Bolton has No Compelling Constituency: Beating Bolton on the Floor Less Difficult Than Many Imagine


I have been flooded by people’s emails today asking “what next on John Bolton?”
The news has been focused on the Newsweek retraction, on the “nuclear option” in the Senate regarding judicial confirmations, and the battle today between British Parliament Member George Galloway and Norm Coleman over the wrong-headedness of U.S. foreign policy.
But lurking through most of this commentary and news analysis is the question of what to do with John Bolton.
At first, Senator Frist said that he wanted Bolton’s confirmation vote to occur after the battle over the filibuster and judges but before Memorial Day recess. Then he said he wanted the Bolton vote before things got hot with the judges. Now, it’s unclear since Frist said today that he is going to push for a vote on one of the judges tomorrow, Wednesday, and there is no way that the Bolton vote can occur until after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “report” is filed with the Senate which has not yet happened but is likely to happen tomorrow.
Usually, a few days — at minimum — elapse for the nomination to “ripen” after the Committee report is filed with the Senate. That would take us into next week.
If Democrats and Republicans are squaring off over judicial nominees — and the Senate really does cease to function because of the Democrats’ ability and willingness to stop all business functions of the Senate, then the Bolton vote is seriously stalled.
Opponents will then be able to continue to surface the material they have, make their cases to moderate Republicans and any questionable Democracts, and keep this campaign going.
If the judicial/filibuster train wreck is avoided, then it raises the question of John Bolton’s fate. I think the situation is 50/50.
Voinovich has staked out the highest ground and offered the most inspirational language in the debate — and he has created a problem for Republicans who vote for Bolton.
It’s kind of like Chuck Hagel can’t “out-conservative” Frist right now in a pre-presidential scramble. Hagel would be wise staking out a position moderates can embrace as a way to outflank Frist.
Likewise, no Senator is going to be able to declare a more compelling and inspired moral message about American engagement in the world that George Voinovich. Lots of Senators want to be exactly where Voinovich is, and TWN has the sense that a number of them are going to hang out under Voinovich’s banner.
The White House has not done its home work in all Republican offices in the Senate. I have my own count — and while the White House now has Base Reallignment and Closing Commission (BRAC) assets to negotiate with anti-Bolton tilting Senators — there are numerous Senators who want to nonetheless ‘stick it’ to the Bush team on the Bolton vote.
This is sort of like what Democrats did to Bill Clinton when they defeated the Clinton-supported “fast track” trade vote. Fast track didn’t have a lot of constituents pulling for it then, and the Dems saw it as a way to kick Clinton in the knees.
THE CONSTITUENTS FOR BOLTON are not the mainstream of this country, and smart Republicans may soon realize that a vote against Bolton is a way to regain identity, dignity, and leverage vis-a-vis the White House after being taken for granted so long.
Voting no on Bolton is an easier vote to push through than the media or the White House are willing to acknowledge.
— Steve Clemons