SHELBY: IF I DON’T GET PORK, THE TERRORISTS WIN…. Now that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has decided to hold the Senate confirmation process hostage in exchange for pork-barrel spending for his state, there are a few questions about why the far-right senator has apparently lost his mind.

We’ve gained a few insights today.

Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) office has confirmed to TPMDC the reports that Shelby has placed a hold on President Obama’s nominees over a pair of government programs set to be based in Alabama. He did not confirm that Shelby has taken the rare step of blocking all of Obama’s nominees, as was reported yesterday.

“Sen. Shelby has placed holds on several pending nominees due to unaddressed national security concerns,” Shelby spokesperson Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement.

And in this case, “unaddressed national security concerns” can be roughly translated to mean “defense earmarks for Alabama.” In other words, if one right-wing senator doesn’t get the pork he wants, the terrorists win.

The White House is unimpressed.

Roberts Gibbs, the White House press secretary, sharply criticized Mr. Shelby’s actions, calling it the best instance yet for how Washington is broken. “I guess if you needed one example of what’s wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government work better because he didn’t get his earmarks,” Mr. Gibbs told reporters today. “If that’s not the poster child for how this town needs to change the way it works, I fear there won’t be a greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010.”

He added: “It boggles the mind to hold up qualified nominees for positions that are needed to perform functions in a government because you didn’t get two earmarks.”

Congressional Republicans have been breathtakingly irresponsible of late, but Shelby’s latest gambit might be the single most ridiculous stunt in a long while. What kind of right-wing clown rails against government spending and then holds the Senate hostage until he gets his earmarks?

This from a senator who once pledged to do “whatever it takes” to give presidential nominees “up or down” votes?

If Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback” became a national punch-line, Shelby’s scheme — it’ll need a clever little name — should easily become a humiliating moment for the senator and his party.

This isn’t just an example of Republicans gone mad, it’s also an example of Republican overreach.

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.