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May 15, 2005 - We don't recommend him, so let's vote!

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John Bolton has come up in these pages on and off for the last several years – see My Favorite Diplomat, and his Shadow from March 13, 2005:


John Bolton was, last week, nominated as our new ambassador to the United Nations, and the Senate will probably confirm him.

In Just Above Sunset back in September of 2003 he was described as one of the "new school" of Bush diplomats.  These are the "I don't care who I offend because you're all stupid anyway" school.  Yes, they did have to call John Bolton off after all his announcements that Cuba was independently developing chemical and nuclear weapons to attack the United States and had to be stopped, now.  The problem?  No proof.  The administration didn't think he ought to testify to congress.  Too risky.  And the folks at the White House have stopped sending him to the Hill to testify about much of anything, as he tended to say strange things.  The North Koreans would not talk that year if he were involved.  So we kept him home – a loose canon.

Hey, he's blunt.  No spin.  Folks like that.  It's a Fox News Bill O'Reilly thing.


And it seems he probably will be our new ambassador to the United Nations.

Fred Kaplan in SLATE.COM, Thursday, May 12, 2005, summarizes


This afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent Bolton's nomination to the floor "without recommendation"—an extremely unusual slight for an appointment of such stature. Bolton got a C-minus, but it was a pass-fail course.

The Republicans hold a 10-8 majority on the committee. It would have taken only one deserter to wreck the nomination. They enjoy a 55-45 margin on the Senate floor. It would take six dissidents to stop Bolton there, and that isn't likely.

Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio was the sole Republican today to resist the White House's demand for total loyalty—but even he didn't resist it enough. Voinovich held up the vote three weeks ago, surprising everyone by saying that he'd listened to the debate and concluded he couldn't support Bolton. His party mates scurried to postpone the vote, fearing they might lose it. Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat, agreed to the delay as long as the committee could interview more witnesses and request more documents in the interim.

This morning, as the committee resumed deliberations, the big question was whether Voinovich would cave or hold firm. As it turned out, he did both. He noted that he'd pored over all the documents, spoken to dozens of officials, met again with the nominee himself—and concluded that he was still the wrong man for the job, calling Bolton "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be."

But then came his punch line: "I am not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective…on the rest of my colleagues." He would oppose the nominee but vote for a resolution to send Bolton's name to the floor without endorsement.


I thought the voters of Ohio put Voinovich there to exercise his judgment and perspective on their behalf.  Didn’t Voinovich ever read the book Arthur Schlesinger ghost-wrote for John Kennedy, “Profiles in Courage” - about politicians who stood up against the popular sentiments of the day, and often against their own political party, in order to do what they felt was right.  He might have read about George Norris, that senator from Nebraska who ignored the will of the people he represented – just before WWI he refused to accept the idea that Congress should surrender its right to declare war by turning that right over to the president.  Then this Norris fellow broke ranks with the Republican Party a few decades later and gave his support to Democrat Al Smith for President, instead of Herbert Hoover, a Republican.  Something there about knowing your actions will cost you support – but acting out of principle regardless of the personal political cost.

Voinovich didn’t read that – or the other profiles.  Or he did, but he knows times have changed and you don’t mess with Texas.  You don’t go too far out on a limb and saw it off.  Maybe he was thinking about Max Cleland, or about how the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth turned John Kerry from a war hero to a war criminal who couldn’t hold a candle to the sometimes-aviator, hard-drinking, coke-snorting, no-show Bush.  Ah, one can understand the position of the man from Ohio. You could get hurt.

Now our friend the Australian headhunter (a management recruiter, not the other kind) in Paris asks – “By the way, is your Bolton guy really as dangerous as I am lead to believe?”

Well, if you get your news from Libération on the left, Le Monde in the middle, and Figaro on what passes for the right in France, you might wonder.



… It takes enormous self-deception to believe that John Bolton is truly qualified—much less the "best man"—for this job. He has long held the United Nations in contempt. He has disparaged the legitimacy of international law (the basis for enforcing U.N. resolutions). As an undersecretary of state in Bush's first term, he repeatedly sought the removal of intelligence analysts who dared to disagree with him. He was such a loose cannon that Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, forbade him to say anything in public without prior approval. A half-dozen officials, most of them Republicans who served in this administration, say that Bolton would make—in the words of Colin Powell's chief of staff—"an abysmal ambassador."

Voinovich said today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured him that Bolton would be firmly supervised in his new job. Voinovich wondered, "Why in the world would you want to send somebody up to the U.N. that has to be supervised?"


But Voinovich wouldn’t stop this one from going to a full-floor vote, where he says he WILL vote no on Bolton, when it doesn’t matter.

Rick, Just Above Sunset’s News Guy in Atlanta, answers our friend in Paris –


Yes, I think Democrats and Republicans both probably agree that Bolton's dangerous, but the question being batted around now is, dangerous to whom, us or the other side? There are those who think his "bad cop" approach just might come in handy.

There's also the question of how much he is a freelancing cowboy versus how much was he just doing the bidding of the president.

As we recently saw in the leaked UK memo [see this last weekend], whatever motivation Bush had back in 2002 for wanting to invade Iraq was apparently not the sort of thing he thought would motivate the American people, and there are suspicions that John Bolton helped Bush scrounge around in search of those other reasons.

Should that be enough to stop his appointment? Some say yes, since he didn't report to the president, he was working for the State Department. (After bad-mouthing North Korea just before a negotiating session, his bosses reportedly began monitoring him more closely in an attempt to keep him on the reservation.) Others say you shouldn't thwart a presidential appointment just because you think the guy is a jerk or that you don't agree with his politics.

But if anyone can find a smoking gun that proves all his "kicking down" was not just his "blunt" management style but was an attempt to "cook" intelligence, this could burn his nomination. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

(I heard just this moment that one Republican senator on the committee says he will vote against Bolton in the full Senate, so things may be looking up.)


That one vote against would be Voinovich, of course.  Things are only looking a little up.

Our Paris friend is too young to remember Nikita Khrushchev at the UN banging his shoe on the desk in protest to folks not paying attention to him - October 11, 1960 - as he was ticked at something or other, and this was just after the U2 incident.  But the current America rightwing conservatives remember, and, although they hated the commies with a cold fury, this is the one thing they liked about the fat guy from Moscow.  As his own daughter said, this was "part of the democratic behavior" Khrushchev had seen in the pre-revolutionary duma where members "used fists to prove they were right."  (See this for background.)

They are buying Bolton sturdy shoes right now.  Expect the same.  It's a matter of reviving an old tradition?

And too, American rightwing conservatives have a long memory - and do hold grudges.  This last week in Europe your might have noted those odd comments from Bush, made in Riga, Latvia, that what was decided at the Yalta conference - how post-war Europe was to be divided amongst the victors - was a great evil.  Bush apologized to the world for it.  It was as bad as Neville Chamberlain selling out the Sudetenland to the Nazis in 1938 and all that.  The idea is that FDR was an evil appeaser - he should have taken General Patton's advice and extended the war four or five more years, moving east against the Russian army and finally taking Moscow, freeing the world for the horrors of communism.  (See this for background – one of hundreds of comments.)  So FDR was not only evil for inventing the Social Security program - destroying Americans' sense of personal responsibility - he was just one more liberal wimp appeasing the bad guys instead of fighting them.  He should have pissed on Stalin's shoes.

Never appease anyone.  Bolton is the man.

It all fits into the new image we are constructing - a mythos or whatever (maybe a marketing thing).  What we are trying to project?  That we don't take crap from anyone, and we don't give a damn what anyone else thinks.  This is the new "brand America" as it were.  Bush's personality (or pathology) become policy.

Oh yeah - there is also this about John Bolton, but it kind of humanizes him –


Corroborated allegations that Mr. Bolton's first wife, Christina Bolton, was forced to engage in group sex have not been refuted by the State Department despite inquires posed by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt concerning the allegations. Mr. Flynt has obtained information from numerous sources that Mr. Bolton participated in paid visits to Plato's Retreat, the popular swingers club that operated in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Oh, no one listens to Larry Flynt anyway.  (James Wolcott has some history and comments in this Plato's Retreat group sex thing here that is worth noting.)

Bolton?  The man passed this particular pass-fail course.  And this was the hard one to pass.  It’s all downhill from here, in so many different ways.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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