Graham’s Continuing Hissy Fit

The standard conservative line about Chuck Hagel’s confirmation process is that his hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee were a disaster for the administration, revealing the nominee’s fecklessness and “extremist” views. But in a revealing indication of the GOP’s real priorities, it looks like the Big Partisan Confrontation over the nomination won’t be over Israel or Iran or Hagel’s competence under hostile questioning, but–yes, you’ve guessed it–Benghazi!

Here’s Politico‘s Tim Mak on Lindsey Graham’s threats to pitch a very public hissy fit if SASC chairman Carl Levin schedules a confirmation vote for Hagel this week:

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, has made clear that he considers Benghazi and Hagel to be one issue — “no confirmation without information,” he said Sunday. Graham is demanding more details from the Obama administration about its response to the Benghazi attacks, without which, he says, he would block Hagel….

As a front for the interminable Benghazi witch hunt, some Republicans are claiming that the real problem is that Hagel isn’t fully disclosing funding sources for past paid speaking gigs–even though their own SASC staff are telling them Hagel’s met all reasonable disclosure requirements.

“There are two options: If Hagel doesn’t fully disclose all the things in the letter [in which Republicans made requests for more disclosure] … either you will see a party line vote or Republicans will stand up and leave the room in protest,” said a senior Republican Senate aide. “Does Levin really want that to happen on his watch as chairman? … It would really debilitate the committee.”

Horrors! A lack of bipartisanship! What’s a chairman to do?

Levin could start, of course, by making it exceptionally clear that his committee will no longer be an open venue for Behghazi Theater. It has zero to do with Hagel’s qualifications, and if the Nebraskan’s nomination is indeed doomed by his performance in the hearings and/or his record, then why do Graham and others keep Going There?

A Republican “walkout” during a Hagel vote, could, of course, represent just another kind of theater. The ranking Republican senator on the committee, John McCain, might go along with it to give his little friend from the Palmetto State another opportunity to posture for the right-wing activists back home who are mulling a primary challenge to him, without taking the more consequential action of an unprecedented filibuster of a Cabinet nominee.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.