A lot of pro-John Bolton pundits and followers as well as many in the network of people and institutions opposed to Bolton’s confirmation are in a tizzy about a small gossip item that ran on an on-line conservative weekly magazine, Human Events.
The piece argues something that I posted a couple of weeks ago: the administration is considering an avant-garde type of second recess appointment for Bolton.
The item reads:
The Bolton Plan:
If Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.-R.I.) continues thwarting a Senate vote to confirm John Bolton as the permanent U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the White House plans to make a second recess appointment of the embattled diplomat.
According to an administration source who requested anonymity, if the Senate does not vote on Bolton before his current recess appointment expires December 18, the President will again name Bolton to the post during Congress’ post-election recess.
In order for Bolton to be paid, however, he would also have to be appointed to a different position while his formal title would have to be changed. “Obviously, we would prefer a Senate vote and the almost-certain confirmation for John Bolton,” said the source.
There are many things wrong with this debate about John Bolton’s possibility for a recess appointment — but let me take on the Human Events gossip piece first.
I want to be careful in my critique of the report and don’t mean to impugn the integrity of the writer — whose name is not disclosed, but this reads like a “second hand” account of what is happening to Bolton and not as a primary source from someone familiar and intimate with the details of such appointments.
Frankly, it reads like a pale knock-off of the report I posted on September 23rd stating that the administration was considering a recess appointment of John Bolton to the Deputy Ambassador (political) slot at the UN. Bolton would have to take a pay cut and would be made “acting Chief of Mission”.
It is hard for me to believe that any primary source close to the Bolton nomination process would have stated: “In order for Bolton to be paid, however, he would also have to be appointed to a different position while his formal title would have to be changed.” That is gobbledy-gook.
To me, it sounds like someone read the report I posted and which got circulated around the web and then gave a convoluted version back to the Human Events reporter. I am speculating, but I don’t understand why there would be such poor specificity about the likely structure of a second Bolton recess appointment.
The other thing that no one who is running around upset about this Bolton report is stating is that the date of Bolton’s tenure does not end December 18th, at least to my knowledge.
The Ambassador’s current term ends on the day that the next Congress is sworn in and opens the first session. That will likely be the first week of January 2007. This is standard for all recess appointees.
December 18th — unless I am missing something — is not relevant in any way to Bolton’s term.
These errors lead me to believe that what Human Events attempted to report is on-going gossip about Bolton and his demise in Republican circles. This is a narrative of a failed confirmation battle and the effort by some to keep Bolton at the UN without the legitimacy of Senate approval.
But let me take on one other part of this.
Commentators like myself — concerned about the state and character of American foreign and national security policy — have the right to join with many other citizens, writers, intellectuals, NGOs, and the like to oppose the confirmation of someone we feel undermines the nation’s interests. That is our right — and it is in the power of the Senate to withhold its consent from problematic Executive Branch nominees.
It is also in the right of the Executive Branch to ignore — for a certain period of time — the inclinations of the Senate and to recess appoint certain individuals to leadership positions. The deal is that they go out when Congress comes back if not confirmed before the end of the session.
There are fine lines and nuance to the process, and President Bush may choose to do the highly embarrassing and self-demeaning act of recess appointing Bolton to a Deputy slot — and making him Ambassador. That will only make Bush look more ridiculous than he does and will certainly cost this nation greatly in the eyes of other countries — particularly when there are so many other good Republican ambassadorial options available.
If the administration chooses the embarrassing route, then civil society should not be shy about its critique of the President, Cheney, and those who hold too tenaciously to Bolton in this particular job.
But remember that it is the President’s right to do this. I respect the laws that establish the framework of checks and balances — and some are trying to find ways to disrupt the President’s ability to make recess appointments. Maybe something can be found down that road, but it doesn’t interest me.
What does interest me is that good organization and some decent leadership here and there preempted Bolton’s confirmation. He should not be at the UN, but he is by a loophole in the appointment process that the President can legally deploy.
Let’s just keep that in mind if the President gives us another round of John Bolton in a demoted, unconfirmed post, America will fall another notch on the respect ladder — but that may be the way things turn out.
I hope they don’t.
Howard LaFranchi of the Christian Science Monitor has a good piece today, “Confirmation Hopes Dim for Bolton at UN,” which is balanced and that outlines fairly well Bolton’s ability to continually set the UN up for failure.
More later on this — but wanted to suggest that the hyperventilation about this next recess apppointment possibility is old news, is questionable in its latest iteration, and if pursued — has serious consequences for the Presidency and nation despite President Bush’s legal authority to make such a second recess appointment.
— Steve Clemons