BOLTON BLOGGING….I’ve been trying since yesterday to figure out what I think of the whole John Bolton affair. I haven’t blogged about it much because, frankly, ambassador to the UN isn’t that important a position these days. What’s more, in this case it was clearly a consolation prize to mollify Bolton for not getting the deputy secretary of state job he wanted in the first place.
However, one thing that occurs to me after yesterday’s dramatic events is that I’m getting increasingly uneasy about the focus on Bolton’s “abuse” of subordinates. Don’t get me wrong: the guy sounds like a prime grade asshole, and it might do a world of good to send a message to ambitious DC bureaucrats to rein in that kind of behavior. On the other hand, let’s be honest here: if everyone who abused subordinates were blackballed from senior positions in Washington, the city would be a ghost town. I’m a little fearful that this line of attack could end up accomplishing little except elevating the politics of personal destruction ? on both sides ? to ever pettier and more vicious levels.
What should be getting most of the attention ? aside from the folly of appointing someone as UN ambassador who fundamentally doesn’t believe in either the UN or international law ? is not abuse per se, but the reasons for Bolton’s abusive episodes: his venom appears to have been directed primarily at anyone who presented intelligence information he didn’t care for (details here). He appears (at a minimum) to have done this both over WMD in Iraq and biological weapons in Cuba. As Suzanne Nossel says, “Virtually everything…negative I have heard about Bolton goes directly to his fitness for the job”:
All the other arguments against Bolton, including my 10 Reasons Bolton Should Not Be Confirmed, Bolton’s indifference to genocide, his lack of respect for independent intelligence and dissenting views, his insubordination, his alleged abusiveness toward junior staffers, and his alleged lack of decorum and willingness to smear others (what am I missing . . .) all go directly to his ability to effectively represent the U.S. at the UN. The job of Ambassador is not one of ideologue, it is one of diplomat, policy shaper and manager (of the 100+ person U.S. Mission). All the charges are germane to one or more of these key roles.
So: he doesn’t believe in the UN’s mission, he doesn’t believe in international law, he has a history of deliberately misrepresenting intelligence information that doesn’t fit his agenda, and he would have no credibility with his peers. That’s why he’s egregiously unqualified for the job.
Oh, and he’s a real jerk too. But that’s just icing on the tabloid cake. It’s the other stuff that disqualifies him.
POSTSCRIPT: On a related note, is it time to start a pool on what happens to his nomination? Now that George Voinovich has provided cover by suggesting he’s likely to vote against Bolton, will Chaffee and Hagel switch too? Will someone pay a visit to Dick Cheney and persuade him that it’s time to cut Bolton loose? How much longer will it be until Bolton decides that he needs to withdraw his nomination in order to “let the president get back to the business of running the country”?
UPDATE: In comments, Mark Garrity has a pretty amusing rundown of the yesterday’s hearings.