Chris Nelson is having some fun today and just did a nice job reporting on White House Spokesman Scott McClellan not correcting or modifying Condoleeza Rice’s assurances to Senators that they need not worry about Bolton’s behavior — as she would “supervise him.”
From the ever-wonderful Nelson Report:
SUMMARY: Washington is in hilarity over Secretary Rice’s presumably unintentional gaffe, trying to “reassure” Republican senators that they need not worry about John Bolton’s bad manners, because she will “supervise” him to make sure he doesn’t blow-up the UN, just when the Administration is desperate for Security Council backing against Iran and N. Korea.
If you need a good laugh on an overcast Friday afternoon, check the White House press briefing today and enjoy spokesman Scott McClellan’s absolute refusal to “correct” Rice’s “supervision” remark, despite the joyful hectoring of intrepid ink-stained scribblers.
It’s long been known that Rice didn’t trust Bolton and didn’t want him around the building. . .she had watched him work to sabotage the Korea policy of her predecessor, Colin Powell, and knew exactly what she was in for.
That’s why she resisted pressure from VP Cheney to make Bolton her Deputy, and Rich Armitage’s successor, even though she may well have agreed with his views. As we all learned at the infamous Bush press conference two weeks ago, it turns out that Bolton spoke for Bush as well as Cheney, on “negotiating” with N. Korea’s Kim Jong-il.
In any event, it’s clear that for all of Rice’s “good soldier” support of Bolton for the UN, Condi isn’t any more enthusiastic about Bolton now, than she was last winter, when she successfully fought for her personal choice as Deputy, then-USTR Robert Zoellick.
Insiders warn that among many private concerns are that wavering Republicans will come to learn more about Bolton’s lack of performance in carrying out such critical non-proliferation activities as properly supporting the Nunn-Lugar program to remove nuclear armaments from the former Soviet Union, and the general view that he completely dropped the ball in preparing for this week’s non-proliferation conference in New York, despite the Iran and N. Korea crises.
Whether the accumulating “evidence” that Bolton’s performance should be disqualifying on its merits is an interesting question, and it furthers the Democrat’s apparent plan. . .to keep to the facts, and to avoid purely “partisan” opposition to Bolton because he’s a conservative.
So watch to see if today’s inept White House performance is a window into a growing realization that Bolton’s nomination was a mistake, and whether the “candidacy” of Undersecretary for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, as a sensible “conservative option”, starts to develop legs.
For now, Sen. Boxer is using a “hold” to try and force State to come up with the requested documents which, so far, Rice has refused (or been afraid?) to release. So when Bolton will get his Floor vote now gets more complicated, as time would seem to be the enemy of this nomination.
And if Boxer sticks to her guns, she can force a “cloture” fight. . .one where the White House would have to find 60 Senators to vote against enforcing Senate information prerogatives. . .a “principle” which conservatives and liberals alike can sometimes use to agree, while saving face by avoiding the specifics of the argument.
Here is the fun exchange with Scott McClellan this morning over whether the President also thought John Bolton needed to be supervised:
Q Does the President agree with his Secretary of State when Secretary Rice said that Bolton, if approved, would need to be supervised at the U.N.?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things on that. One, you ought to direct that question to the Department of State, because I’m not sure that they would characterize that exactly the way it was characterized by others. So I think you ought to ask the Department of State about it. But Secretary Rice —
Q But this is the White House, you could set us straight here.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m glad you brought that up. Secretary Rice is another person who believes strongly that John Bolton is the right person at the right time to be at the United Nations. And, again, I’m not going to work off media reports, but in terms of —
Q Did she not say that? I mean, I assume the White House knows whether she said it or not.
MR. McCLELLAN: You can talk to Department of State about that. They’re briefing here very shortly, and I’m sure they’d be glad to respond to it.
Q Does the President believe he needs to be supervised?
MR. McCLELLAN: But anytime —
Q Just answer that question for us.
MR. McCLELLAN: — you have ambassadors, ambassadors report to the President through the Secretary of State. That’s just the process that’s set up. And when you have an ambassador at the United Nations, I think it’s long worked that way, that the ambassador reports through the Secretary of State to the President of the United States.
Q But does this guy, with his temperamental history, does he need to be supervised?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t agree that that’s an accurate characterization, in the first place.
Q You’re not saying, “no”?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you ought to talk to Department of State, and I’m sure they’d be glad to respond to that. So I don’t think you should take —
Q He’s the President’s pick.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think you should take it as that.
Q I don’t think foisting it upon the Department of State is what you —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, if you want to keep trying to jump in here, that’s fine, but I’m going to keep moving on to other questions, David.
Several more weeks of this kind of exchange are predicted.
— Steve Clemons