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CNN Incredulous Over GOP 'Fixation' on Benghazi, Opposition to Hagel

The same network that wondered if Sen. Rubio's sip of water was a "big deal" is now asking just why Republicans are "so fixated on Benghazi" when they asked Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel about the Libya fiasco.

"This, despite testimony on Benghazi from General Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Admiral Mike Mullen, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, General Martin Dempsey, among others. But it's not enough," an obviously flustered Carol Costello huffed on Friday. The CNN headline later flashed, "Why are Republicans so fixated on Benghazi?"

[Video below. Audio here.]

Then, during the 10 a.m. ET hour, Costello lashed out at the GOP's "partisanship" and contrasted it with President Lincoln's passing the 13th Amendment. So nominating Hagel is akin to abolishing slavery?

"History in the U.S. Senate. Not the Lincoln and the 13th Amendment kind of history, but the partisanship kind," Costello lamented. And she continued her juvenile whining about "partisanship."

"[Y]you get a chance to poke your finger in his [Hagel's] eye, and you take it if you're a senator. That's what they do for a living," GOP strategist Rich Galen explained. Costello replied: "[T]hat's ridiculous. They just did it to poke you in the eye, or poke Democrats in the eye?"

She also asked "what's the most danger? What do they most fear about Chuck Hagel?" as if the GOP has no real reason to oppose him. "[I]t boggles my mind," she insisted on the GOP delaying Hagel's nomination.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 15 on CNN Newsroom at 9:32 a.m. EST, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: History on the Senate floor, and in a special "Political Buzz" today, three minutes of hot talk on Benghazi, Chuck Hagel, and of course, partisanship. Playing today, chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, CNN contributor and ESPN senior writer L.Z. Granderson, and Republican strategist Rich Galen.
 
RICH GALEN, GOP strategist: The only person that's being paid on this program.

(Laughter)

COSTELLO: Oh my gosh!

LZ GRANDERSON: Wow, we're starting there already. Boy!

GALEN: I've been sitting here trying to think what to say.

COSTELLO: Before we begin the conversation, a little explanation. Republicans have successfully blocked the confirmation of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary in part because of Hagel's controversial remarks on gays and Jews and his terrible performance during his confirmation hearings, but also because five months ago, terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) We will continue pushing and asking questions about Benghazi, not because it's personal, not because we're Republicans and he's a Democrat, but because America needs to learn what happened and we need to learn from our mistakes.

COSTELLO: This, despite testimony on Benghazi from General Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Admiral Mike Mullen, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, General Martin Dempsey, among others. But it's not enough. Republicans now want to know more about what happened as the attack in Benghazi went down and who changed those talking points. They want more answers from the President. So, let's talk. So Dana, is Chuck, is the blockage of Chuck Hagel's confirmation because of Benghazi, as Lindsey Graham illustrates, or is it because of something else?

DANA BASH: It really is mostly because of Chuck Hagel. Benghazi was, they sort of have been on a crusade to get more answers for Benghazi and like you see many, many times here in the Senate, they saw Chuck Hagel and his nomination as a way to use that as leverage to get answers and they did.

[HEADLINE: "Why are Republicans so fixated on Benghazi?"]

BASH: They got an answer about what the President's role was on that day. But really this is mostly about Chuck Hagel and you know, John McCain is actually the perfect example of why it is about the man himself. And that is he said last night after he had kind of given lots of different explanations, all of them I think are credible from his point of view, that the real fundamental thing that has bothered most of Hagel's fellow Republicans here, former colleagues here, is the way that he defied his party, defied his president, then George W. Bush, on Iraq. And that really did not sit well with many Republicans here, and they remember that. It's a whole bunch of other issues but that at its core is the fundamental problem.

COSTELLO: So Rich, I'll ask you as a Republican strategist, are the concerns over Chuck Hagel serious enough to filibuster and block confirmation? That's the first time this has ever happened in the history of U.S. politics.

GALEN: Well, everybody says that, but that would get two thumbs up in the political fact-checks. John Bolton was blocked and I think at that time, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. was a cabinet level slot. But here's the thing about – the Republicans, I think Dana, have said that they'll probably let this thing go after the ten-day Presidents' Day holiday. So they're holding it up for another 10 or 12 days. The president only nominated him on January 6th or 7th, whenever that was, so it's not like this thing has been hanging around for six or seven months and the Republicans are dragging their feet, dragging their feet. I suspect Senator Hagel will be the Defense Secretary and from somebody who has to write three days a week, having Hagel at Defense and Kerry at State, that's like manna from heaven.

COSTELLO: Yeah but still, it boggles my mind, L.Z. – that – okay so, we're pretty certain that Chuck Hagel's going to be nominated or confirmed anyway, so why waste our time?

GRANDERSON: It makes for good theater. You know, I encourage all of your viewers, you know, when they get done watching us, to just google Chuck Hagel and Senator McCain. And you don't have to go very far before you see quotes from Senator McCain praising Chuck Hagel, calling him an outstanding citizen and someone that he would be proud to serve with had he become president back in 2008. What has changed since when those quotes were given, to today? The only thing I can think that has changed is the fact you have a president they don't like and they want to stick it to him. This is about theater more than anything else. Mitch McConnell praised him as well on the way out, so I'm trying to figure out what has happened over the short period of time. Everything he said about defying W, that happened prior to those comments being made. And –

GALEN: But L.Z., he has given speeches and written and joined, been on the board of organizations that frankly make me a little uncomfortable, and again I'm on the side of giving a president wide latitude in picking his cabinet. But those things have happened since he left the Senate, so I'm not sure it's fair to compare what McCain said four or eight years ago and what he is saying today.

BASH: And if I could just maybe shed some light on that, it was back in 2000, when Chuck Hagel was actually John McCain's national co-chair of his presidential campaign, that's when McCain said that he personally, he would even have Chuck Hagel as his Defense Secretary. And what did change is what I mentioned before, it really was Iraq that changed, that sent them on their separate ways personally, but much more importantly on a policy level. And that was the fundamental problem at its foundation but there's no question that Republicans see Hagel's positions on Iran as a big problem, and then, yes, of course, that's on top of that is the fact that they don't love the fact that the President nominated him, someone who they think is, for lack of a better way to say it, a political traitor, to be the next Defense Secretary.

GALEN: And Dana you're reporting on the day that –

(Crosstalk)

GALEN: Let me just get back to this. On the day that – and I'll stop. On the day that he testified, your reporting was fantastic in the dismal job that he was doing and I believe he used, you used the word "shocked" coming from senators' mouths. So I think for a lot of, for some Republicans that feel like me, that the President should get who he wants, they think that if that's how badly he did in that forum and he's been a member of the Senate, that maybe we need to give this just one more breath before we vote yes.

COSTELLO: Okay. L.Z., wrap it up for us.
 
GRANDERSON: I just, well I just wanted to point out that while it's true his initial quotes, John McCain's initial quotes were in 2000, the Associated Press has quotes from him as early as 2008-2009 still praising the man, so it's not as if I'm reaching all the way back for a decade for old quotes. These are still relatively new in the political cycle. And so I agree, Chuck Hagel did a horrible job. I'm just trying to figure out why are these two men who praised him fairly recently in the cycle, why are they trashing him this hard? I think it's personal, in addition to his performance.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center