At the beginning of the battle to stop John Bolton’s confirmation as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Senators Russ Feingold and Barack Obama were both inclined to support his nomination. They both serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Feingold in particular believes that the President of the United States should get the team he or she wants with minimal interference from the Senate.
Both Senators came around — particularly after meeting some of the people that various NGOs assembled to outline their serious concerns about the damage Bolton might do to America’s global credibility. This blogger is pleased that both Obama and Feingold became the fervent opponents of Bolton’s nomination that they became.
There was a point in the battle, however, after Bolton’s confirmation got kicked out of committee on a neutral basis to the Senate floor, the strategy changed — and it involved demonstrating how John Bolton manipulated the intelligence process for political ends. Part of this story was his inquiry into the names of “American” citizens whose names had been redacted from various National Security Agency intercepts.
The Executive Branch refused to share these names and the basic intelligence intercepts with the Congress — and thus the Senate refused to allow his nomination to proceed. Even Senators Joseph Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein voted against cloture and would not allow the vote to take place until the administration yielded.
This affair — which stretched 21 months — became one of the first significant political losses for George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Co. in the foreign policy arena.
Emptywheel now reminds us tonight that Senator Feingold was not only moved to oppose Bolton but is now continuing to invoke his name as an example of the kind of government abuse of authority and intelligence that all Americans should worry about.
Here is a clip of Feingold outlining his views that we need to protect Americans from future John Boltons:
I respect Russ Feingold’s principled views about the balance of power between the Executive Branch and the Congress as well as their mutual responsibilities — and we also respect him when he makes that tough decision to withdraw Senate consent from the Executive’s decision when called for.
— Steve Clemons