John Bolton has now been displaced by the newly confirmed Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control Robert Joseph — himself a bit controversial for having worked hard to insert the “Niger Uranium claim” into the President’s State of the Union Address.
Bolton has had to move his stuff into “transitional space” at the State Department. Reports to TWN are that he is not happy about it.
Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, John Bolton, and others pushing his candidacy counted on the American public’s ignorance about a person whom they felt was a relatively obscure bureaucrat being appointed to a position that not many Americans cared about. Bolton is now a household name — and the votes for or against him in the Senate have real weight and consequence now. The White House has badly underestimated the negative reactions to John Bolton serving as America’s Ambassador to the United Nations.
The fight about Bolton has always been about high road vs. low road principles. Those opposed to Bolton have advocated a return to principled American engagement in global affairs and to restoring badly tattered alliances — as President Bush suggested as well during his Europe trip early this year. Those advocating John Bolton seem to think that theatrical bouts of bullying somehow help America achieve the objectives it needs to reach at the United Nations. Whereas opponents of Bolton believe they need someone firm and effective and who has a vision of an institutionally revised and reformed United Nations — and who will help recalcitrant nations go further in their agreement on reform than they might otherwise — Bolton proponents think that their guy can kick and beat other nations to submit to American will.
Now the battle is beyond the issue of Bolton and focuses on the White House’s resistance to legitimate evidence requests by the Senate. It is about the separation of powers in government. Again, the opponents of Bolton are those who are on the high road. They are defending the Senate’s positive vis-a-vis the Executive Branch. The White House is trying to cripple the powers of the Senate and beat it into unqualified submission.
Karl Rove is reportedly quite angry that he is still dealing with the Bolton matter.
Last Monday, he was overheard making a statement that in itself would be passionately ambiguous to anyone who heard it — if not coupled with his USA Today interview in which he emphatically insists that Bolton will be confirmed. On Monday evening, Rove reportedly stated that Bolton would be “encumbering his position by tomorrow.”
Now when most people use the word “encumber“, they mean the following:
( P ) Pronunciation Key (n-kmbr)
tr.v. en-cum-bered, en-cum-ber-ing, en-cum-bers
To put a heavy load on; burden: a hiker who was encumbered with a heavy pack; a life that has always been encumbered with responsibilities.
To hinder or impede the action or performance of: restrictions that encumber police work.
To burden with legal or financial obligations: an estate that is encumbered with debts.
Was Rove saying that from Tuesday last week, Bolton was now more trouble than he was worth for this position? Or was this an adopted twangish sort of way of saying that as far as he and the President were concerned — JOHN BOLTON WAS NOW THE AMBASSADOR AND SHOULD ACT LIKE IT?
TWN has no idea what Mr. Rove meant by the comment — or whether the person overhearing the conversation interpreted correctly what was being said. The White House did not return calls yesterday on this matter.
I don’t believe that Rove has yet agreed to stop trying “to huff and huff and blow the house down” that Democrats and moderate Republicans have built opposing John Bolton.
Rove and Bush can’t believe (I think) that they are losing the battle on Bolton — so continue to engage in low-road assertions and continue to fail to mount a principled campaign in favor of Bolton’s nomination, or to explain why the White House can in fact be arbitrary about the documents it sends to the Senate.
The White House is operating by edict, not principles — and that is why Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and John Bolton will lose this battle in the end.
— Steve Clemons