WH ON THE SHELBY SHAKEDOWN…. Or maybe “Crimson Bribe“?

Anyway, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs already criticized Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) decision to hold the Senate’s confirmation process hostage until he gets the earmarks he wants, but White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer followed up with a blog post on the subject.

[Shelby’s] holding up 70 nominees, among them top intelligence officials at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. According to the National Journal, he’s holding them up until two defense contracts that would benefit interests in his state can be fast-tracked.

Let’s be clear: Sen. Shelby is preventing qualified nominees who will help protect the American people from being confirmed.

It’s an important point that Dems have been reluctant to emphasize — there are many key government posts, filled with officials who work on keeping Americans safe. Right now, qualified nominees can’t fill those posts, because clowns like Shelby have a list of priorities, and earmarks are on top.

If the situations were reversed, and a Senate Democrat were holding up Bush/Cheney nominees to national security posts over earmarks, how intense would the blowback be? How quick would Republicans be to compare that Democrat to Osama bin Laden, the way Rove & Co. smeared Max Cleland?

In the meantime, the story keeps getting even more offensive (via Plum Line).

The unusual “blanket hold” placed on Obama administration nominees by Senator Richard Shelby represents an effort to support a firm that has contributed more than $100,000 to the Alabama Republican over the course of his long political career, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

Shelby reportedly initiated the blanket hold in an attempt to back a $35 billion tanker contract for Northrop Grumman and EADS; the plane would be built in his state…. The fourth-term Senator has received at least $108,233 in PAC contributions to his political campaigns and leadership PAC from Northrop Grumman’s corporate PACs. This includes contributions, dating back to his first Senate election in 1986, from the company’s political action committee and from the PACs of companies that are now part of Northrop Grumman.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.