Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bypassing democracy: Bolton's recess appointment to the U.N.

I haven't written about Bolton for some time, but thankfully the good people at The Washington Note have, and they've done their work with passion and care. Check them out. Also, Joe's done a fantastic round-up and analysis over at The Moderate Voice, all while on the road. Read what he's got, then follow the links according to your interests. Otherwise, the latest Times article is here.

I vehemently opposed Bolton's appointment, and I was unsure whether Bush would go so far as to appoint him during the Senate recess. But he has, and here we are. What more is there to say? Well, Joe's right on this:

  • The bottom line: it is NOT an illegal move.
  • The other bottom line: Bolton doesn't go to the United Nations as someone who enjoys widespread support in the Senate. Nor in opinion polls. Nor, if you believe the testimony, among many people who worked with him. The United States has never had a UN Ambassador who has had so little solid political backing.
And I generally subscribe to his "take" (which, as a TMV co-blogger, I'm happy to call my own, sort of):

  1. You can't accurately call this an abuse of power because it is perfectly legal.
  2. Bolton won't be going with much credibility, beyond the administration and GOP partisans.
  3. The media is going to watch him like a hawk. If he slips they will be all over him and Bush may regret this appointment. Remember that Bolton has virtually zilch Democratic support and is not beloved even among some Republicans.
  4. It won't impact John Roberts' Supreme Court hearings if nothing new surfaces about Roberts. But if some new negative material comes out the Bolton appointment may play a role in pressing it (pay back).
  5. It again underscores the in-your-face nature of this administration, which many Americans find attractive. Bush wanted him so he put him in — the hell with Senate confirmation (and remember again recess appointments are perfectly legal).
  6. It's a sad commentary on how this President apparently views his own party and how many GOPers view it. You can't tell yours truly that the Republican party, with its millions of members who are diplomats, jurists, lawyers, etc., could not produce someone ELSE to go to the UN who would be as or more qualified than John Bolton.

The key here might be #3. Bolton will be under a microscope. And is that really what Bush wants? Is that how he intends to reform the U.N.? Surely not -- but now he, like us, is stuck with the man he stood by so stubbornly throughout this long, drawn-out confirmation process.

No, recess appointments aren't illegal, and there is something to be said for presidential prerogative, but it's unfortunate that Bolton's appointment to an institution with which the U.S. already has a rather strained relationship required the circumvention of what, at last check, was still a co-equal branch of government. Whatever havoc Bolton wreaks at the U.N. -- and I doubt he'll now be in much of a position to do anything truly revolutionary -- the real victim here is American democracy.

But, alas, what's done is done, and as Marc Schneider put it here at The Reaction several weeks ago (see first link, below): "While I think Bolton is an egregious choice, I think Bush should have a lot of leeway in selecting his foreign policy team. True, the Senate has a role in advising and consenting, but the president is the primary player in foreign policy and I think, absent some grave moral failing -- which I don't think Bolton presents -- Bush should be given enough rope to hang himself."

Fair enough. Let's all pay close attention to how Bolton conducts himself in his new job. He's Bush's man, and it's Bush who bears the responsibility for his appointment.

(My last two posts on Bolton, with links back to all the previous ones, are here and here.)

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