I wrote here yesterday that despite all Bush’s protestations during his post-election press conference about bipartisanship, his plan to renominate John Bolton to the UN bared his true colors for all to see.
But thank God for a humble and honest man. Sen. Lincoln Chafee is such a one. He’s one of that dying breed of Republican moderates who were essentially run out of the party on a rail through either hostility or gross indifference. Chafee was one of those who lost his seat. Despite whatever sorrow or bitterness he might feel about this, the man, unlike anyone in the Bush Administration, has principles. Besides, as a lame duck he can pretty much now do whatever his conscience tells him to without regard to political fallout or pressure. His conscience is telling him that it’s about time for John Bolton’s political battery to wind down and go kaput:
Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, [announced] that he would deny Republicans on the committee the last vote needed to send Mr. Bolton’s nomination to the full Senate, some administration officials privately acknowledge that Mr. Bolton’s chances of confirmation are “nil,” one State Department official said.
Mr. Chafee, who was defeated for re-election on Tuesday, said: “The American people have spoken out against the president’s agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy. And at this late stage in my term, I’m not going to endorse something the American people have spoken out against.”
Every once in a while you’ll find me saying something nice about a Republican. Hell, I even praised Bush and Condi once or twice when they did something positive regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But praising Chafee is a pleasure. The man deserves an award of conscience for his courage even though he has little to lose at this point. It still took moxie to tell his president and party leadership to shove it.
But those Bushites have other ideas of how they can get around Senate rules and the U.S. constitution:
Mr. Bolton is keen to stay at the helm of the American team at the United Nations, administration officials say, and White House officials, including Mr. Bush’s counsel, Harriet E. Miers, have been looking into whether the president can somehow bypass the Senate and keep him there. Administration officials said Vice President Dick Cheney was backing exploration of such a move.
Mr. Bolton “could be named acting permanent representative or deputy U.N. ambassador or something else that doesn’t require confirmation,” a senior administration official said.
Obviously, doing that will anger Democrats, the official said.
“Anger the Democrats?” Gee, d’ya think? I’d say if they try such a nitwit move the Dems will have Bolton hauled before so many committees he’ll need to move the Permanent UN Mission from New York City to some cubbyhole near the Congress building. Not to mention holding hearings about every subordinate he ever tongue-lashed and every speech in which he cooked the intelligence books. He won’t be spending much time at the UN at any rate.
But here’s one idea that might go over well with Democrats. Appoint him to shine the shoes of all the other UN representatives. That will teach him some humility he seems to be lacking.
And unfortunately, there’s more to this bizarre episode. Obviously, someone in the White House stays up far too late thinking of ways to both screw the Dems and place their man at the UN:
Mr. Bush could give Mr. Bolton a second recess appointment as the United Nations ambassador, but under the law he could not be paid for his work.
White House officials are looking into whether he can be paid by some other entity and still serve as ambassador, or whether a de facto position could be created in which Mr. Bolton served as ambassador for all intents and purposes, but not in name.
Such a move would almost certainly inflame relations between the White House and the ascendant Democrats and would probably kill any further talk about bipartisan cooperation.
If I were Harry Reid about now I’d be calling Bush or Rice or whoever’s making this personnel decision and saying: “You want to play at this game go right ahead. But we won’t play along. If you go forward with any of this malarkey we’ll not only personally tie up Bolton in hearings and testimony before Senate committees, but we’ll hold up the State Department budget (since I believe that the UN ambassador is classified as a State staff position) the next time it comes before us. So go ahead and make my day.”
That would put an end to what Chris Dodd is aptly calling Cirque du Soleil “contortionism.”