WASHINGTON — “My bullshit meter got pegged,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told Business Insider shortly after the hearing to address the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday.
When Graham became the first Republican to actually ask a question in the marathon hearing in lieu of yielding his time to the outside counsel, he took it to 100.
Graham’s high-tempered excoriation of Democrats for what he said was a politically motivated smear campaign against an otherwise qualified jurist did more than make a few headlines; it galvanized Republicans and fired up a sulking and nervous set of lawmakers.
Once Graham chose to ditch Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor who enabled Republicans to avoid any gaffes or unfavorable headlines from the hearing, every other GOP senator on the committee followed. Their themes echoed Kavanaugh’s own defense that this is a disgrace, revenge, and purely about politics. One after the other, Republicans beat their chests and tore into Democrats for what Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called “one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the United States Senate.”
“I didn’t know what I was going to do but I had it up to here with talking about his yearbook and trying to imply that ‘Why won’t you ask for an FBI investigation?’ like he’s the problem,” Graham said. “[Kavanaugh] has stepped up, he never shied away. Those folks on the other side created this problem. That’s when the dam broke for me.”
For Republican senators not on the committee, they returned to Capitol Hill late Thursday evening full of caffeine for a closed-door conference meeting echoing and praising Graham’s tirade.
Graham received a thunderous applause in the conference. Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson likened him to TV’s Matlock. The right wing, pro-Trump online community was rousing with praise for Graham.
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said “of course” Graham’s speech resonated with him because the Democrats “destroyed a man’s reputation.”
“I thought he made a good talk,” said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby. “Matter of fact, I thought Dr. Ford was credible, but I thought Kavanaugh was strong. Very credible, very strong.”
“It’s shameful what has gone on in this country in the last two weeks,” Montana Sen. Steve Daines told Business Insider. “This has brought the United States Senate to an all-time low.”
Trumpworld loved the increased energy and rage
The fire Graham lighted under their feet changed the mood. Allies of President Donald Trump had soured on Mitchell doing all the questioning for Republicans. Back at the White House, the feeling was similar. Mitchell’s methodical and calculated approach does not exactly illicit high ratings.
But Kavanaugh’s furious defense of himself and his family name, paired with Graham’s tirade, won Republicans’ hearts and minds.
Immediately after the hearing concluded, Trump mimicked Kavanaugh’s testimony and called for a vote on his nomination. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican once on the fence about confirming Kavanaugh, declared in a statement that he would vote to confirm.
“Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”
And the night ended well for Graham in Trumpworld. He ate Chick-Fil-a with Fox News host Sean Hannity.