How do you tell the difference between Bush administration officials Josh Bolten and John Bolton? Both worked in the Reagan administration, both worked for Bush's dad, and both worked on Bush's legal team during the Florida recount before landing jobs with the administration. And their names sound alike. But the similarities end there:
Josh Bolten is the White House's deputy chief of staff for policy. That makes him the president's chief domestic policy adviser, and since Sept. 11 he has headed the White House's new "domestic consequences group" that has developed post-attack legislation such as the airline bailout and the stimulus package. The New Republic's Ryan Lizza calls him "increasingly powerful" and "the anonymous fourth man in the inner circle of Bush's staff" (after Andy Card, Karl Rove, and Karen Hughes). U.S. News says he has emerged after the terrorist attacks as Bush's "chief economic architect," and the Washington Post says Bolten "has a quiet hand in all domestic policy and international economic policy."
During the 2000 campaign, Bolten was Bush's policy director, and during the Florida recount he was a top lieutenant to James Baker. He worked as a lawyer in the Reagan administration's State Department, and he served as a staff attorney for the Senate Finance Committee from 1985 to 1989. In the first Bush administration, he worked as general counsel for the U.S. trade representative and as the White House's deputy assistant for legislative affairs.
Bolten is publicity-shy—the rare profile of him always mentions that he didn't want the story written—but he has received some attention for his relationship with Bo Derek. The Austin American-Statesman says the two are just friends but that the relationship has included "several briefings" and a motorcycle ride. (Bolten owns a Harley.)
John Boltonis undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Bolton made news in August when he implied in Moscow that Bush wanted November's "ranch summit" in Crawford, Texas, with Vladimir Putin to be a deadline for a U.S.-Russia deal on scrapping the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Bolton insisted he didn't mean to imply that there was a deadline but added, "We have said on repeated occasions that we expect to bump up against the limits of the ABM treaty in a manner of months and not years, and that remains the case today." The importance of missile defense to the Bush administration increases the significance of Bolton's already-powerful position.
Before coming to the Bush administration, Bolton was senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. He was assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, and he was assistant secretary for international organization affairs in the first Bush administration's State Department.
Bolton may have been Bush's most controversial nominee. Forty-three Democrats voted against his confirmation—one more than voted against John Ashcroft—making him the Bush nominee who racked up the highest tally in the Senate's "nay" column. Bolton's critics worried about his opposition to many arms control agreements and his support of missile defense. And perhaps most damning for Democrats, Jesse Helms once said of him, "Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon."
And no, Bolton is not related to the John Bolton that Taliban officials say was an American spy who died in their custody.
Explainer declares victory (V-E Day): In a previous column, Explainer floated the idea that Osama Bin Laden was referring to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I when he mentioned "more than 80 years of humiliation and disgrace" in his first videotape address on Al Jazeera. Slate readers responded to the WWI theory in this column.
Osama's latest Al Jazeera broadcast settles the issue. Bin Laden specifically cites World War I as something that still sticks in his craw: "Let us investigate whether this war against Afghanistan that broke out a few days ago is a single and unique one or if it is a link to a long series of crusader wars against the Islamic world. Following World War I, which ended more than 83 years ago, the whole Islamic world fell under the crusader banner—under the British, French, and Italian governments. They divided the whole world, and Palestine was occupied by the British" (emphasis Explainer's).
Previously in this series, Explainer tackled Robert Kagan, Lawrence F. Kaplan, and Robert D. Kaplan, Lawrence Kudlow, Robert Kuttner, Paul Krugman, and Robert Krulwich; Linda Chavez and Linda Chavez-Thompson; Marty Peretz and the Meretz Party; the McCulloughs and Macaulays;the Gessens, Glennys, and Kaczynskis; the Cohens (three Stephens, four Richards); the Rays(two Elizabeths); the Hirschfelds(Abe and Al); the Strausses (Robert and R. Peter); the Broders (Jonathan, John M., and David); the Moores (three Michaels); and the Samuelsons (Paul, Robert, and Larry). Explainer has also handled in "Yes Related" the Negropontes and the Eskews.
Have you noticed people in the news with confusingly similar names? Send your suggestions to Explainer.