WHAT’S WRONG WITH CHRISTOPHER HILL?…. President Obama has nominated Christopher Hill to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, and by all appearances, there’s nothing even remotely controversial about the choice. And yet, Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are raising a fuss.

The problem, apparently, is that McCain and Graham, while acknowledging Hill’s extensive diplomatic experience, believe Hill doesn’t have a strong enough background in the Middle East. Matt Cooper thinks this is “odd.”

McCain and Graham had no problem voting for Hill to be come George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs even thought his previous experience was overwhelmingly European with one tour in Seoul. In general the country’s supported the idea that senior State Department officials can move around the world and not have to prove their credentials each time they’re assigned to a new region. McCain and Graham are imposing a new standard that seems odd. It’s not wildly irrational to want an Iraq ambassador with Mideast experience but it’s a bar that I’ve never heard Senators ask of any other career diplomat before.

Indeed, George W. Bush chose John Negroponte to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, based on his lengthy diplomatic career. Negroponte’s background in the Middle East, however, was non-existent. McCain and Graham, at the time, not only supported Negroponte’s nomination, they never raised any concerns about his relevant experience.

It’s almost as if these Republican senators are being deliberately petty and partisan, just to annoy Obama. McCain and Graham? That couldn’t be, could it?

For what it’s worth, Hill’s nomination should be a no-brainer. The White House seems unfazed by Republican sniping, and press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the president’s strong support for Hill yesterday.

Steve Benen

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.