Sunday, June 19, 2005

Is The Bolton Confirmation Worth It?

At the risk of being labelled a heretic, I must confess that I'm not overly concerned with the Bolton nomination. Let me get some basic principles out of the way before I address why I'm unmoved by this particular battle. First, there is a longstanding principle that nominations of this sort should generally go to the President's choice unless there is a compelling reason to deny confirmation. I'm not at all convinced the Democrats have demonstrated such a concern, and indeed, I feel that quite the opposite is the case; clearly, their stalling tactics are political, partisan, and petty.

All the same, I fear that we are wasting valuable weeks squawking over what is, in all actuality, a fairly insignificant post. Of course, I'm also cognizant of, and somewhat sympathetic to, the view that the less Congress gets done the better. Nevertheless, it may be time to do some horsetrading through back channels and see what kind of deal we could cut with Democratic Congressional leaders in exchange for dropping Bolton. Here's why:
  • The post is frankly not that important. What does a U.N. ambassador do, really? I submit the major part of the job is to present publicly the policies decided upon by the administration. After all, the post is often used as an 'honor' to friends of whatever administration currently is in office. Does it really matter THAT much who occupies the post?
  • 'Getting tough with the U.N.' is not as easy as it sounds. What, realistically, would a Bolton appointment do to reform the U.N., other than perhaps sending a message (a message that his mere nomination has already delivered)? Bolton would have no authority over U.N. personnel. A far more productive approach would be to tie U.S. funding to U.N. reform, and indeed, such an effort is underway in the House right now.
  • Bolton may, in fact, be a bad diplomat. This Washington Post article paints a picture of a State Department that is glad to be rid of him; he comes off as an ideologue who was impeding progress in a number of important areas. To be sure, this is one article, no doubt fed by leaks from those who oppose him. Still, it may be that the Democrats are right, in spite of themselves; he just might be the wrong man for the job.
  • We have bigger fights we need to concentrate on. The foundering Social Security reform effort is one; taking back the PR initiative on Iraq is another; judicial nominees also come to mind. Far too much oxygen is being sucked out of the room in a fight that just isn't worth it.
Many would call this a 'sell-out', or 'giving up', or 'going back on principles', or...well, a thousand other things. I don't believe that's the case. I say we get something for nothing, yet again, and see just how much it's worth to the Democrats to put this one away. Sure, they'll crow and celebrate; let 'em. They did the same over the judicial deal, and have since learned to regret it; let's give them another victory, the pyrrhic kind.

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