BOLTON AND WOLFOWITZ….Yesterday I suggested that President Bush’s appointment of well-known hawks John Bolton as UN ambassador and Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank president were, on a PR level, attempts to prove that he doesn’t take guff from anyone. Anyone who thought he was going to back down and take a more conciliatory tone in his second term had better guess again.

For what it’s worth, Dan Drezner, Matt Yglesias, and several emailers point out an obvious alternate theory: both men are being kicked upstairs. In reality, they’re moving from influential positions within the administration to peripheral positions that most people don’t care about much. Certainly it’s unlikely that the neocon fraternity itself is overjoyed at seeing these guys shunted into institutions that they think are worthless at best and downright harmful to U.S. interests at worst. As Matt puts it, maybe “this is the way a man who doesn’t like admitting to mistakes is admitting that he made mistakes.”

There’s probably something to this, especially in the case of Bolton, who was most likely given the UN position as a bone after being rejected for a high-level State Department position by Condoleezza Rice. Wolfowitz is a little harder to figure, though, especially since it’s been widely reported that Bush canvassed the World Bank board, found widespread opposition to Wolfowitz, and then went ahead and nominated him anyway. It’s hard to read this as anything but a thumb in the eye of the Europeans, even if it’s also true that Bush and Rumsfeld wanted Wolfowitz out of the Defense Department for other (unknown) reasons.

Tea leaves are everywhere these days, but the tea itself remains surprisingly murky, doesn’t it? Still, I thought it was worthwhile to mention this alternate explanation. Stay tuned.

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