Politics & Policy

Diplomat to The Turtle Bay Gates

John Bolton is going to the United Nations. Just as he would have if Democrats had allowed him an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. The circumstances of his recess appointment may not be those the Founders envisioned, as some legal scholars have claimed. But they are in keeping with modern practice, including the practice of the Clinton administration. It is an appropriate response to a Democratic filibuster that has been serially justified on the flimsiest of grounds.

The latest has to do with a mistake that Bolton made filling out a Senate questionnaire. He erroneously said that he had not been interviewed in any investigation over the last five years. But he had been questioned by the State Department inspector general in an inquiry into how the infamous 16 words about Saddam and Niger got into Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. Since Bolton didn’t have anything to do with the 16 words and this investigation didn’t involve his conduct, he had forgotten about it. He had no motive to lie, and no one has even suggested what would have been a plausible one.

At bottom, the Democratic objection to Bolton is that he is a Bush loyalist who will be a vigorous advocate of the president’s foreign policy at the U.N. The caterwauling about how damaged Bolton will be at Turtle Bay by his recess appointment is a bit rich given there was always an easy way for Democrats to prevent any such damage–giving his nomination an up-or-down vote. In any case, Bolton won’t be hurt, and might even be helped. His recess appointment sends the message that Bush is utterly committed to him, as did the president’s unambiguous endorsement Monday morning. That will be the key to Bolton’s influence.

The arrival in New York of Ambassador Bolton is another piece in the creation of a second-term State Department team that believes in Bush’s agenda and will advocate it, instead of fighting it. Colin Powell and co. did the latter, and it is no coincidence that they fought Bolton’s nomination with an underhanded campaign of leaks. Anyone interested in seeing diplomacy be a more important tool in the Bush arsenal–as Joe Biden and other Democrats claim–should welcome his arrival at the U.N.

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