Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Tale of Two Nominations

For a supposed dullard, George Bush is getting pretty good at one-upping the US Senate. Having rammed through the so-called 'Palm Sunday Bill' on the eve of the Easter holiday in an attempt to save Terri Schiavo, he's once again stretched the Constitution's spirit within its letter by appointing John Bolton as ambassador to the UN during the Senate's summer recess, ducking the dreaded filibuster. This time the issue's not separation of powers but use of Presidential prerogative - surely the recess appointment power wasn't intended to turn Senate confirmation into a sieve.

In any case this sleight of hand doesn't seem to be doing the White House much good. The federal courts bumped Schiavo and Bolton only gets his post till a new Congress convenes in January, prompting 'ticking time bomb' metaphors from peeved Democrats. In fact this particular bomb has long gone off, Bolton having said in his less ambitious days that the UN would function better minus the top 10 floors of its New York headquarters (most of which house humanitarian agencies). With the amount of dirt that the confirmation process has turned up - everything from Bolton's thuggish treatment of subordinates to alleged perjury - it can hardly be considered a promotion, especially when the UN as an institution ranks somewhere between France and Al-Qaida for a large chunk of the US public and political establishment.

By contrast, the other John currently floating at the top of the murky whirlpool of DC politics is headed for America's Holy of Holies - the US Supreme Court. The worst people have dug up on John Roberts is his putative membership of the Federalist Society (and that image of his kid dancing while the President read Daddy's nomination on national television). Roberts' credentials are impeccable, including a seat on the federal court that recently decided to give the Gitmo military tribunals the stamp of constitutional legitimacy. With Hamdan's case now on appeal to the Supreme Court, having Roberts there might just tilt the balance for the administration in the coming legal ragnarok of America's War on Terror.

So Honest John is set to sail into life tenure in the nation's most respected public institution, while bad boy Bolton arrives at the UN a lame duck. Looks like nice guys can come first after all.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

till a new Congress convenes in January

That's January 2007. I disagree with you on Bolton. It's no skin off Bush's nose to have to make a recess appointment He's ended up with his man in the UN and things aren't going to meltdown once he's there so he'll be re-confirmed in 07 with no controversy.

The shame of it all is that Bolton was primarily attacked on pheripheral matters like whether or not the White House would release certain documents relating to alleged staff misconduct, when there was a much stronger line of attack. Bolton's unilateral approach to foreign policy, his refusal to engage in simple give and take diplomacy (esp on multilateral treaties like bio weapons and nuclear disarmanent), his insistance on high-minded regime change over practical measures (see his almost sinking of the Libyan disarmanent)... it all points to a terribly guy to try and build America's soft power at a time when that's desperately needed due to their hard power being tied up in Iraq.