DELICATE SENSIBILITIES…. Three years ago, David Hayes, the former deputy secretary of the Interior Department, wrote a piece about Democrats appealing to Western voters. It wasn’t especially controversial, at least not at the time.

Hayes argued in the piece that “the conservative political agenda in the West is grounded in hoary stereotypes about the region and its people” and that “out of this conservative world view emerges the stereotypical Western man (and it is unquestionably a ‘he’) — a rugged, gun-toting individualist who fiercely guards every man’s right to drill, mine, log, or do whatever he damn well pleases on the land.” He added, “Like Ronald Reagan before him, President Bush has embraced the Western stereotype to the point of adopting some of its affectations — the boots, brush-clearing, and get-the-government-off-our-backs bravado.”

Hayes is now President Obama’s nominee for the number two spot at the Department of the Interior, and was recently asked about his 2006 piece. Hayes conceded that “the prose is overly florid, and I regret that.”

But John McCain isn’t satisfied. He not only described Hayes’ mild criticism as “highly offensive,” the Arizona Republican is prepared to oppose the nomination over Hayes’ criticism of the former president.

At a nomination hearing for David Hayes for deputy secretary of Interior, the former Republican presidential candidate read aloud from an article that Hayes wrote in April 2006 which drew unfavorable comparisons between former President George W. Bush and Reagan. […]

“So you had to throw Reagan in there?” McCain continued.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” Hayes said.

“I wouldn’t have said something like that about Bruce Babbitt,” McCain continued, referring to the Arizona Democrat who was Interior secretary during the Clinton administration.

“I will be considering seriously whether I can support your nomination or not,” McCain added.

I’ve seen some compelling commentary of late about reconsidering the Senate’s “advice and consent” powers, because the confirmation process for deputies and assistant deputies has become rather ridiculous. John McCain seems to be helping this argument along nicely, doesn’t he?

In this case, a long-time Senate veteran is raising questions about a president’s nominee to be deputy secretary of Interior because, three years ago, the nominee said something kinda sorta intemperate about Ronald Reagan.

Even McCain must realize how terribly silly this is.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.