John Bolton's confirmation hearing.

Military analysis.
July 27 2006 5:20 PM

Charade

John Bolton's excruciating confirmation hearing.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Click image to expand.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton

There he was again, John Bolton, President Bush's pick for U.N. ambassador, sitting in his witness chair, grimacing through his walrus mustache as members of the Senate foreign relations committee grilled him on his qualifications and character.

Bolton, of course, has been U.N. ambassador since August, but the Senate had never confirmed him. Last summer, the committee sent his nomination to the floor without recommendation. (Republicans on the panel outrank Democrats 10-8, but, in a big surprise, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, came out against him, spawning a 9-9 tie.) On the Senate floor, Democrats pulled a filibuster. Republicans could not rally the 60 votes needed for cloture. So, Bolton seemed doomed—until, during the July 4 holidays, Bush shoved him into office with a "recess appointment."

Advertisement

The catch about this constitutional loophole is that the candidate has to come up for another vote within 18 months. Last week, Voinovich wrote, in a Washington Post op-ed piece, that he's been satisfied with Bolton's performance on the job and that he'll vote to confirm him this time around. Taking advantage of the turn, the chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, called for another hearing, which took place this morning, followed by another vote sometime soon.

Not only does Bolton look the same as he did before, he thinks the same way, too. At one point, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, a strong Bolton (and Bush) supporter, asked if he'd changed any of his views about the United Nations after having worked there for 10 months. "Not really," Bolton icily replied. Even Coleman seemed stunned.

Over the years, Bolton has said many things that blatantly disqualify him for the position, but my favorite is this line from 1999:

It's a big mistake for us to grant any validation to international law, even when it may seem in our short-term interests to do so—because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrain the United States.

The most basic mission of the United Nations is to enforce international law. It's therefore absurd on the face of it to appoint, as U.N. ambassador, someone so hostile to the concept of international law.

Almost none of the Republicans actively defended Bolton at today's hearing. Instead, they defended the president's right to appoint his ambassadors; they asserted the importance of "continuity," of not changing ambassadors at this crucial time. Everyone seemed aware that the hearing was a charade. Even some of Bolton's Democratic critics, such as Barbara Boxer and Barack Obama, used much of their time urging Bolton to place more emphasis on specific issues—as if there were no doubt that he would stay at his job for some time to come.

Another Voinovich—that is, a surprise Republican dissenter—could materialize. Some pin their hopes on Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who faces a tough re-election this fall. Chafee clearly had mixed feelings last time around, though he caved and voted aye in the end. Still, it's doubtful Lugar would have scheduled the hearing now—six months sooner than he had to—unless he'd made sure of the outcome.

It was Chafee who asked today's most pressing questions, and they concerned the most pressing issue—the expanding war between Israel and Hezbollah. Noting the Bush administration's position that a cease-fire shouldn't be imposed without a "sustained" peace that addresses the conflict's "root causes," Chafee asked Bolton just what were those root causes.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.