Thursday, August 31, 2006
Hoping to catch returning Senators still shaking the sand out of their shoes, the White House is planning to run John Bolton back up the Senate Foreign Relations Committee flagpole a week from Friday, seeking a recommendation for his confirmation as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
That's right, Backdoor Bolton's recess appointment has run its course, and Bush is hoping that this time around the Senate will give his favorite bull in the international china shop a thumbs up.
The thinking apparently being: you rejected him the first time, I shoved him through anyway, he's then done everything in his power to confirm your worst reservations about him... so, what do you say, shall we make it official? Bush logic at its most robust.
As feared, Bolton has turned out to be the living, breathing, scowling embodiment of the Bush administration's bankrupt cowboy-style "diplomacy."
As Chris Dodd summed it up at Bolton's latest confirmation hearing last month: "When the score is tallied on the effectiveness of Mr. Bolton at the United Nations, I think he receives a failing grade... Mr. Bolton has largely burned his bridges with his colleagues in New York and isn't likely to be an effective diplomat when diplomacy is increasingly becoming the coin of the realm in protecting and advancing U.S. interests at this very unstable moment in our history."
And no failure has been greater during Bolton's time at the UN than his utter lack of interest in the defining foreign policy of the Bush administration. When it comes to the war in Iraq, Bolton has been AWOL. "John Bolton hasn't done anything on Iraq," a UN diplomat told me. "This is no exaggeration. Iraq is not on his radar screen. He doesn't have a single person dedicated just to Iraq."
So with such a miserable scorecard, taking a stand against Bolton's reconfirmation should be a no-brainer for Senate Democrats, right? Not so fast. That would require the minority party to have a coherent plan of action.
The White House is working feverishly behind the scenes to convince as many Democrats as it can to not filibuster the nomination. Unless there is a highly unlikely revolt by anti-Bolton Republicans, a filibuster like the one Democrats successfully mounted last time around is the only way they will be able to block the confirmation.
But I'm hearing that a number of prominent Democrats -- including Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein, Ben Nelson, Hillary Clinton, and, of course, Joe Lieberman -- are leaning against filibustering Bolton. The idea is that they will vote against the nomination but commit to not filibustering, thus allowing the nomination to come up for a vote -- making Bolton's confirmation highly likely.
This would be particularly disappointing in the case of Hillary. Her stellar actions last week -- agreeing to throw a fundraiser for Ned Lamont and campaign with him, as well as loaning him a top campaign advisor -- show that when she goes in a certain direction, others often follow. So to have her, so fast on the heels of doing the right thing in Connecticut, pull a Lieberman and play both sides of the Bolton vote against the middle would be a shame.
One reason so many Democrats are waffling on Bolton is their reluctance to be seen as opposing someone whose unwavering support of Israel was captured by Dan Gillerman, Israel's U.N. envoy, when he said, "If John Bolton was to be confirmed by the Israeli Knesset, he would get all 120 votes." So Democrats see voting against Bolton but refusing to filibuster him as a win-win position.
But it's only a win-win if you turn a blind eye to the fact that Bolton's arrogant, smug, undiplomatic approach at the UN has made everyone in this country less safe.
Democrats looking for a clear message on national security cannot afford to miss this opportunity to block the nomination of a man who personifies the failed Bush foreign policy. After all, it shouldn't be beyond our capacity to have a UN ambassador who is both pro-Israel and capable of fostering good relations with the rest of our allies while keeping Iraq on his front burner.
Democrats need to wake up, shake off the summer doldrums, and begin the stretch run to November next Friday by making it clear they'll do everything in their power to stop Bolton from returning to the UN.