Over at TAPPED, guest-poster Dave Meyer takes on Russ Feingold's rationale for dithering over Bolton and concludes:
Without being too dismissive, Feingold's principled position comes off as a bit quaint.
He wants the president to be able to pick his own team both so that he can trust his advisers and so that the people can hold the executive accountable. Fortunately, the first argument hardly applies to Undersecretary Bolton. He's up for UN ambassador, not a cabinet position; his duty is to represent the American people to the world rather than to advise the president. The second argument has been superceded by the reality of the administration's attitude. For five years, the administration has refused to hold anyone in its inner circle accountable for anything but disloyalty.
I'm not sure I can buy this. First, the UN ambassador doesn't really represent America to the rest of the world, s/he represents President Bush's foreign policy prerogatives to an international organization. I mean, would you really say that the world's opinion on Britain rest on the actions of Sir Emyr Jones Parry? Of course not, I'd be stunned if more than 20 people on this blog even knew he'd taken over for Jeremy Greenstock. And did John Negroponte make many headlines in his tenure as UN ambassador? Not unless Bush told him to.
America's representative to the world is George W. Bush. It's a shame, but there it is. His words are the ones in the headlines, his press conferences garner the replays, and his actions make the evening news. So Bolton won't be the symbol, he'll just be a particular messenger. And he won't be out of control. As Dave notes, the only thing Bush punishes in his subordinates is disloyalty. Which means you can be sure that Bolton won't be some sort of maverick ambassador, out to destroy the institution he's a part of. Not, at least, unless that's the plan of his superior.
That's why, and I hesitate to say this before such authorities as Steve Clemons, I'm not sure of the substantive benefits of killing the Bolton nomination. I'm quite enamored with the political upside -- the guy's an extremist whose opinions are way out of touch with America's, and making his beliefs a public issue will force Bush to publicly accept or disavow them. Killing his nomination would add to the Bush's apparent lame duckeyness and feed many a story about how George can't get anything done. So I'm for all of that. But as for Bolton's effect on the UN or our countries foreign policy? I can't imagine it'll be anything but negligible. He'll do what Bush tells him to, nothing more, nothing less. If he strays from the reservation, he'll be permanently off it by sunrise. If we block his ascendance, Bush will nominate a similarly bad guy with a shorter public record, and Democrats can only stop so many nominees.
So while I'm for halting the Bolton nomination in its tracks, I see it as an entirely political fight. As a symbol of Bush's great middle-finger to the world community, Bolton's nomination has already done its public relations damage. As a political football, I think he can do his nominator quite a bit of harm. But as a UN ambassador? He'll wreak only as much havoc as his boss tells him to. That's because the problem, in the end, isn't Bolton. It's Bush.