WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Lindsey Graham, old-style politicians who wear their emotions on their sleeves, traveled the world together when Biden served in the Senate.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, guessed why Biden might be calling him at home on a Sunday night.
"Did we get the bastard?" Graham asked.
"We got him!" a jubilant Biden responded.
The two men quickly turned reflective as they agreed that the United States may face retaliatory attacks from radical Muslims.
"Both of us understand that we can expect reprisals," Graham said. "This is not the end of the al Qaida threat, but it is a momentum-builder against extremists."
Graham, a military lawyer and the only member of Congress to have served active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq as an Air Force Reserve colonel, asked Biden to extend his congratulations to President Barack Obama.
"I said, 'Please tell the president that all of us appreciate his persistence when it comes to being aggressive along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and going after bin Laden,'" Graham said. "This is the time to give the president his due."
Fellow South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, a conservative leader who is among Obama's fiercest critics, also commended the president.
"The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American forces is not only a great victory in the war on terror, but confirmation to freedom's enemies around the world about the inevitable end of a life of terror," DeMint said.
"I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone responsible for tonight's news: our courageous armed forces, dedicated law enforcement and intelligence communities and President Obama for pursuing the necessary policies to bring about today's success."
House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress and a close Obama ally, offered celebratory words.
"This is a great day for America and a tremendous victory in the global war on terror," Clyburn said. "Justice has been served. Congratulations to President Obama, the intelligence community, the team who conducted the successful operation and the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought over the last decade in the war against al Qaeda and its affiliates."
Graham spoke to Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan and Obama's choice to be the next director of the CIA on Sunday morning, but could not say on the record whether he'd been tipped to the raid by U.S. special forces outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad that killed bin Laden.
Graham's military service and senatorial visits in Iraq and Afghanistan cemented a close friendship with Petraeus, who commanded U.S. troops in both wars.
"We talked for 30 minutes about his new job (as CIA director)," Graham said. "We talked about how we're making progress in Afghanistan, and we went down memory lane talking about the rough times in Iraq and how that seemed hopeless."
Graham said bin Laden's death was deeply satisfying in part because he had served with men and women dedicated to defeating the Taliban who once gave him sanctuary in Afghanistan.
"There are very few events that bring the American family together, but this is one of them," Graham said. "The message of this event is that if you choose to do harm to the American people and try to destroy our way of life, there is no place to hide and no passage of time will keep you safe."
Graham paused to collect his thoughts, and to gather his emotions.
"You better damn believe — this is a good night for Lindsey Graham."
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY