John McCain, Lindsey Graham Split Over Donald Trump

Sen. John McCain listens as Sen. Lindsey Graham defends McCain’s military record after Donald Trump’s criticism. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)
Sen. John McCain listens as Sen. Lindsey Graham defends McCain’s military record after Donald Trump’s criticism. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)

Sen. Lindsey Graham paused for five full seconds and stumbled over his words pondering the question: When is the last time he split with fellow Republican Sen. John McCain on a major issue?

“I don’t know, let me think about it,” Graham (S.C.) finally said of his closest Senate friend. “There have been several. I just can’t recall right now, right off the top of my head.”

Yet that’s what has happened in the wake of Donald Trump’s ascendancy to presumptive Republican nominee for president. In the Republican civil war over Trump, this is perhaps the most glaring example of two “brothers” fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield. It reflects a larger chasm in the Republican Party over whether to embrace the anti-establishment businessman that could end up costing the party the presidency in November.

A former Trump rival in the presidential campaign, Graham is part of the anti-Trump coalition promising to never support the businessman — he has declared the presumptive GOP standard bearer’s positions anathema to conservatives on everything from immigration to fitness to oversee the world’s most powerful military. He told reporters Tuesday that “no re-education camp” would change his mind and added he would likely write someone else in for president when he casts his ballot this fall.

McCain (Ariz.) is part of the growing ranks of Republicans who, grudgingly, have decided that the voters have spoken and it’s time to unify so they can defeat the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

“I feel, as a Republican and a longtime Reagan Republican, that I support the nominee of the party, and that’s what I’ve said all along,” McCain said.

To be sure, this duo are still close friends. “My dearest friend,” McCain said of Graham in a brief Wednesday interview. “We discuss everything.”

Part of what they discuss is their own political ambition. Graham, re-elected to a term that lasts until 2020, withdrew from a presidential bid before any ballots were cast. McCain must face Arizona voters this fall in his bid for a seventh term.

For more than a decade, the two Republicans have bonded over a shared worldview of a muscular foreign policy. McCain’s outlook was formed as the son of an admiral in a family with military roots that reach to the Revolutionary War, punctuated by his tenure as a Navy pilot and his five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Graham’s conservative outlook was forged out of his southern state’s long military tradition, tinged with a legal view from his years as an Air Force JAG officer.

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SOURCE: Paul Kane 
The Washington Post