How Far Should Senators Go on Bolton Documents Filibuster?


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a thoughtful editorial today titled “United Nations: Divulge Bolton Dossier” that I agreed with until I got to the very end.
Here is an excerpt with which TWN concurs:

The Bush administration has been excessively secretive with Congress and the public. Documents detailing Bolton’s State Department advice on congressional testimony about Syria are germane to understanding how he might conduct himself at the United Nations. And it’s disrespectful for the administration to withhold from senators intelligence information Bolton received as an undersecretary of state.
We believe that Bolton should be rejected as unqualified. As Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich has argued, the United States can do better, much better.

But here is the part that gets my dander up:

But the U.N. ambassadorship is not important enough, in itself, to filibuster Bolton’s nomination indefinitely.
Even without more information, Democrats should still consider allowing Bolton to receive a final vote. If Democrats want to filibuster the nomination after the recess, they will have a duty to explain clearly why the information is vital enough to refuse a vote.

Excuse me?!
The Democrats have made reasonable requests for various forms of evidence from the administration — which has arbitrarily decided not to fulfill the requests.
Bolton’s nomination to serve as America’s Ambassador to the U.N. is controversial. The nomination proceeded to the floor of the U.S. Senate WITHOUT recommendation. Bolton’s behavior has been reckless. There is concern that he was constantly engaged in efforts to try and undermine some of the more delicate diplomatic efforts directed by Richard Armitage and Colin Powell.
The evidence requests are NOT trivial. They have direct bearing on the objectives and administrative behavior and responsibilities of John Bolton.
The reason to hold up John Bolton’s nomination indefinitely — and I mean indefinitely — is that the White House is engaged in calloused disregard for the operating procedures of government.
Bolton’s nomination IS indeed worth blocking until the White House concedes on the evidence documents — because the battle is no longer over just John Bolton. The battle is about the relative weight of what are supposedly equal branches of government.
The editors at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer make all the right sounds at the beginning of their good piece, and then want to concede defeat to a White House that thinks that the Dems don’t have staying power to hold the line on the document requests.
The bottom line is that John McCain has joined the Dems call for requests. Richard Lugar was the person most defied by the White House as he too called for these materials. John Thune, Mary Landrieu, and Mark Pryor have all communicated their intention to oppose Bolton.
Thus, ever since the Thursday night surprise — the position of those who stopped progress on the Bolton nomination has improved. Why are the editors at this great paper so willing to throw in the towel now?
The fact is that John Bolton will NOT get an up-down vote until the White House respects and complies with the legitimate Congressional information requests that have been made with respect to John Bolton’s record.
If the White House fails to yield, then John Bolton will be in permanent limbo.
Editors — stop conceding defeat when the battle is under way and we are actually gaining ground in securing important principles in the way our government is supposed to operate.
More later.
— Steve Clemons