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What, exactly, is Lindsey Graham talking about?

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is a good talker.

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Analysis by Chris Cillizza
, CNN Editor-at-large
CNN — South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is a good talker.

He knows it. And sometimes, he seems to lean too heavily on his unerring belief that he can pull off saying just about anything.

Take, for example, Graham's response Thursday when asked about former Defense Secretary James Mattis' pointed criticism of President Donald Trump and the way he has led the nation.

"It's just politically fashionable to blame Trump for everything -- and I'm not buying it," Graham told CNN. "And he jumped into politics -- Gen. Mattis did. And I think he's missing a lot about what's going on in America politically."

Wait, what? Jim Mattis, Trump's handpicked choice for secretary of defense? Who resigned his office because he didn't support the President's plans for pulling American troops out of Syria? Who has stayed almost totally silent since that resignation?

He's suddenly acting political? Because he issued a statement following the President's call for law enforcement to "dominate" the streets to combat protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd?

And not just that! Mattis is apparently both too political and not very smart politically, according to Graham. "He's missing a lot about what's going on in America politically," the South Carolina Republican said of Mattis.

The thing is that what Graham is alleging makes no sense. Mattis has spent a career at the highest levels of the military and government. During all that time there was zero evidence of a desire to be political.

And since when is someone with Mattis' profile deemed to be too political when offering their thoughts on a crisis that is gripping the country?

The truly tough fact about all of this is that Graham is a very smart guy who knows what he is doing. He's up for reelection this fall, and to win, he needs to make sure that the Trump base of the party is entirely behind him.

And so he offers this nonsensical defense of Trump (and attack on Mattis, who Graham said in that same CNN interview was "an American hero") because he knows that is what the President wants to hear.

Which is enabling -- and dangerous.

The Point: There are some Republicans who genuinely believe every word Trump says. Graham is not one of them; he's more savvy than that. But that makes his willingness to go along with running down Mattis all the more corrosive.

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