Note to Bill Kristol: This is Not About Character Assassination. It is About Bolton’s Views and Bolton’s Reckless Behavior


Bill Kristol just posted a piece on the Daily Standard site accusing detractors and skeptics of John Bolton’s U.N. nomination of character assassination.
Bill knows this is NOT the case. Carl Ford’s testimony was not just about beating up an intelligence officer, as Kristol and others would love to limit this testimony to. Rather, Ford articulated Bolton’s method of intimidating those who fed him intelligence with which he disagreed or who attempted to constrain his public statements which would reflect official U.S. policy.
In the view of TWN, the concerns about John Bolton were too narrowly cast during much of the Senate hearings — but clear policy differences and concerns did emerge in these hearings that Mr. Kristol is giving scant attention to.
I for one welcome Bill Kristol’s call to Senator Frist to take this controversy about John Bolton to the Senate floor and to leave debate unconstrained. No time limits. Let’s debate this matter in its “totality” as there is a great deal which was not revealed in the two days of Senate Foreign Relations Committee which has bearing on Mr. Bolton’s “fitness” for this key position in America’s foreign policy portfolio.
Bill Kristol has written:

THE ASSAULT ON JOHN BOLTON–a collaborative effort of Senate Democrats, the liberal media, and some quasi-Republicans resentful of his success–has now degenerated from an earnest (if misguided) critique of his views to a pathetic attempt at character assassination.

The New York Times does a good job of illustrating the substantive policy consequences and potential threats to U.S. national interest triggered by Bolton’s appointment:

The longer John Bolton’s Senate hearing for the post of United Nations representative went on, the more outrageous it seemed that President Bush could have nominated a man who had made withering disdain for that world body the signature of his career in international affairs. Some fear that the aim is to scuttle the United Nations. It’s more likely, but just as disturbing, that this is another example of Mr. Bush’s rewarding loyalty rather than holding officials accountable for mistakes, especially those who helped build the case for war with Iraq.
Whatever the explanation, the hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee only added reasons for denying the job to Mr. Bolton. It turned up a third incident (we already knew of two) in which Mr. Bolton tried to have an intelligence analyst punished for stopping him from making false claims about a weapons program in another nation, notably Cuba.
Trying to tailor intelligence is enough to disqualify Mr. Bolton from this job. But the hearings also provided a detailed indictment of his views on the U.N., multilateral diplomacy and treaties.
Mr. Bolton tried, but failed, to explain away his long public record of attacking the United Nations. Senator Barbara Boxer dealt rather neatly with Mr. Bolton’s lamentation that he was being misquoted by playing a videotape of a 1994 speech in which he said: “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world – that’s the United States – when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.”

I am with Bill Kristol that this debate about Bolton should be fought over policy differences. It should include questions of behavior if that behavior undermines American foreign policy objectives or undermines the President’s and Secretary of State’s policy intentions.
In a recent article, Kristol wrote: “When Bolton is reported out of committee, Senator Frist should schedule floor debate without a time limit. Republican senators should challenge their Democratic counterparts to debate John Bolton’s record, and the U.N.’s record, every day, for as long as the Democrats want.”
I totally agree with Bill Kristol on this. Let’s each call Frist and encourage him to take this good advice and then let’s have the battle Bill Kristol and I (and others) ought to be having about the Bolton nomination.
— Steve Clemons