Friday, April 22, 2005

Democrats miss the point on the Bolton confirmation

Last month I wrote how I thought John Bolton was an inspired choice for the U.N. I think it's high time the United States sent someone there to represent us who wasn't in awe of this dysfunctional mess of agencies and commissions.

I also strongly believe that the president is entitled to have his people representing him and his policies. I think it would be a mistake to send some fawning, liberal internationalist to the U.N. in the wake of the Oil-for-Food scandal and the failure of the Security Council to enforce its own resolutions on Iraq. The U.S. needs to take the lead in reforming the U.N. so that it can live up to the goals and aspirations in its charter.

I definitely think John Bolton sends that message. Senate Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee don't agree however. It is, of course, their right to disagree. It is not, however, their right to deny the president his choice of representative to the U.N. based solely on ideological differences.

The advice and consent power does not give the Senate the power to veto presidential nominations. The framers of the Constitution gave the president sole power to nominate ambassadors, cabinet secretaries and judges.

The Founding Fathers debated long and hard on the role of the Senate in this process and in the end they decided that president should have pre-eminence. As John C. Eastman and Timothy Sandefur of the Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jursprudence put it:

"No one argued that the Senate's participation in the process should include second-guessing the judicial philosophy of the President's nominees or attempting to mold that philosophy itself. Indeed, such a suggestion was routinely rejected as presenting a dangerous violation of the separation of powers, by allowing the Senate to control the President's choices and, ultimately, intrude upon the judiciary itself...[The advice and consent power of the Senate] exists only to prevent the President from selecting a nominee who 'does not possess due qualifications for office.' Essentially, it exists to prevent the President from being swayed by nepotism or mere political opportunism. Assessing a candidate's 'qualifications for office' did not give the Senate grounds for imposing an ideological litmus on the President's nominees, at least where the questioned ideology did not prevent a judge from fulfilling his oath of office."

And yet ideology is what the Bolton confirmation fight is all about. The ideological differences here are simple and stark. One side believes that the U.N. is just one tool in an administration's toolbox and should be used to advance American interests. This view stems from the realization that the U.N. is a body that represents governments - each of which fights to advance their own interests.

The other side believes that the U.N. possesses some legitimate authority and stands above all nations of the world, and that the United States should subordinate its will to the U.N.

But the Democrats know they can't come right out and say that this fight is over differing ideologies, so they desperately fling dubious charges of "anger management problems" at Bolton in the hopes that it will stick. Essentially they are accusing him of being a big, fat meanie.

And while this is all very amusing, it's also totally irrelevant. What's important is how Bolton treats the people with whom he must do business (i.e., the other U.N. ambassadors) and how he articulates and executes the president's policies.

I always find it unfortunate when important people treat underlings poorly (and, by the way, it's far from clear yet that this is the case with Bolton), but if this were to become a disqualifying factor for public service or positions of great responsibility or authority, our pool of applicants would be reduced to kindergarten teachers.

President Bush needs to speak out publicly and forcefully for this nominee and not let this nomination go down to a combination of spineless Republican Senators (Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chaffee, George Voinovich) and desperate Democrats.


greatpix said...

I swore I would not invade your blog again and I heartily apologize for the intrusion.
I guess if you were some dumb, egotistical jerk I could dismiss your thoughts, but you aren’t and I can’t.
I must ask, was Vernon Walters wishy-washy? I think not. The only reason the Russians couldn’t grab all of East Germany at the end of WWII was because he was the toughest guy at the table.
Was the team of Thomas Pickering and Bob Okun weak sisters? Not on your life. I personally saw Pickering brace Gorbachev outside the Security Council.
Was Jean Kirkpatrick some sloppy liberal? What a thought!
They were all very tough customers. They represented us with dignity and diplomacy, yet never gave an inch. Bolton couldn’t shine their shoes. He’s a wanna’ be tough guy with no class and way too much arrogance.
The last Ambassador who really screwed the monkey works was a guy named George Bush, the same one who said we were going to “defend democracy in Kuwait.”

Alain DeWitt said...


Please stop apologizing for commenting. I heartily encourage comments!

The fact that others have been good U.N. ambassadors doesn't mean that Bolton won't be. Oftentimes, people that don't seem to be the ideal candidate for a job can surprise you.

The example that comes to mind is Ray Spruance. When Nimitz selected (on Bull Halsey's recommendation) Spruance to take over [the vastly overrated] Halsey's task force on the eve of Midway, his choice shocked many in the naval establishment. Spruance was junior to several other officers (including the Yorktown's skipper, Jack Fletcher). In addition, Spruance wasn't an aviator or a carrier skipper (he had been a cruiser captain), which seemed to argue against his choice. Yet Spruance won the Battle of Midway, the turning point in the war with Japan.

I would challenge you to elaborate on George H.W. Bush's failing as U.N. ambassador.

In naming poor U.N. ambassadors you skipped over Madeleine Albright to get to George H.W. Bush.

As I said in my post, I strongly believe in the president's right to have his choice of personnel to represent him. George Bush is the president. He ought not to be second-guessed by the likes of Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. If they can't demonstrate that Bolton is unqualified they shouldn't nitpick the way they have been doing.

Latly, I would ask you to consider this point: by sending a critic of the U.N. as his ambassador, George Bush is signaling his feeling that in order for the U.N. to assume the importance that others think it already possesses, it needs serious reform.

greatpix said...

Re: Bush as Ambassador…I stated that on personal recollection (not always a good thing to do). I will search for specifics. I do know that he was widely recognized as the “best #2 man in the government” because he did know how to get along with people. He was a conciliator. Everybody liked him. His problems always came when he moved to the #1 spot because his strength was as an implementer, not as a decision maker or innovative thinker. This was a statement I heard made several times from persons within the government.
As to Bolton. My problems with him are twofold: 1). If even half the reports about him are true, he is an unmitigated bully. “Kick down and kiss up” is the classic description of one. 2). He is unjustifiably arrogant. Arrogance never endears a person, even when they have earned the right. They happen to be two of my hot buttons and I really don’t care if even God wants him to be our U.N. Ambassador, I personally don’t. When I was assigned there I met more than a few arrogant Ambassadors (not Americans) and always took great glee in torturing them. I saw a few of them treat their staff like dogs. It was disgusting.
Okay, let’s say none of that counts. Fine, let him be appointed, lets see what kind of a great job he does. By the way, just because the president wants him there, it is not axiomatic that he should be there. If presidents always got what they wanted I would imagine we would have been in a pickle a long time ago.
As to Madeline Albright, my only meaningful remembrance of her was the diplomatic community was not very fond of her and that her personal photographer and I spent a great deal of time trying to convince her to keep her legs together when she was sitting. I lost a lot of good photos because they ended up being “upskirt” pix that I would punch a hole in the neg to make sure they never inadvertently got used.

greatpix said...

Forgot to comment on Ray Spruance.
Yes, he was a junior officer, but he was already recognized as an able administrator. Halsey wanted to run the show. He needed someone who would impliment his (Halsey's) decisions, not challenge them.
Spruance didn't come to the fore as a tactician until he had to make fast command decisions.

Alain DeWitt said...


Excellent comments as usual. To resort to cliche, we'll have to agree to disagree on this question.