QUOTE OF THE DAY…. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said something interesting this morning in an opening statement during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was trying to offer a defense of the Bush administration’s interrogation practices, but I think Graham ended up saying something that undermines his own case.

“Here’s what I think happened [after Sept. 11, 2001]: the nation was rattled. The administration went on the offensive and they looked at some statutes on the book as a way I wouldn’t have looked at. They were very aggressive. They were going to make sure this didn’t happen again, and they tried to come up with interrogation techniques, evaluating the law in a way I disagree with their evaluation. But there is not one iota of doubt in my mind they were trying to protect the nation.

“But they made mistakes. They saw the law, many times, as a nicety that we couldn’t afford. [emphasis added]

“So, they took a very aggressive interpretation of what the law would allow, and that came back to bite us. It always does.

“But that’s not a crime. What we have to understand as a nation, is the fact that we embrace the rule of law is a strength, not a weakness.”

I wish the second part of Graham’s speech would take a closer look at the first part of Graham’s speech.

Embracing the rule of law sounds great, but when an administration looks at the law as “a nicety we can’t afford,” then it’s an abandonment of the rule of law. Indeed, Graham is saying exactly what liberals are saying — instead of following the law, Bush and his team saw the law as something that can and should be avoided. Graham, in effect, is endorsing the left’s case.

He quickly added, however, that this isn’t a “crime.” But how does Graham know? If he agrees that Bush treated the law as little more than “a nicety,” how can Graham be sure the activities were legal?

If the embrace of the rule of law is “a strength, not a weakness,” wouldn’t Graham support some kind of independent investigation to determine whether or not any laws were, in fact, broken?

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.