Conflict Over Bolton is Really Conflict of Ideologies
On Thursday evening, the Senate was unable to secure enough votes to stop debate on John Bolton’s nomination as U.N. ambassador. Of course we all know what this means. There’s another filibuster on.
Actually, Democrats claim they aren’t filibustering, they just want the White House to release several secret documents that may or may not demonstrate improprieties by Bolton during his tenure at the State Department. (Charging RINO has been on this story better than anyone and his most recent comments can be read here and here.)
Bolton’s nomination has become quite the political tug-of-war, as both sides try to make an ideological statement via this rather average career diplomat (who, by all accounts, is not very diplomatic). What this comes down to is do we want a confrontational relationship with the U.N. or do we want a conciliatory relationship? All the other talk about improprieties and bullying are side issues that skirt the real ideological conflict this nomination represents.
Indeed, Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), has argued that it’s Bolton’s confrontational take on diplomacy, much more so than the man’s personality or past deeds, that make him a bad choice. Which is why unless these secret documents reveal a horribly improper behavior, they won’t matter. The Democrats and Voinovich won’t win this unless they convince enough Republicans that Bolton’s confrontational attitudes are wrong for the U.N.
But the problem is that President Bush chose Bolton explicitly because he shares and would represent Bush’s own confrontational views. To reject Bolton is to, in reality, reject the Bush administration’s strategy of dealing with the UN. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where six Republicans would so clearly reject Bush’s policy preference. Even though many Senators might agree that Bolton is not the perfect candidate, he does represent Bush’s worldview and would be a fair, if overly harsh, representative of current U.S. policy.
In the end, the Bolton nomination is a face-off between those wanting a conciliatory foreign policy and those wanting a confrontational foreign policy. Baring any stunning revelations about Bolton’s past and assuming the Democrats are serious about not filibustering, the Senate will almost certainly confirm Bush’s appointee and, in doing so, his policy. If they don’t, Bush might as well dredge a lake for himself in Crawford, because he’ll be a total lame duck.