Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that he would place a hold on John Brennan’s nomination as the next CIA Director unless he gets answers about how the U.S. intelligence community generated talking points on the Benghazi terror attack last September. Yet Graham’s threat runs counter to his previous belief that election results should grant presidents leeway in appointing high-level government officials.
The South Carolina Republican is still obsessed with the infamous “talking points” delivered by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on Sept. 16, 2012 to explain the administration’s thinking at that time about the Benghazi attack. Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, Graham threatened to hold up Brennan’s confirmation — or any nominee for CIA Director — in his interview with host Brett Baier:
GRAHAM: I’m not going to confirm John Brennan or anyone else until the administration shares information with the Congress about who deleted references to al Qaeda three weeks before the election. I think it was purposefully done and I want to know who did it and why before we move forward.
BAIER: So, you’re committed to holding that nomination up?
GRAHAM: Yes, and I don’t want to. But I’m not going to let this administration get away from having to be held accountable. The State Department, you’re going to hear from Hillary Clinton. But who did change the talking points? Who did take al Qaeda out? And what did the president do, Bret, during the seven hours?
Watch Graham’s full interview here:
In placing a hold — an informal threat to filibuster a nomination or bill — on Brennan, Graham is choosing to continue to tilt at windmills in the pursuit of “the truth” on Benghazi over adherence to the Constitutional process he lauded in as recently 2010. Compare his current stance to the position he held just two years ago during the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. At the time, Graham was a much stronger advocate for Presidential flexibility when it comes to the appointment of qualified individuals.
Graham made similar arguments during the confirmation of Sonia Sotamayor in 2009. Speaking from the floor of the Senate to explain his support for her assuming the bench, Graham heaped praise on Sotamayor’s record, while lecturing the chamber on the historical wide-latitude the Senate has given to qualified nominees following elections:
GRAHAM: Elections have consequences. I told Judge Sotamayor in the hearings that if I had won the election…she would probably not have been chosen by a Republican. We would have chosen someone with a more conservative background, someone like a Judge Roberts or Miguel Estrada. She is definitely more liberal than a Republican would have chosen. But I do believe that elections have consequences.
“I feel that [Obama] deserves some deference on my part when it comes to his first selection to the Supreme Court,” Graham went on to say. Since then, Graham has become one of the chief opponents to Obama’s nominees for high-level positions throughout the government, despite the President’s decisive win in the most recent election. A major factor in Graham’s shift could be that the senator is up for reelection in 2014 and could face a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate. Since November, Graham has been using the Benghazi tragedy as a campaign piece, in an attempt to gain credit among conservatives to overwrite his previous willingness to go against the Republican Party.
The threat to keep a key member of the national security apparatus from reporting for duty to shore up his own credentials is particularly irresponsible as the secrets Graham is struggling to bring to light have already been revealed. The unclassified talking points as presented by Rice were edited through an interagency process, wherein the CIA itself opted to remove the references to al-Qaeda. Graham, along with his fellow Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and John McCain (R-AZ) led the charge in attacking Rice, blaming her at times for not revealing classified information during her Sunday show appearances.