Lindsey Graham vs. Chuck Hagel

Late Friday, Sen. Lindsey Graham sent a blistering letter to defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel demanding he live up to his promises to the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide material relevant to his confirmation. He writes, “During your appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, you committed to fully cooperating with Senate requests to disclose information about your record.  ’Everything that is out there that we can find we’ll make every effort to get it and provide it,’ you told Chairman Levin.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (Linda Davidson /The Washington Post)

Graham then tells Hagel that the Washington Speakers’ Bureau will not give the Senate access to his speeches and any recordings without Hagel’s consent, while the University of Nebraska has been “stonewalling” journalists in denying access to his archived materials. Moreover, Graham denounces Hagel’s lack of responsiveness:

“Moreover, you have not responded to my letter on the accuracy of a contemporaneous report or remarks you delivered at Rutgers University in April 201. On top of your previous comments accusing Israel of keeping Palestinians ‘caged up like animals,’ justifying Palestinian suicide bombings and alleging that a ‘Jewish lobby intimidates’ Senators into doing ‘dumb things,’ the 2010 contemporaneous report claims you said 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.”

The question now remains whether Graham and his GOP colleagues will demand that the Senate vote on Hagel, expected Tuesday, be delayed until Graham can get a hold of this information. Graham is plainly incensed at Hagel’s hide-the-ball tactics, as should be the rest of the Senate. It is hard to imagine Graham’s colleagues including his “amigo” John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who has already dubbed Hagel unfit for the job — would pull the rug out from under him and allow the Democrats to ram through the nomination on a near party-line vote. And yet on CNN’s State of the Union today McCain appeared to do precisely that, mouthing the platitude that the president deserves an up or down vote. (Why? If Hagel is as unfit as McCain says he is, isn’t McCain just as responsible as the president for helping to put an incompetent in charge of the military?)

If Democrats had not placed their integrity in a lockbox, they, too, would demand that the Senate be given the information it has requested before moving on his nomination. Someday the shoe will be on the other foot, and Democrats will regret having set the precedent that controversial nominees can shield incriminating data by stonewalling the Senate.

Hagel has shown himself to be unfit and unprepared for a critical job. Will he now prove the Senate to be a rubber stamp?

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