Chris Nelson’s Take on the Bolton Vote Delay: Lugar Got What He Needed to Call a Day a Day


Chris Nelson sent this out yesterday as part of his 19 April Nelson Report:

Bolton. . .it may be that Republican Senators George Voinovich and Chuck Hagel have taken a stand which will empower a Republican center to emerge and hold on other issues.
At virtually the last minute today, both stepped forward to say they weren’t comfortable voting on Bolton’s nomination as UN Ambassador. A Foreign Relations Committee vote cannot now occur until after a recess, on May 9, assuming Bolton does not step down, as more and more stories surface (especially allegations of possible misuse of NSA intercepts). This nomination fight has been as instructive as it has been destructive. Argued purely on its merits, the case for Bolton has been that bullying and strong convictions, even if dishonestly pursued, are not automatically disqualifying.
Certainly compelling is the argument that, barring criminal or serious moral issues, the President is entitled to nominate the UN ambassador he wants. But as we took the liberty of editorializing last night, the Bolton fight is not “merely” about the facts, at least not any more. It’s now mainly about power, specifically the power to force votes on ALL the president’s nominations, regardless of concerns.
That’s what this so-called “nuclear option” fight with Majority Leader Bill Frist is all about. . .Frist wants to change the rules to make judicial nominations a simple majority vote, instead of the required super majority of 60. Lose on Bolton, which would take Republican “defections”, and the whole power play on conservative activist judges is at risk of unraveling.
Many Republicans, not just centrist/liberals (all this is relative, you understand) have deep personal and political reservations about the White House decision to intervene in that tragic Florida right-to-die case. The President has since tried to pull back from the resulting, unprecedented Republican Leadership attack on an independent, secular-based judiciary. Quite rightly, this has politicians in both parties very uneasy, since the ugly threats are not new, but a cumulative process.
In times where political intimidation is the coin of the realm, finding the courage to object can assume enormous consequence. Chuck Hagel and Bill Frist both want the Republican nomination to succeed George Bush in 2008. Hagel today indicated he can see beyond just playing to a presumed “base”.
Inside baseball comment: you have to wonder if Voinovich and Hagel, have given Chairman Richard Lugar some operating space. He was well known to be worried about Bolton’s fitness, but as chair, felt it was his duty to try and support the president’s nominee.
And he had constantly before him the humiliation visited upon Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter, when Specter dared to comment in January that ultra-conservative and/or religious zealots would have trouble winning Senate approval as judges. Specter nearly lost his chairmanship, and was forced to crawl over glass, metaphorically speaking, to keep it.

There are many in a sort of stupor after succeeding in achieving a delay. This is NOT a time to rest.
This is the time to both broaden the case regarding John Bolton’s past performance and to consolidate and organize the rather large scope of problems we do know.
With others, I will be on this case. But this morning, I’m going to buy some grass sod in rural Maryland and plant it in front of my house in Dupont Circle. The dirt has been ready for a few weeks, but just haven’t been able to get this done.
So, patronizing Central Sod, Inc. is reward enough today — but later, I will share some conversations I have had with senior U.N. officials.
The “alleged” comments by Kofi Annan mentioned by John Bolton during his confirmation testimony have really burned me for a while. More on that post-sod.
Thanks to those of you who have been posting and emailing such generous notes. You folks deserve the credit. This is what civil society should be about.
And frankly, there are many, many others linked together in this battle who have less visible roles than a blogger, and they have done the real work.
More later, more.
— Steve Clemons