On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he will attempt to block Obama’s nominations of both John Brennan to CIA Director and Chuck Hagel to Defense Secretary over the Obama Administration’s failures in Benghazi. As it is Bob Schieffer’s job to “wring news out of his guests,” Graham, emerging as the new head of the Neocon Right, certainly obliged.
GRAHAM: “I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go for forward the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting. Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks? What did the president do? …What did he do that night? That’s not unfair. The families need to know. The American people need to know…”
SCHIEFFER: “But let me — I’m not sure I understand. What do you plan to do if they don’t give you an answer? Are you going to put a hold on these two nominations?”
GRAHAM: “Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m going to ask my colleagues, just like they did with John Bolton. Joe Biden said no confirmation without information. No confirmation without information.”
Schieffer asked again:
“Let me just make sure, because you’re about to make some news here, I think. You are saying that you are going to block the nominations — you’re going to block them from coming to a vote until you get an answer to this?”
To which, Graham replied, “Yes.”
Graham has been the most outspoken member during the confirmation process, calling Hagel “clueless” about Iran policy, and asserting that Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” in Benghazi. But Graham didn’t block John Kerry in his confirmation for Secretary of State; in fact, he was one of the 94 who voted for him. Furthermore, blocking Hagel may have more to do with defending his Senate seat from a 2014 primary challenge than it does with Benghazi. Fellow Face the Nation guest Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) called the move “unprecedented and unwarranted.”
While Benghazi was a foreseeable tragedy, questions as to why we had an embassy there in the first place have been altogether avoided. Whether phone calls were placed by the President, or answered by military officials in Tripoli, will not solve the root cause: a broken foreign policy now being embraced by the establishment of both political parties.
Senate confirmations may indeed be worth blocking, but not over Benghazi; last week I wrote about the GOP’s squandered opportunity to alter the trajectory of American foreign policy towards realism. Most notably:
1. Kerry was confirmed without adequately answering why bombing Libya without congressional approval was acceptable, while bombing Cambodia without it during the Vietnam War was not, proving that his experience in the Vietnam War does not inform his decision-making in Libya, Mali, or anywhere else.
2. At his hearing, Hagel was asked 166 times about Israel (and was notably pummeled by Graham about his Israel Lobby comments), 144 times about Iran, but only 20 times about Afghanistan. He was never asked why we outnumber Al Qaeda 1000-to-1 in Afghanistan, and was never asked about DoD’s use of drone warfare.
3. And while Brennan, whose abysmal nomination process I criticized at length last week, was questioned about the CIA’s use of drones, he never answered the question. No one asked Brennan, the architect of Obama’s drone wars, what informs his decision-making, in either ethical or legal terms, which allows for the killing of children, civilians, and Americans, and in one case, an underaged American civilian.
Instead of assessing the efficacy and consequences of our war on Islamic extremists, the obsession with Benghazi by Graham and the GOP embraces a rear view mentality of the world we wish for, ignoring the world for what it is, and in so doing, the real questions about US foreign policy are ignored. I would like to think US Senators aren’t overriding their true sentiments on foreign policy, or otherwise, to suck up to their constituents…
…but I’m not so sure.