Lindsey Graham postures on Hagel nomination

Sen. Lindsey Graham has written a letter to his former colleague Chuck Hagel asking that Hagel open his Senate archive at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and that he authorize the release of past speeches organized by the Washington Speakers Bureau. Graham notes that the Washington Speakers Bureau is refusing to transfer to the Senate any video recordings of Hagel’s past speeches because Hagel apparently hasn’t authoritzed this. In addition, the University of Nebraska-Omaha is stonewalling Senate staff and journalists seeking access to Hagel’s Senate office archive, which is filled with past speeches, videos, letters, and notes.

This stonewalling, says Graham, contradicts Hagel’s promise to the Senate that “everything that is out there that we can find, we’ll make every effort to get it and provide it.” Though Graham doesn’t put it this way, that promise turns out to have been a lie.

Graham also complains that Hagel hasn’t responded to his letter on the accuracy of a contemporaneous report of remarks the nominee delivered at Rutgers University in April 2010. According to that contemporaneous report, Hagel asserted that Israel is becoming an apartheid state, that Prime Minister Netanyahu is a radical, that the Hamas terrorist organization should be brought into negotiations and that Israel stands in violation of multiple United Nations resolutions.

In my view, Graham’s letter is worse than an empty gesture; it reduces him and other Republicans to the status of supplicants. Instead of pleading with Hagel to fulfill his promise of full disclosure, Graham should advise him that, because Hagel has broken that promise, Graham will attempt to spearhead a filibuster of the nominee unless disclosure is forthcoming.

It may be too late to succeed in this endeavor, now that Graham and his mentor John McCain have repeatedly signaled that there should be no real filibuster (only minor delay). But it’s not too late for Graham to use his considerable power of persuasion to give it a try. If he doesn’t, the lesson will be clear: it’s okay for a nominee not only to stonewall the Senate, but also to lie about his willingness to provide the Senate with information.

In the end, I expect Graham to be content to teach precisely that lesson. But there’s some consolation. We can look forward to the day when Hagel’s records become public. At that time, the full extent of his anti-Israel (and, probably, anti-Jewish) sentiments, as well as the dishonesty of his congressional testimony and comments to individual Senators, will likely become manifest.

So too will the fecklessness of Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who gave Hagel a pass.

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