Just Above Sunset
August 7, 2005 - Bolton In and Roberts in the Wings













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John Bolton has been discussed often in these pages, most extensively in My Favorite Diplomat, and his Shadow from March 13, 2005 - the Sunday after he was nominated to be our next ambassador to the United Nations.

Monday, August 1, he finally made it.

Reuters' summary:

Controversy persists as Bolton heads for U.N.
Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent, Monday, August 1, 2005; 11:12 AM

 

Once dubbed the State Department's "most dangerous man," U.S. ambassador John Bolton will bring an aggressive, sometimes-abrasive style to the United Nations that appears at odds with President Bush's new focus on cooperation and diplomacy.

Bush bypassed the Senate and appointed Bolton to the U.N. post on Monday, after the nomination was stalled by Democratic opposition. Under the so-called "recess appointment," Bolton will be able to serve until January 2007.

Bolton has a long history of criticizing the United Nations, has sometimes doubted that European and Asian allies could be counted on to back U.S. positions and has often spoken out so bluntly he was considered political dynamite.

But he is a favorite of conservatives who value his committed hard-line ideology, incisive legal mind and the single-minded passion with which he seeks to turn those views into U.S. policy, often with great effect.

 

One of the details -

 

… Bolton, a 56-year-old lawyer, is an unapologetic advocate of assertive American global leadership. Some analysts said appointing him U.N. envoy may be the best way to ensure that U.N. reform takes place and is credible to U.S. conservatives.

Critics accuse him of provoking confrontations over Iran and North Korea. With Rice now heading State and Bolton replaced as nonproliferation adviser, the administration has shifted from some of his harder positions by endorsing European negotiations with Iran, showing flexibility in talks with Pyongyang and agreeing to broad nuclear cooperation with India.

 

And this –

 

… Apart from policy contributions, Bolton helped ensure Bush's first presidential victory. He was on the team former Secretary of State James Baker took to Florida in 2000 to represent the Bush campaign in a disputed vote count ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, once called Bolton "the man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon" and another admirer described him in the Wall Street Journal as "the most dangerous man at State."

During Bolton's unsuccessful Senate confirmation fight, one former U.S. official who had tangled with him described him as a "quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy."

 

And this –

 

… Attempting to defuse opposition, Rice has extolled Bolton's previous service as the assistant secretary of state who dealt with the United Nations and his successful 1991 campaign to persuade the international body to repeal a resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

But Bolton also led the U.S. withdrawal from International Criminal Court jurisdiction and encouraged U.S. opposition to Europe's decision to lift its arms embargo on China, two initiatives that fanned tensions with allies.

 

Well, it's done.  And much has been said, here and all over, so no more need be added.

Reactions?

 

Ian Williams at SALON.COM with this:

 

Bully for you: With Capitol Hill freshly vacated, Bush installed U.N.-hating John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N. If Democrats really were partisan hacks, they'd rejoice that the president chose this incompetent ideologue to sell his foreign policies.

This week is the 60th anniversary of the Enola Gay dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, so perhaps it is entirely appropriate that George W. Bush has gone for the nuclear option and dropped John Bolton on the United Nations in New York. Bolton's diplomatic talents are such that he could start a shouting match in a Trappist monastery. He should make things at the U.N. go with a bang. …

 

But conservative Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs giggles, "Those popping sounds you hear are the exploding heads of lefty bloggers."

 

Really?  Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos shrugs - "Bush thinks he's flashing the middle finger at Democrats, but in reality he's setting back his own cause for reform at the United Nations. … But this administration has done nothing but give F.U.s to the world community for five years running. This is simply par for the course."

And there's the usual sarcasm like this - "At a time when America itself and this administration especially have a serious credibility gap and reputation for bullying in the world, it's good to know that the Bush administration is addressing that by sending a man who has a credibility gap and reputation for bullying to the U.N. as our top diplomat."

Yeah, well, whatever.

How is this seen abroad? There is much on the net that you can easily find, but in the little world of
Just Above Sunset there is this from a friend in Brussels - an Australian woman who has worked in Paris for decades and has never visited America (odd the good friends one makes long-distance) –

 

So Bolton has been appointed by Bush - who shows once again how in America of all places, one does not need to partake in a little democratic debate as one is too ignorant for such niceties.

Bolton and Bush hate the UN - so why the hell did he do this? It will hopefully backfire for Bush and his cronies as he will only alienate the rest of the world further before Bolton even begins to speak his undiplomatic twaddle.

This is yet more crap coming from a country on its way to demise and sad and shameful oblivion.

- from Brussels (Yes - the other place which Bush should steer clear of.)

 

Yeah, well, it's the neocons' wet dream - Bolton will go up to Manhattan, storm in and call everyone he sees a fool, liar and cheat, and tell them their whole organization is bullshit.  Maybe he'll punch someone - probably some woman ambassador from some country of medium-brown folks.  Americans - so put upon and misunderstood (we're really nice folks) - will cheer.  Given the results of the 2004 elections, this is precisely what slightly more than half the country wants.  For all the reformist rhetoric, the objective is clear - destroy this organization, because they hate us.  Destroying the Social Security system isn't working out.  Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy with a Wal-Mart in every town, and a Starbucks on every corner, isn't working out.  This may.

But it's done.  We shall see how this plays out.

 

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What about the other nomination - John Roberts for the open Supreme Court position?

Monday, August 1, Christopher Hitchens has some really interesting things to say about that.

Hitchens is odd, and I will admit that when I came across this I was sure it was Hitchens –

 

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

 

But it was John Hinderaker over at Powerline.  Well, sometimes it is hard to tell, given Hitchens' writing on the war we have going - or now this "struggle," as they seem to have renamed it.

But as much as Hitchens has hitched his star to the idea of a good war against really bad people, in spite of mounting evidence that this particular ground and air war may have been the wrong action at the wrong time for the wrong reasons, and may be leading us to disaster - he does get himself worked up about religion.  He is on the far side of skeptical on such matters.

And the nomination of John Roberts does bother him.

Catholic Justice
Quit tiptoeing around John Roberts' faith.
Christopher Hitchens, SLATE.COM, Posted Monday, August 1, 2005, at 1:27 PM PT

Here's what bothers him:

 

Everybody seems to have agreed to tiptoe around the report that Judge John G. Roberts said he would recuse himself in a case where the law required a ruling that the Catholic Church might consider immoral. According to Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, the judge gave this answer in a private meeting with Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who is the Senate minority whip. Durbin told Turley that when asked the question, Roberts looked taken aback and paused for a long time before giving his reply.

 

Yes, that is curious. Roberts would step aside - recuse himself - in any case involving matters the Church takes seriously - death penalty cases, abortion cases, church and state matters like the display of the Ten Commandments and the Pledge of Allegiance stuff?

 

Surely, he didn't mean that.  That would make him pretty useless.

But the evidence is that he actually did say that.

Was he trying to play it safe?  If so, bad move.  Hitchens:

 

If Roberts had simply said that the law and the Constitution would control in all cases (the only possible answer), then there would have been no smoke. If he had said that the Vatican would decide, there would have been a great deal of smoke. But who could have invented the long pause and the evasive answer? I think there is a gleam of fire here. At the very least, Roberts should be asked the same question again, under oath, at his confirmation.

 

Will someone ask, or will the Senate play nice?

Hitchens, who had previous excoriated the pope (see Papal Power: What no one else will say about John Paul II from late March), says you have to treat Catholics as a special case.

 

Why?

 

The Roman Catholic Church claims the right to legislate on morals for all its members and to excommunicate them if they don't conform. The church is also a foreign state, which has diplomatic relations with Washington. In the very recent past, this church and this state gave asylum to Cardinal Bernard Law, who should have been indicted for his role in the systematic rape and torture of thousands of American children. (Not that child abuse is condemned in the Ten Commandments, any more than slavery or genocide or rape.) More recently still, the newly installed Pope Benedict XVI (who will always be Ratzinger to me) has ruled that Catholic politicians who endorse the right to abortion should be denied the sacraments: no light matter for believers of the sincerity that Judge Roberts and his wife are said to exhibit. And just last month, one of Ratzinger's closest allies, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna, wrote an essay in which he announced that evolution was "ideology, not science."

Thus, quite apart from the scandalous obstruction of American justice in which the church took part in the matter of Cardinal Law, we have increasingly firm papal dogmas on two issues that are bound to come before the court: abortion and the teaching of Darwin in schools. So, please do not accuse me of suggesting a "dual loyalty" among American Catholics. It is their own church, and its conduct and its teachings, that raise this question.

 

So it's not anti-Catholic discrimination to ask the question.  It's logical.
Hitchens also points out Roberts would make the fourth Catholic on the court, joining Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas.

A big deal?

Consider this: (my emphases)

 

Another smart conservative friend invites me to take comfort from Justice Scalia's statement that a believer who finds his conscience in conflict with the law should forthwith resign from the bench. I wish I found this more comforting than it actually is. In the first place, Scalia's remarks had to do with a possible reluctance, on the part of a Catholic, to impose the death penalty. The church's teaching on this is not absolute and is not enforced by the threat of excommunication, though it's nice to know that Scalia regards weakness about executions as a "litmus." In the second place, it is not at all clear that Scalia admits the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution in the first place. In oral argument in March this year, on cases dealing with religious displays on public property (Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky), he described the display of the Ten Commandments as "a symbol of the fact that government comes - derives its authority from God. And that is, it seems to me, an appropriate symbol to be on State grounds." At another point, he opined that "the moral order is ordained by God. … And to say that that's the basis for the Declaration of Independence and our institutions is entirely realistic." Display of the Ten Commandments, he went on to write, affirms that "the principle of laws being ordained by God is the foundation of the laws of this state and the foundation of our legal system."

To the extent that this gibberish can be decoded at all, it is in flat contradiction to the Declaration of Independence, which is unique precisely because it locates the just powers of government in the consent of the governed, and with the Constitution, which deliberately does not mention God at any point. The Constitution was carefully drafted and designed to guard against majoritarianism, another consideration ignored by Scalia when he opines that "the minority has to be tolerant of the majority's ability to express its belief that government comes from God." (Sandra Day O'Connor, in her last written opinion, phrased it much better when she said, "We do not count heads when deciding to uphold the First Amendment.") Speaking to the Knights of Columbus in Baton Rouge, La., in January, Scalia implored them to "have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world." Whether for "Christ" or not, Scalia is certainly a fool. He should have fewer allies and emulators on the court, not more. And perhaps secular America could one day have just one representative on that august body. Or would that be heresy?

 

Yep, it would be heresy.  And, since the last election, our evangelical, Christian Republican Party (the party of the kick-ass and take-names avenging Jesus, bringer of death to the bad guys) has appropriated the Catholic Church as its ally – and the Holy See in Rome loves the role.  These folks control the Senate.  Roberts is in.  If he does the Church's work he does the work of the evangelical right.  Recusal isn't necessary.  It's a moot point.

Hitchens doesn't like the idea.  But then his latest book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.  You might have caught him last week on the PBS "Charlie Rose Show" saying how proud he was to be a naturalized American citizen and how much he admired Jefferson.

Poor guy.  Welcome to the fun house.































 
 
 
 

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