“We’re seeing a trend,” said Hardball host Chris Matthews on Friday. “Republican men behaving badly. In fact they’re talking exactly the way they did in the four years leading up to their 2012 election disaster. Apparently losing a presidential election, Senate, and House seats hasn’t dissuaded some Republicans from putting their worst feet forward.”
Matthews cited three recent events. One was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham grilling Chuck Hagel during his confirmation hearing for secretary of defense. Graham asked him multiple times to name one person who is intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the U.S. (Hagel has expressed regrets over the comments).
A second example was Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who questioned a speech Hagel once made that called Israel’s military campaign against terrorist group Hezbollah a “sickening slaughter.” Hagel said he wanted to look at the full context of the quote–but he was interrupted by Cruz who started asking about another issue.
Finally, Matthews pointed to Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul, who recently insisted that Hillary Clinton should have been fired as secretary of state for the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The Kentucky lawmaker implied that Clinton was stepping down because of the attack, even though Clinton has said for over a year that she planned on serving just one presidential term.
Robert Costa of the conservative National Review didn’t see any problem with the questioning. “I think these are Republicans asking tough questions at a Congressional hearing,” Costa told Matthews. “This is not a big story. These are Congressional hearings. It’s not a cocktail party. There should be tough questions. I don’t understand the outrage about questions for someone who’s going to be running the Pentagon.”
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein disagreed. “The problem I found with these questions was [the lawmakers] ended up stepping on the news. They became so demonstrative, they became so theatrical with how they were asking these questions to the people at the hearings, they ended up stealing the spotlight from the answers themselves.”
Stein added that the number of times Israel came up (over 160) dwarfed the number of questions about Afghanistan (a few dozen times), although Afghanistan is likely to be more of a central issue over the next four years. “If you go through this hearing, and they ask that question about an old statement once, fine. Twice, okay. Three times. But it became so repetitive that it looked like a lot of these Republican senators were there to score a political point,” said Stein.