Graham finds home as trusted adviser

If Andrew Jackson created the notion of a president's “Kitchen Cabinet,” Sen. John McCain is reinventing it months before his possible election to the White House.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham seems to be McCain's one-man Kitchen Cabinet.

Graham's visibility as the Arizona senator's closest political confidant has risen in recent weeks as the two men crisscross the country and travel abroad on McCain's presidential quest.

“There's nobody I trust more than Lindsey Graham,” McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, said by phone Thursday from Mexico City. “I'm honored to have him travel with me and give me the counsel I need.”

McCain, 71, praised Graham's “excellent political instincts” and credited the Seneca Republican with helping him win South Carolina's Jan. 19 presidential primary.

The senators' friendship, grounded in Graham's support for McCain's first White House run in 2000, has sparked reports that Graham could be attorney general or fill another senior post in a McCain administration.

McCain, though, said he and Graham haven't discussed any potential Cabinet spots.

“Every indication I have is that Lindsey wants to continue to serve in the United States Senate,” McCain said. “He is the author of more legislation than any other senator that I know of who is in his first term.”

Graham, who was to spend Independence Day with John and Cindy McCain at their Phoenix home, said his journeys with McCain aren't hindering his duties as a senator from South Carolina.

“The best thing I can do for my state and my country is to help John McCain become president,” Graham said. “That is one of the most important responsibilities I will ever undertake. If John wins, the country will go in a completely different direction than Sen. (Barack) Obama would take it. I can't tell you how important it is to me.”

If McCain defeats the presumptive Democratic nominee in November, Graham said, “we're going to have more conservative judges, we're going to have our taxes lowered, we're going to become more energy independent and we're going to win this (Iraq) war.” Graham all but ruled out accepting a McCain administration post.

“If he gets to be president, I can be of great benefit to him in the Senate,” Graham said. “With his agenda, he's going to need people to form bipartisan relationships and pass major legislation. I think that's where I can serve my state best.”

Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen. Jim DeMint, who backed Mitt Romney in the GOP primary season, have been cited as potential running mates of McCain.

Sen. Joe Lieberman has also been a frequent traveler with McCain on campaign trips.

The Connecticut senator ditched his longtime Democratic affiliation in 2006 after an Iraq war opponent defeated him in their state's party primary. Running as an Independent, Lieberman won re-election in the November 2006 general election.

Though Lieberman still huddles with the Senate Democratic caucus, his efforts to help McCain become president have angered his Democratic peers.

“What Senator Lieberman is doing is heroic,” Graham said.