Lindsey Graham Threatens Hold On Hagel, Brennan Nominations Over Benghazi

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham is threatening to place a hold on the nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan unless the Administration provides more information about the September 11th, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi:

Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday he’ll block President Barack Obama’s nominees for Defense secretary and CIA director if the White House isn’t more forthcoming about its response to the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“No confirmation without information,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Graham said he wants to know if Obama himself phoned his Libyan counterparts during the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi and what the results of such a call might have been. Without cooperation, Graham said he’ll try to put a hold on Chuck Hagel, the Defense nominee, and John Brennan for CIA.

“I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go forward to the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of Defense, until the White House gives us an accounting,” Graham said. “Did the president even pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks?”


“Did the president at any time during this eight-hour attack, pick up the phone and call anybody in Libya to get help for these folks?” Graham asked. “Secretary [Hillary] Clinton said she was screaming on the phone at Libyan officials. There’s no voice in the world like that of the president of the United States. And I do believe if he had picked up the phone and called the Libyan government, these folks could have gotten out of the airport, to the annex and the last two guys may very well be alive and if he did call the Libyan officials and they sort of blew him off, that would effect whether or not I would give foreign aid in the future to Libya. But if he failed to call on behalf of those people under siege, then I think that’s a massive failure of leadership by our commander in chief.”

Graham’s threat to place a hold will only really have consequence if his fellow Republicans, most specifically including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, go along with him. If they don’t, then his objections will be essentially moot. If they do, then the only way the Senate will be able to proceed on these nominations is by succeeding on a cloture vote as if a filibuster were in place. As I’ve already noted, though, there already appear to be at least 60 votes in favor of invoking cloture on Hagel’s nomination at the very least.

More broadly, two points come to mind. First, with Graham up for re-election in 2014 and facing the prospect of a challenge from the right in the Republican Primary it’s not surprising to see him latching on the the conservative cause du jour that Benghazi has become. After becoming associated with immigration reform so much that conservatives routinely call him “Lindsey Grahamnesty,” he needs to find a way to get back in their good graces and pounding the table incoherently over what conservatives are convinced is the latest Obama scandal is a pretty darn good way to do it. Secondly, once again, as if the hearing itself weren’t bad enough, we see yet again just how incoherent Republican foreign policy has become lately. There’s really nothing that Hagel has said, now or in the past, that’s inconsistent with what used to be mainstream GOP foreign policy. The fact that it’s now reason for someone to be persona non grata says a lot about the state of the part.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    Wow, the post-election era of glad tidings and good feeling seems to be over.

    Seriously, the Republican Party is not only not fit to govern, they don’t want to govern.

  2. labman57 says:

    The Grand Obstructionist Party strikes again. Senate Republicans continually seek opportunities to block progress on legislative proposals and cabinet appointments, and they are usually unable to give a rational reason for their actions other than “it’s our right to do so”.

    In this case, Senators Graham, McCain, et al. have opted to cover their ears and close their eyes whenever verifiable evidence and tenable explanations are presented that conflict with their desire to promote a preconceived phantom White House conspiracy … and they have vowed to undermine the Obama Administration’s ability to move forward with the nation’s business until the POTUS “confesses his sins”.

  3. Argon says:

    Gads. That guy must go through a lot of pearl necklaces. He’s always clutching at them.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Lindsey Graham is a genuinely pathetic creature. To reach such a high position and still be so frightened and unhappy is tragic.

  5. de stijl says:

    This type of behavior plays to the base while alienating everyone else. It’s like the R’s tactics on the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff. Tuff Guy stuff fells good and appeals to the 27%’ers, but party-over-country damages the brand and hurts them at the election booth.

  6. edmondo says:

    Lindsey Graham needs to get laid.

  7. Just Me says:

    Well given that Panetta said in his testimony that Obama wasn’t in contact with him during the Benghazi attack, it would be nice to know just what Obama was doing.

    The one question that hadn’t been addressed in any reports to date is just what decisions Obama was making and who he was talking to.

  8. @Just Me:

    Did you watch the same hearings I did? Panetta said that he was in constant contact with White House aides who were obviously acting as intermediaries for the President and keeping him informed. What, exactly, do you expect the President to do?

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Just Me:

    There’s a very thorough report on Benghazi. The questions have all been answered. This is into conspiracy theory territory now, when losers spend their days convincing themselves they see truths that no one else does. No amount of truth will satisfy people like you. If Jesus dropped out of the sky with complete recordings of the entire thing it wouldn’t matter to you.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Just Me:

    Well given that Panetta said in his testimony that Obama wasn’t in contact with him during the Benghazi attack, it would be nice to know just what Obama was doing.

    All of this will form the basis of the impeachment hearings that Republicans have been planning since Option 1 (Romney defeats Obama, thus eliminating the need for more hearings) did not work.

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    I hate to say it, but Graham threatening to hold up Brennan’s nomination is a public service.

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    @michael reynolds: It’s lonely in the closet!

  13. bk says:

    I haven’t seen someone from South Carolina throw this much of a hissy fit since Scarlett O’Hara.

  14. KariQ says:


    Scarlett was from Georgia.

  15. Pug says:

    Yeah, Scarlett was from Georgia.

    The biggest hissy fit by a South Carolinian was thrown by Rep. Preston Brooks, a fierce defender of slavery, who severely beat Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, an abolitionist, with his cane on the floor of the Senate. Put Sumner out of action for three years.

    That was a serious hissy fit.

  16. Graham’s interest in Benghazi strikes me as a canard, but his decision to hold Brennan’s CIA nomination is worth praising. Brennan’s nomination hearing brought drones and extrajudicial assassination to the debate. What did the hearing suggest about US human rights abuses, torture, or the CIA’s domestic spying crimes with the NYPD? Will the CIA be in your neighborhood next?

  17. grumpy realist says:

    Somehow we should get the rules changed so that yeah, congresscritters get to put holds on nominations. But if they do, and until the hold is lifted, their salaries will be withheld.