If Chafee is 20 Points Down, Bolton Will Take Him Lower


Chris Nelson of the uber-insider Nelson Report ran this punchy piece on Bolton and Chafee tonight — and I think he has a point about Chafee’s potential miscalculation on the impact of his support of Bolton.
Via Laura Rozen, Nelson writes:

There seems to be in-fighting over the previously gentlemanly agreement between Chairman Lugar and Ranking Dem Biden, and it’s not clear if the Dem’s threat to filibuster Bolton next week is serious, or a holding play to give State Department career professionals more time to come forward with evidence proving charges that Bolton falsified testimony prepared for Condi Rice, and/or took classified intel from the NSA to try and punish then-DPRK negotiator Jack Pritchard, among the stories circulating today.
It also sounds like Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee is starting to realize that if he’s 20 points down now for reelection, standing by Bolton may not be a smart move. So stay tuned. . .all it takes is one Republican committee defection to kill the nomination.

I’ve been trying to get State Department insiders to talk and haven’t been focused on Chafee’s electoral chances. But is he really 20 points down?
Chafee’s calculation has been that he will stand with the Democrats on controversial judicial nominations and perhaps on some environmental issues — and also has take a clearly more fiscally responsible stand than the leadership in his party.
He has always treated the Bolton nomination as something the public didn’t care about — wouldn’t pay much attention to — and something he could give the Bush administration as a symbol of his support, so that he could count on them when he was in trouble.
But what he did not count on is that John Bolton would turn out to be so wrong in so many different ways. The only reason that Lincoln Chafee could not see the pattern of John Bolton’s behavioral, ethical and policy problems is that the pattern is absolutely huge and consistent through his career.
Chafee is in a bind. Frankly though, Lugar can’t like this. Chuck Hagel — who has made himself absent through much of the hearings process — also can’t like what has been uncovered about Bolton. A vote for Bolton now has political consequences for all of them — because it is no longer about Bolton’s skepticism or deep opposition to the institution of the United Nations — it is about bombastic, abusive behavior. It is about a loose cannon. It is about someone who has repeatedly made very bad judgment calls.
What signal, Senator Hagel, does it send when you vote for not just a “serial abuser” but a man who attacked IAEI Director General ElBaradei — who was as you said “getting the WMD question right while we were getting it wrong”?
What signal, Senator Lamar Alexander, does it send when you vote for someone who was sabotaging our diplomacy with North Korea because of personal vanity — a nation that was building a new and active nuclear arsenal and which is probably the most likely nation on the planet of the earth to sell nuclear-related materials to rogue, non-state organizations who might threaten America?
What signal does it send, Senator Lisa Murkowski, if you vote for someone who lied to Congress about his role in the Niger/Uranium affair — and who lied to Congress just last week about his efforts to get Christian Westermann fired. He lied to you. When your constituents ask why you voted to confirm him, will your response be — well, he had some good thoughts about reforming the United Nations?
This is the time to get off the Chafee dime. He is miscalculating — and there is nothing one can do with someone who is not rationally calculating interests in something like this and who seems to want to ignore empirical reality.
Chafee’s such a good guy — but I miss the hard-edged, twangy zing, fortitude, and decisiveness of his father. One of my pals, Laurie Rubiner who used to be senior health policy advisor to John Chafee is now Legislative Director for Hillary Clinton. I have to say that she does the most incredible impersonation of John Chafee; it’s just uncanny — and full of respect for him, his style, his aura.
It’s not good to ponder too long the differences between father and son. They are different — and I’m sure Lincoln has amazing strengths and capabilities his father did not have. But I wish I could get Laurie Rubiner over with Lincoln Chafee just to remind him of his dad’s internal strength and his knowledge of who he was. He just wouldn’t take crap from a Cheney, or a Trent Lott, or anyone who didn’t play fair and right.
Maybe Senator Chafee will read this — or perhaps his staff. But the game is beyond him.
For those of you into this, return to calls — but blanket the Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Everyone has been focusing on Chafee — and we haven’t really heard how these other Senators — particularly the quiet ones like Hagel, Lamar Alexander, and Lisa Murkowski — could possibly support John Bolton after all they have learned and heard.
— Steve Clemons