Monday, August 1, 2005

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That's ambassador Bolton to you

President Bush made the first-ever recess appointment of a UN Ambassador and named John Bolton today. Essentially, this means that Bolton will serve until January 2007.

The myriad political responses to the decision include a lot of apoplexy from Democrats. Ted Kennedy said:

The abuse of power and the cloak of secrecy from the White House continues. ... It's a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton's credibility at the U.N.

I am shocked to report that Lincoln Chafee -- never thought of as the sharpest tool in the shed -- had the most sagacious comment: "We filibustered the nomineee. We exercised our perogative under the law. He [Bush] exercised his perogative under the law."

Over at Steve Clemons' Washington Note -- and Steve has been leading the blog war against Bolton -- Charles Brown recaps the winners and losers from the Democrat perspective. Ed Kilgore at TPM Cafe is pretty teed off as well.

On the right, Paul Mirengoff thinks this was the right call, though even he's depressed about the long run implications:

We may be moving towards a system in which presidential appointees who have 60 votes will be confirmed and those who can't obtain that many will serve temporarily. That's not a good system, but it's where the Senators Schumer, Dodd, Leahy, Kennedy, etc. seem to be taking us.

My views on Bolton remain unchanged -- from the Bush administration's perspective, this is an unwanted man being sent to an unwanted institution. Given the administration's attitude, it's not clear to me whether anyone else would have been more effective.

posted by Dan on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM


Given the administration's attitude, it's not clear to me whether anyone else would have been more effective.

More effective, in what regard? A more effective nominee or a more effective UN Ambassador?

I agree with the opinion that Bolton's potential effectiveness as Ambassador had already been negated before his appointment. This seems to have less to do with the Bush Admin's UN reform expectations, and more to do with.. well, something else.

Maybe more cover for Rove?

posted by: wishIwuz2 on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Since when is a procedure allowing a filibuster a law? Laws require passage in both houses of Congress and signature (or over-ridden veto) of the President.

Since the filibuster is only a procedure in the Senate, it is NOT a law.

posted by: Whitehall on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

I deprecate the use of recess appointments as tools for resolving difficult nomination battles. Originally a concession to the 18th century reality that Congress could be in recess for months at a time, recess appointments are on the way to being a preferred means for a President to bypass the need for Congressional confirmation.

Bolton, though he would not have been my choice for the UN job, was someone I would have gone along with. An administration that lets its UN ambassador much up its foreign policy has a problem in Washington, not New York, and many of Bolton's most ardent critics disliked him most because they didn't think him "pro-UN" enough, a perspective I don't share. The nomination having run into more than the usual trouble, however, should have been dropped. There is no shortage of conservatives with a foreign policy background who could have served adequately in as UN ambassador for the balance of Bush's term.

The amount of effort put into promoting Bolton was out of all proportion to his likely contribution at the UN, and certain was not consistent with his being "an unwanted man." At the State Department he may have been that, but in the White House he was a handy excuse to flip the bird at the Democrats. This is most likely one reason he was nominated in the first place.

One last point, that I've made in the past with reference to Colin Powell -- good-soldierism can be overdone. Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Lugar overdid it in this case. Granted that Bolton's opponents did not extend him much consideration. But the administration did not either, and certainly has not with this recess appointment, since it is Lugar's committee that is getting bypassed. He should have blocked Bolton's nomination once it was clear he didn't have unanimous support among Foreign Relations Committee Republicans. I'm not surprised he didn't; Lugar though an excellent Senator has elbows that have always been short and not especially sharp, the major reason he lost out in the race to succeed Howard Baker as Majority Leader twenty years ago. In this case he was a good soldier right down to the end for George Bush, and like most people talked into playing that role ended up humiliated.

posted by: Zathras on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

I wonder how involved Bolton is on the Plame affair.

Has a UN Ambassador ever been indicted before by a
federal special prosecutor?

Bolton did lie about being interviewed by State on
the Plame case.

This is going to be interesting.

But at least we have no more pretending about honor
in the White House; or the UN. Lol.

Bush might have put himself in political danger.

posted by: James on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Daniel, I understand that you disagree with Bush's policy and attitude toward the UN, but I think you should at least try to describe it accurately. "Unwanted man in an unwanted institution" is glib and misleading. Bush clearly wants the UN to be more effective in maintaining peace and responding to humanitarian crises. He (rightly or wrongly) believes Bolton is the right man to help make that happen.

posted by: Larry on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

again seeming to demonstrate Dems inability to think or effectively employ long term strategy: Bolton is most likely to be a disaster at the UN [I'm sure the French love this appointment - an angry demagogue sent into the the breach to rattle the natives is ripe for a flanking move]; tactic for dems should have been artfully resist but allow enough rope for Bush to hang self; waxing all indignant is meaningless at best, misguided at worst.

posted by: saintsimon on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Teddy is just a disgrace and a walking demagogue at this point. Everything Bush does is somehow insipid and unprecidented. Clinton used recess appointments _140 times_. Deal with it.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

If the U.N. is truly an unwanted institution, why "rush" an appointment through after only five months? Why not leave the seat vacant for a year or two or three? This could be an issue for the 2006 and 2008 elections: Should the U.S. actually have an ambassador to the U.N.? Charles Brown says the months without a U.N. ambassador have been an unmitigated success for "a constructive, pro-engagement foreign policy." Danforth resigned in January. Coincidence?

posted by: PD Shaw on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

As far as the ultimate outcome, this might be a good thing. The senate has a quasi-tradition of frowning on recess appointments when they are brought back for confirmation the next year. Bolton is going to have a short run unless he does some very good things in a short amount of time. If he is the disaster his critics say he will be, he wont be around long enough to do much damage.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

From a Democrat standpoint, this is good news. This gives a very public platform to the court's buffoon. I can't believe that Bush will come out looking good out of this.

posted by: Chris on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Mark, I think the point isn't that Clinton never used recess appointments. I know you know this, and are deliberately missing it. The point is that:
- Apparently there has never been a recess appointment of a UN ambassador, and
- The only reason the Bush administration couldn't get him appointed through the normal channels was because they refused to release the documents that everyone was entitled to see.

posted by: Stu on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Recess appointments should be abolished. They may have served some purpose in the 18th century when (as noted above) Congress was only in session for a small portion of the year. In today's political environment, however, they are merely a ruse to circumvent the "advice and consent" provisions of the Constitution. It's time to get rid of this archaic loophole.

posted by: Firebug on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

If Congress and more specifically the Senate doesn't want to vote on someone, then that's them abdicating their responsibility and not the President abdicating his. If the Senate wants to consent, then vote. If they don't, then don't. But it amazes me that people think the consent means somekind of semi-supermajority.

This Senate abdicates its responsibilities all the time now. That's the travesty. Look at the war resolution. Congress declares wars. Not Presidents. Or that's how its supposed to be. What do we get? War resolutions that state that Congress gives their authority to the President. The real problem is we've got a bunch of pussies for Senators.

posted by: Chad on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

The Bush administration was between a rock and a hard place; they had to choose between backing off and replacing Bolton with another nominee, or coughing up the documents that the Senate wanted. Those documents might contain material that is relevant in the Plame investigation, so BushCo Inc. chose their only option, which was to usher Bolton in through the back door. And, the recess appointment has the added benefit of feeding some red meat to the wingnut base, which apparently believes that a loose cannon such as Bolton is what a real man looks like.

posted by: global yokel on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Man, all the whining about the recess appointment, it really amazes me. The hypocrisy of using procedural tricks for your own benefit and then whining when the other party does the same is just staggering.

posted by: DRB on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

'Giving the finger to the Dems' is exactly right; like the overgrown frat boy he is, GWB thinks there is nothing more clever than telling someone he doesn't like to fuck off.

posted by: Noam Sane on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

So the Jackass Party poltroons are whining that Bolton cannot represent the wishes of the Congress. So what! Where in the Constitution does it give a congressional minority the right to conduct America's foreign policy?

posted by: chsw on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]


Exactly what \"procedural tricks\" are you talking about?

posted by: global yokel on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Procedural tricks that deny a nominee a vote, yokel.

What I find amazing isn't that Democrats would whine about this, it's that they knew the President had the ability to make a recess appointment if the Senate didn't take care of business in a reasonable amount of time. Now Bolton will be judged based on his actual performance in the office... by the next Congress, which may have a few less Democratic Senators.

Methinks someone has miscalculated.

posted by: rosignol on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

I read those two links Dan provided -- Kilgore's and Brown's. Boy, Democrats are delusional.

1) They actually think people care about this. What percent of the American public can name the U.N. Ambassador? Of that small fraction, what percent feel strongly about his identity?

2) They have somehow convinced themselves that filibusters are democratic and circumventing them is undemocratic. (The recess appointment may be unwise, but how can it possibly be undemocratic to appoint someone who would have been confirmed if his nomination were allowed to come to a vote?)

posted by: David Nieporent on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

There is a spine in the White House.

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., also thinks Bush will make Bolton his interim appointment, but he doesn't think it's a good idea.

"I suspect he will, but I do think it's a little bit of a thumbing of the nose at the Senate, which will cause you more problems down the road," Lott said. "We are a co-equal branch; he doesn't get to make his choices in a vacuum."

posted by: Carl on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

"- Apparently there has never been a recess appointment of a UN ambassador, and"

There has only been a UN ambassador for the last 50 or so years. The fact that it so happens there has never been a recess appointment is hardly odd. Im sure there has never been a recess appointment for the assistant comptroller of indian affairs, should the bloody banner be raised if Bush appointed one?

-Has a UN ambassador ever been fillabustered when he had the votes to be approved? Is that not an unprecidented abuse of Congressional power?

"- The only reason the Bush administration couldn't get him appointed through the normal channels was because they refused to release the documents that everyone was entitled to see."

Now thats just absurd. They were absolutely _not_ entitled to see them (were that the case they _would be able to see them_, by definition. Why notsubpeona the documents? oh because they have no right to them). Congress has no more right to demand priveleged executive documents than the president has to demand Teddy Kennedys internal memos. There is an important seperation of the powers issue here.

And lets be honest for a minute, the only reason Bush cant get him through normal channels is that the minority opposition party doesnt like him, cant win enough elections to reject him legally, and is using a procedural trick of their own to deny a vote. Documents are a farce and we all know it.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

Global Yokel,

The Democrats used a procedural trick -- the filibuster -- to avoid having an up or down vote on Bolton, for the understandable reason that they would lose an up or down vote. Bush used his own procedural trick -- the recess appointment -- to circumvent the Democrats' procedural trick.

Neither party comes out of this smelling like a rose, but the Democrats' outrage at being hoist by their own petard is amusing in a sad kind of way.

posted by: DRB on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

I suspect Bolton will be an incompetent UN ambassador (certainly his role in the Iraq war should not give us any great confidence in his abilities).

That being said: who really cares except Washington insiders ? The UN Ambassador doesn't decide US policy. Besides, Presidents are traditionally entitled to some deference in chosing their ambassadors. It mnay be odd to pick soemone of such demonstrated incompetence as Bolton, but ultimately, thats the President's choice.

posted by: erg on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

When a man loves a woman, he don't need nothin' else...

Sorry, somebody had to say it.

posted by: Don Mynack on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

>Documents are a farce and we all know it.

I don't. In fact, as a citizen, who is more important
than any civil servant, especially a president and UN
ambassador...I demand ALL documents...You want to
work for me? Tell me everything...otherwise GET LOST.

Civil servants work for me, not the other way around.

Welcome to America...

posted by: James on 08.01.05 at 03:22 PM [permalink]

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