Paul Light Asks the Right Question: How Did Someone Like John Bolton Get Through the Screeners?


We know the answer, and so does Paul Light: Blind Loyalty.
However, Light’s article today in Newsday posits some very interesting questions about what the personnel appointment/screening process does and does not do when on automatic pilot.
Here is the core of the piece:

Bolton was nominated almost entirely on the basis of his loyalty to the president, his ideological intensity and membership in the professional class of appointees who await the next plum to add to their resumé. Having held four appointments under three Republican presidents, Bolton was named for the UN assignment largely because he was available, not because he had shown the leadership skills needed for such an important assignment. To the contrary, as Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said Thursday, his sometimes abusive behavior as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security would have earned him a pink slip in the private sector.
The question is how a candidate with a flair for intimidation made it so far. The answer will not be found in the 60 pages of forms Bolton filled out as part of the nomination process. Bolton had to list every address he has lived at in the past 15 years, every school he attended, every employer and supervisor, country of birth, citizenship of his mother, father, siblings (full, step, or half) and in-laws, all foreign countries he visited, including short trips to Canada or Mexico, any arrests, traffic fines of more than $150, illegal drug use and alcohol abuse dating back to age 18 and any psychological counseling he might have received.
But none of the more than 200 questions asked about Bolton’s definition of leadership, his approach to managing people, problems he might have had with subordinates, his commitment to public service, his definition of ethical conduct, or his own supervisory behavior. The only question that comes even remotely close to such issues is in the White House Personal Data Questionnaire, and it is nearly impossible to answer: “Is there anything about you or your family that would embarrass the president?”
The answer will not be found at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which reviewed all Bolton’s answers, nor at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, which searched his financial records for possible conflicts of interest. And it will not be found in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questionnaire, which asks dozens of questions about policy, but none about leadership and management.

More later.
— Steve Clemons