Senator Lindsey Graham is “a piece of shit,” said former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, speaking on a podcast with former fellow Obama deputies. Rice’s comments surfaced the same day Graham, a South Carolina Republican, defended president Trump’s claim that the House’s impeachment inquiry was “a lynching.” In extended comments, Graham insisted: “This is a lynching, in every sense.”
Rice was speaking on Pod Save America, one of the nation’s most popular political podcasts. Host Tommy Vietor, a former spokesperson for the National Security Council, teed up Rice’s comments by recalling Graham’s dishonesty in politicizing the Benghazi tragedy, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed in an ambush. “Lindsey Graham isn’t just a piece of shit now,” Vietor said.
Rice, who served as U.N. ambassador at the time of the attack, then cut in: “He’s been a piece of shit. I said it. Dammit. Finally,” she added. “He’s a piece of shit!”
"He's a piece of shit." — @AmbassadorRice on Lindsey Graham
— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) October 22, 2019
Rice spoke to the ways in which, with help from dishonest politicians like Graham, she’d been elevated into a villain for the Republican base on Fox News. Rice had no oversight of embassy operations in Libya, but was roped into the far right’s Benghazi conspiracy theories because she’d passed on early — and as it later turned out, largely inaccurate — intelligence to reporters that the attack had evolved out of a protest. A Republican-led inquiry into the ambush cleared Obama officials, including Rice, of wrongdoing. But Graham responded on TV by blasting his Republican colleagues’ investigation as “a complete bunch of garbage,” while again trumpeting Rice’s role in disseminating inaccurate information.
In the podcast interview, Rice underscored Fox News’ strategy of growing a community through anger, and of casting people like her as villains, to the point that the very mention of her name on the network stirs animosity. “Now on Fox, many years later, they just need to say my name and it’s like people start twitching,” Rice said. “It’s like an automatic trigger point.” And she highlighted how president Trump uses the same strategies, politically. “Trump is the master of it,” Rice added. “He makes people angry every day.”
Rice is African American, and her distaste for Graham bubbled over on the same day that the South Carolina senator supported President Trump’s grotesque assertion that the House’s constitutionally-founded impeachment inquiry was a “lynching” — or mob violence most closely associated with a campaign of white supremacist terror. As many as 4,000 black Americans were murdered in lynchings between the end of post- Civil War Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement.
The invocation of lynching seemed calculated, on Trump’s part, to stir outrage and distract from the testimony of Bill Taylor, whose testimony yesterday detailed what he understood to be the president’s efforts to block security assistance to Ukraine until the president of that country agreed to investigate Trump’s political opponents.
The president’s gambit was successful. Instead of discussing his apparent quid pro quo, the political media spent much of the day discussing the appropriateness of lynching as a metaphor for the constitutional process of impeachment.
Graham, playing a familiar role, stubbornly backstopped Trump’s assertion, which he called “accurate.” Graham knows better. A former military lawyer, he was an impeachment manager in Bill Clinton’s 1990s senate trial. Nonetheless, he called the House’s current impeachment proceeding “a sham” and “a joke” adding: “This is a lynching, in every sense. This is un-American.”
Pressed on his trollish answers, Graham doubled down: “What does lynching mean? That a mob grabs you, they don’t give you a chance to defend yourself, they don’t tell you what happened to you, they just destroy you.” Graham then insisted lynching isn’t just something that happened to black people. “Yes, African-Americans were lynched, other people have people lynched throughout history.”
(In the 1990s, then-Sen. Joe Biden complained that Clinton’s impeachment could go down in history as a “partisan lynching,” CNN reported Tuesday. He has apologized for that language, and called Trump’s comments “abhorrent” and “despicable.”)
Graham and Trump’s comments drew wide condemnation, and not just from Democrats like Rice. Their detractors included the first African American to lead the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, who called the pair “pathetic.”
“realDonaldTrump and @LindseyGrahamSC this is a lynching,” Steele tweeted alongside a photo of a murdered man. “Trump this is not happening to you and it’s pathetic that you act like you’re such a victim; but it did happen to 147 black people in your state Lindsey. ‘A lynching in every sense’? You should know better.”
Graham does know better, but — as he has been so many times since Trump took office — he’s too craven to say so.