Whitewashing Bolton

WHITEWASHING BOLTON….Matt Yglesias links today to Bill Kristol’s recent piece on John Bolton in the Weekly Standard. Here is how Kristol summarizes liberal opposition to Bolton’s nomination as ambassador to the UN:

Bolton disagreed with ? he even disliked! ? a couple of bureaucrats. He challenged them. But no one has really accused Bolton of doing anything fundamentally inappropriate….For future government jobs, perhaps the Democrats should add to the job description: Only girlie men need apply.

I’ve seen a lot of this lately from conservatives, and it’s one of the reasons I’m leery of liberal opponents focusing too heavily on Bolton’s bad temper. Kristol is obviously writing in bad faith here ? he knows perfectly well what the substantive charges against Bolton are ? but the fact that he can plausibly write this stuff is bad news for us.

For the record, here’s what Kristol didn’t bother addressing:

  • Bolton is not a guy who wants to reform the UN. He’s a guy who fundamentally doesn’t believe in the UN’s mission.

  • He has a history of misusing intelligence information, and lashes out at anyone who insists that he characterize intelligence data accurately. He’s done this at least twice, over both Cuba and Iraq.

  • Colin Powell, his boss during George Bush’s first term, is apparently unable to recommend him for the UN job.

  • There are credible charges that he hid information from his superiors.

  • He made numerous requests to the NSA to disclose the names of American citizens in NSA intercepts. He has not explained why he needed to see these names, and it seems likely that he wanted them for purposes of bureaucratic retaliation, not national security.

Bolton’s temperament is a legitimate issue, but it’s not the primary issue. The fact that he misuses intelligence and then engages in all-out bureaucratic jihad against anyone who blows the whistle on him is the primary issue. This is not the kind of person you want as America’s ambassador to the world.