Alternate headline: “Lindsey Graham demands to be primaried by conservative base.”

“I’m going to vote for her because I believe the last election had consequences,” he said. “This president chose someone who is qualified, who has the experience and knowledge to serve on this court … and understands the difference between being a liberal judge and a politican.”…

Graham also addressed one of the main GOP arguments against her nomination: Kagan’s decision as Harvard Law School dean to prohibit military recruiters from using a campus career center on the basis that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the military violated the school’s anti-discrimination rules.

“If I believed that she had animosity in her heart about those who wear the uniform, I could easily vote no,” Graham said. “I don’t believe that.”

He was the only member of the Judiciary Committee to cross the aisle; they confirmed her, 13-6. The Graham standard for judicial appointments — i.e. “is the nominee qualified?” — is of course verrrrry different from the Obama standard, but good news: Apparently Graham’s stand on principle has led Dick Durbin to have a change of heart about Miguel Estrada. Or something.

At least one Democrat, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said Mr. Graham’s remarks had made him rethink is own approach to judicial nominations — including the decision by Democrats several years ago to prevent Miguel Estrada, a prominent conservative lawyer, from getting a hearing before the committee when President George W. Bush nominated Mr. Estrada to the federal appeals court.

Mr. Estrada, a close friend of Ms. Kagan, has spoken strongly in support of her, and she has in turn spoken in support of him. Senator Durbin said Tuesday he now believes “Miguel Estrada deserves a day in court or a day before the commitee.”

Of Senator Graham, Senator Durbin said, “I reflected on some of the things that I have said and how I have voted in the past, and thought that perhaps his statement suggested a better course.”

Thanks for sharing now, Dick, seven years after Estrada was railroaded. In any case, it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who have obstructed judicial nominees most relentlessly over the years, so if Durbin’s serious about shifting to a more deferential standard of scrutiny, it’s big news. Anyone out there, left or right, think he’s serious?

WaPo’s already gaming out how many primary challengers Graham will face in 2014; among the possibilities is … Mark Sanford. A quote from one of Graham’s consultants: “He’s a thinking person’s conservative. I expect him to do well among voters with IQ’s in triple digits.” Thinking strategically, his vote here is potentially useful to Republicans down the line if/when another vacancy opens on the Court and The One decides to go for broke by appointing a lefty bomb-thrower. Because Graham’s now positioned himself as the principled moderate, willing to vote for both Kagan and Sotomayor in the name of deference to the president, a no vote on some future nominee would be a devastating judgment that he/she really is way out of the mainstream. Kagan’s not going to be filibustered — but the next one might be, especially if Grahamnesty signals to other moderates that it’s okay to do so by opposing him/her, so maybe he’s just keeping his powder dry. And, er, maybe Dick Durbin’s really had a change of heart. Exit question via Pat Leahy: Why does the GOP hate women? Click the image to watch.