeks of cronyism.

And since when does Joe Biden always and everywhere play nice with his friends on the other side of the political aisle? Need I remind anyone of this?

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. created a stir Tuesday at a campaign speech in Virginia when he told the crowd that Mitt Romney’s policies would enable the banking and financial sectors to “put you all back in chains.”

The remark came roughly two-thirds of the way through Mr. Biden’s 30-minute speech, which was delivered to a crowd that included many African-Americans at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Va.

“Romney wants to let the — he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street,” Mr. Biden said. “They’re going to put you all back in chains.”

“When Joe Biden was the vice presidential nominee in 2008, he tore the bark off John McCain and Sarah Palin, nobody asked him, hey, will that hurt your friendship,” said Graham this morning to Brian Kilmeade, correctly. He won seven Senate elections in Delaware and two national elections as VP and has spent all but two of the past 46 years in one of those two jobs. The guy knows how to play rough with friends to advance his goals when circumstances require it.

And I reiterate that it’s actually poor strategy for him to grumble about Graham out of one side of his mouth when he’s telling Democratic voters out of the other side that he’s going to leverage his warm relations with Senate Republicans once he’s president to usher in a new era of bipartisanship. Graham’s insistence on investigating Burisma and the personal affront Biden has taken at it makes it appear that Biden has badly overestimated the GOP’s appetite for compromise (which he has). And it suggests that President Joe won’t react well to the first attempts by McConnell and others in 2021 to roadblock his agenda.

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The smarter play here would have been to shrug at Graham’s investigation and say, “They won’t find wrongdoing and Lindsey knows that. And once this has blown over, he and I will do what we always do by putting aside our differences and working on legislation together.” Why make an enemy of Graham, one of the more compromise-minded Republicans in the Senate, when you don’t have to?

Eh, Biden knows that Graham’s an opportunist. If he wins the presidency and wipes away the Trump GOP, Graham will be the first Republican to call him with congratulations and tell him that he was secretly rooting for him all along.

But like I say, Graham is only 99 percent right. I’d argue with two points he makes in the clip below. “Nobody in the media seems to care about what role Hunter Biden played in terms of stopping the investigation of Burisma,” he complains within the first few seconds, and he’s right. But of course no one in the GOP seemed to care either until recently, even though the party controlled both houses of Congress for two years. The right-wing interest in Hunter’s corporate activities and Joe’s possible role in protecting him just so happened to coincide almost perfectly with Biden’s reentry into politics as a presidential candidate this past spring. That’s the absurdity at the heart of the Ukraine scandal: It’s farcical to imagine Trump taking an interest in what Biden was up to as vice president if Biden hadn’t joined the race. If Trump was going to investigate officials from the previous administration as part of a general anti-corruption effort, Hillary Clinton obviously would have been his top target and feelers on Barack Obama would have been put out. Biden has taken precedence because he’s a potential Trump opponent, and for no other reason. If Hillary joined the race tomorrow, Rudy Giuliani would be twisting arms for Clinton dirt before the close of business.

Second, although Graham is right that Biden would happily unload on a friend like McCain in the name of winning an election, campaigning isn’t squarely analogous to what Graham is doing right now. Biden’s not complaining that Graham will endorse Trump and rally for him against Biden next year. He’s complaining that Graham is using his official power as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to chase an allegation of corruption by two members of the Biden family. And the thing is, I bet he’s right that Graham himself quietly believes there’s nothing to it. Graham held off on launching this investigation for weeks, after all, taking a lot of criticism from Trump allies in the process despite the fact that he’s otherwise one of the most compliant toadies the president has in the Senate. He probably fears that it’s another conspiracy-minded Trump rabbit hole, like the CrowdStrike server, and that he’ll be blamed by MAGA Nation if he opens an investigation and then finds nothing to substantiate the accusations against Biden. He may even consider investigating Biden a form of dirty pool if he believes that the point of the Burisma probe isn’t so much to prove that the Bidens engaged in wrongdoing as to suggest that they did. Even a baseless charge can hurt Biden’s polling, after all, if only on “electability” grounds.

Exit quotation: “My friendship with these people are not going to keep me from asking questions that somebody needs to ask. I represent the people of South Carolina.”

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