When I was 15, my mother, being a good farm neighbor, offered my help to Mrs. L, who was spending the day cleaning 35 chickens for her new freezer. (I had some experience at the task, helping prepare two hens every other week for Sunday dinner.) I don’t remember how the victims had been killed or denuded of most of their feathers; my task was to help gut (ugh!), pluck off remaining pesky plumage and open up their gizzards. After a very long, bloody, sticky day, Mrs. L. probably gave me two dollars, but what has stuck in my craw for these many last years, is her thanking me and saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
What did that mean? Was she my friend because I helped her? Was I her friend because I helped her? She was definitely the one in need, I thought. Was she my friend because she let me help her?
I only dwelled on wondering what she meant for a few days before I went on with my teen-life on the farm ... gathering eggs and plucking chickens.
But I’ve lately been pondering the meaning of the phrase.
Which of the “friend in need...” definitions applies to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and his “friendships” with Sen. John McCain and President Donald Trump. John McCain was a mentor to Graham throughout their years together in the Senate. Graham’s reputation, because of his closeness to the senator from Arizona, was of an honest, decent servant of the American people and I think he cherished his friendship with Sen. McCain.
But then Senator McCain died last August. What was Sen. Graham to do? Valiantly honor the memory of his best friend by continuing to represent honestly the people in his state and in effect, all of America?
Alas, not to be was Sen. Graham’s respect and veneration for a dead John McCain. Before the elder senator’s grave had sprouted grass, he was on to a new “friend in need, a friend indeed.”
He did attend the senator’s funeral. Graham’s soon-to-be-next best friend did not attend. President Trump, who was persona non gratis (not invited or welcome at McCain’s last rites), donned his MAGA hat and a white short-sleeved Izod shirt and went to his golf club in Virginia for a morning round of golf and tweets while former presidents and foreign dignitaries honored the memory of a great American.
What a difference a year or two makes in the lives of some politicians.
The “also-ran” candidate for the presidency in 2016, Graham called the future winner “a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot.” Trump told a political reporter that Lindsey Graham was a “disgrace,” “nut job,” “one of the dumbest human beings,” after Sen. Graham told a Fox reporter that Trump would make “a terrible commander in chief.”
An avid golfer, Sen. Graham will do a lot, apparently, for “the love of the game” or maybe for “a friend in need.” He has proven that by becoming Donald Trump’s “friend,” on and off the golf course. He is such a good friend to the Donnie that he will not call him out for insulting John McCain on Twitter and at rallies. But he will defend his friend with the small but grabbing hands against reports of women accusing him of using them inappropriately. The latest example: Paul Waldman, an opinion writer for the Washington Post on June 24 reported this statement from Trump’s special friend, when asked about the most recent woman, E Jean Carroll, to accuse the president of sexual assault: “All I would say: We live in an environment where people can come forward. That’s good. But allegations like this have to be cautiously reviewed,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) with a slight eye roll. “Trump was firm. Unequivocal. I have no reason not to believe him.”
Now, the Post has recorded almost 11,000 lies that the President of the United States has made since taking office. (I have actually watched him spew many of them out at news conferences or rallies ... all done firmly and unequivocally. They are still lies.) But Sen. Graham does have a reason to believe him: Trump’s support for him in his campaign for re-election next year.
Our president is a nasty, vengeful ego-maniac who doesn’t forget or forgive a perceived slight. For now, though, he may count Lindsey as a “friend” because he needs one. And Graham needs help from a MAGA man in his bid for re-election. But Trump’s friends come and go. From “short and fat” to “we fell in love” is how his relationship with the despotic, murderous North Korean leader, Kim Jung Un has gone. Then there is how his most loyal supporter, Sen. Jeff Sessions became “Mr. Magoo...weak, an idiot with a Southern accent.”
So Sen. Graham needs to tread lightly, give up the rest of any moral decency he had to continue to toady up to his “friend indeed,” and hope his “friend in need” carries him to victory in South Carolina.
Can I assume that Sen. Graham’s former best friend is turning in his grave? I dare say.