Lindsey Graham mixes apples and oranges

Lindsey Graham says he will ask that the nominations of Chuck Hagel (Secretary of Defense) and John Brennan (CIA Director) be held up until President Obama answers questions about what he did and did not do in response to the Benghazi attack. Graham cites the slogan of then-Senator Joe Biden during the confirmation hearings on John Bolton: “No confirmation without information.”

Graham is off base. His information request has nothing to do with the fitness or suitability of Hagel and Brennan to serve in the positions for which they have been nominated.

Moreover, Graham’s posture may hurt the cause of obtaining information that’s actually relevant to the nominees. Hagel has already refused to supply relevant information, including the names of foreign organizations that have paid him money. Thus, Graham and others already have grounds to block Hagel, and should do so. Graham shouldn’t confuse the issue by bringing Benghazi-related information into the picture. By doing so, he arguably implies that the Hagel nomination can proceed if Obama answers questions about Benghazi.

Graham is also wide of the mark in invoking Biden’s quote. The information Biden sought in connection with Bolton’s confirmation related specifically to Bolton.

Biden sought two types of information. The first was material related to the preparation of testimony Bolton gave to the Senate concerning WMD and Syria. The stated purpose of the request was to ascertain whether (1) Bolton exaggerated intelligence information in his testimony and (2) Bolton told the truth when he said he wasn’t involved in the preparation of that testimony.

The other material Biden sought had to do with NSA intercepts and “U.S. persons” identified therein. The stated purpose of this request was to see whether Bolton, who had requested the identify of “U.S. persons” identified in intercepts on ten occasions, may have done so improperly.

Biden’s requests were probably fishing expeditions or worse. But he was able plausibly to assert a connection between the information and the nominee. Graham doesn’t even bother to assert any, nor could he.

Graham is being petulant. In principle, I don’t mind, since his petulance in this instance is in service of holding Obama accountable for his deadly dereliction of duty in Benghazi.

But Graham shouldn’t mix apples and oranges. John Brennan deserves an up-or-down vote regardless of whether Obama answers Graham’s questions about Benghazi. And Chuck Hagel doesn’t deserve one until, at a minimum, he supplies information about payments he received from foreigners regardless, again, of whether Obama answers Graham’s questions.


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