Bolton in, compromise out

By The Crimson White

(U-WIRE) TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – With Congress heading for the hills Monday, President Bush took the time-honored tradition of making a recess appointment to fill a vacant position. In this case, he installed John Bolton as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., labeled Bolton, whose nomination stalled weeks ago, as “damaged goods” after his appointment. He might be, but it’s not the recess appointment that damages his authority. After the reports of his misconduct, his “kiss up, kick down” management style and his public statements portraying his dislike of the United Nations, Bolton needed no help from Bush to malign his already mangled profile.

While the nomination technically became hamstrung over the White House’s refusal to turn over obscure documents, it was clear that many senators did not want Bolton as our next United Nations ambassador. It’s not fair to characterize the opposition as bipartisan, but the most prominent Republican to come out against Bolton, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, is a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee and no hack by any stretch of the word.

A filibuster spearheaded by Senate Democrats stopped Bolton’s nomination. While some have decried the use of filibusters as non-democratic, it represents the deliberative process that lies at the heart of our republic. The cheeky and over-used “up-or-down vote” phrase has received more than enough play with many failing to realize that cloture, the vote used to end a filibuster, is a vote too.

Politics prevented Bush from withdrawing Bolton’s name. If Bush did withdraw his nominee, he would be viewed as a weak president, something the second-term Bush does not need. When the recess appointment is viewed in terms of politics with the upcoming Roberts confirmation in mind, this clearly doesn’t help Bush with Senate moderates.

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    With the general public, however, this won’t be a problem unless Bolton really mucks something up at the United Nations. Most of the public either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the United Nations does; its salience is non-existent. If Bolton does something stupid, however, it could mean a lot of bad press for the Bush administration. Therefore, there are not a lot of pluses but quite a few potential political minuses.

    There is a pragmatic side to the appointment as well. With the United Nations convening now, there’s nothing but an empty seat to speak for the interests of the U.S. We needed someone there — but that seat has been open since January. Why the rush to fill it now? After all, Congress will be back in session relatively soon after their summer break. Why couldn’t we wait a few more months?

    As of now, Bolton is our U.N. ambassador until the next session of Congress is seated, which will be January 2007.

    Will he keep his post? Midterm elections take place next fall, and the GOP, if recent polls hold true, might take a beating — perhaps not enough to lose control of Congress but enough to send a message to the Republican Party. Bolton will still have those same questions about his demeanor and temper, and senators will still press for answers. With a 17-month tenure to examine, his uphill battle to convince skeptics will not get any easier. His job security depends on his performance — as it should.

    When Bush was forced to make a recess appointment, he could have chosen a seasoned and respectable diplomat, which he didn’t. There were several opportunities during the course of these events to go with someone or something more suitable to everyone, but none of them panned out. We’re stuck with Bolton.

    Now we have to make the best of it. We have to hope that he will serve the U.S. with dignity and respect for his co-workers. We have to hope he will be able to make some sort of progress with many that are already predisposed to disliking him.

    No compromise. No surrender. No likeability. Meet U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.

    Staff Editorial

    The Crimson White (U. Alabama)