The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Monday, April 11, 2005


Charles at Obsidian Wings is Anticipating the John Bolton Confirmation Tempest and has a good round-up of the opening salvos. One thing missing from his analysis, however, is the interaction between the Bolton nomination and the ongoing struggle over judicial confirmations.

How is Mr. Bolton different from a conservative judge nominated to an Appellate Court? The first answer is that he is likely more outspoken; the deeper answer is that his job is that of spokesman (and negotiator). Bolton's perceived anti-UN comments, which have so alienated the Democratic opposition, sound to his supporters like robust and realistic support of the national interest. Anyone can sympathize with the issues at stake, which are made much clearer in Mr. Bolton's world than in the dry balancing of interests which dominates the judicial world.

Democratic Senators from conservative States can get away with a great deal of obstructionism of judicial nominees, even when it would not be popular with their constituents, because it judicial obstruction is a very poor attack issue. A commenter an another Obsidian Wings post, on filibusters, said:
By the way, have you checked out the nominees? They are a districtly strange and abnormal group of weirdos. There is nothing partisan about opposing them.
This kind of countercharge is sufficient to euthanize the debate; by the time one finishes the discussion of whether these judges are or are not "abnormal weirdos", the audience has gone to sleep. Not so with Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Bolton's pithy and sometimes inflammatory attacks on the UN and on America's opponents clearly have the US national interest at heart. To oppose him, one must oppose his rhetoric with nuanced explanations of the necessity of subordinating that interest. There may be some truth to these protestations, but they will not carry sufficient weight to defend those who obstruct Mr. Bolton's nomination.

Put simply, Mr. Bolton is a perfect flypaper candidate. Killing his nomination in committee would provide a perfect weapon against those who opposed him.

[Update 12 May 2005: The Center for Security Policy has released a web video ad attacking Bolton's attackers. Transcript here. Hat tip: Instapundit.]