April 21, 2005

The Penny Drops

I had wondered when we would hear something about John Bolton from Colin Powell, his former boss.

How typical of the way Powell is apt to handle a difficult situation and end up helping no one: not Bolton, whose nomination he may have scuttled; not Bush, who has some cause to feel blind-sided; not Lugar and other Foreign Relations Committee Republicans who may have just gone through a week-long controversy for nothing; and finally not himself. Powell plays the good soldier by saying nothing publicly, and can't torpedo Bolton without being immediately fingered for it in the Post. He gets no credit either for public forthrightness about his doubts concerning Bolton or for swallowing those doubts out of loyalty to the administration he just left.

If I find this conduct exasperating I can imagine how people who actually like John Bolton feel.

UPDATE: If you are coming from Howie Kurtz, please note the regular author of Belgravia Dispatch, Greg Djerejian (Joseph Britt is currently guest-blogging), has a different take on Powell's role in l'affaire Bolton. It's towards the end of this rather long post. B.D., at least before Joseph showed up, has usually been pretty pro-Colin! Just for the record...

Posted by at April 21, 2005 11:12 PM | TrackBack (7)
Comments

Powell wonders why so many Republicans hate him...

Posted by: Dundare at April 22, 2005 05:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I doubt he spends much time worrying about why Republicans hate him. It appears that a couple of Republican Senators called him and asked for honest answers to specific pointed questions. His choices were (a) lie; (b) refuse to answer; and (c) give honest answers.

There's enough on the public record that he couldn't get away with (b), so his choices were earn Republican hate with (c) or give up whatever integrity he's got with (a). Having gone (I perceive) with (c), if anyone hates him, it's not really his problem . . .

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 22, 2005 05:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Powell has always been a paleocon. Opposed to Bush's policy from the beginning. Recall the Powell Doctrine? Bush has repudiated it massively, post 9/11. Bolton falls into the Bush camp, and all the stuff he encapsulates politically (the US being the essential nation, the UN being worthless without the US, appeasing North Korea or Iran or Saddam being a fools game) is counter to what Powell and Baker and Scowcroft believe.

In historical perspective, for better or worse Bolton falls into the Churchill, De Gaulle, and Ike camps of always fight them. Powell and the others are the Chamberlain "we can deal with them" appeasers, eager to make a deal.

It's hard to really hate Powell, he's stuck in the cold war "let's not blow up the world" dealing with the rational soviet union mode, and can't conceive that his opponents are not rational or Western men, with different goals in mind. Bolton, at least in part, gets that.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at April 22, 2005 07:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, finally, a Republican puts country before party and the wingnuts go insane. Just what one should have expected from a authoritarian regime. Why do most of the commentors here hate America so much that they would jeopardize the nation by putting this incompetent at the UN.

BTW, if you neocons think that the rest of the world is "them" (and some of your comments would imply that) then the US is truly screwed because we can't fight all of "them" and win, no matter how glorious you think your own personal goetterdamerung might be. You might think that you blowhards are Churchill, but you really are very tiny, teensy-weensy little Hitlers and your prose demonstrates it. Just go read Mein Kampf. Oh, that's right, you already have.

Posted by: PrahaPartizan at April 22, 2005 11:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, finally, a Republican puts country before party and the wingnuts go insane. Just what one should have expected from a authoritarian regime. Why do most of the commentors here hate America so much that they would jeopardize the nation by putting this incompetent at the UN.

BTW, if you neocons think that the rest of the world is "them" (and some of your comments would imply that) then the US is truly screwed because we can't fight all of "them" and win, no matter how glorious you think your own personal goetterdamerung might be. You might think that you blowhards are Churchill, but you really are very tiny, teensy-weensy little Hitlers and your prose demonstrates it. Just go read Mein Kampf. Oh, that's right, you already have.

Posted by: VizierVic at April 22, 2005 11:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Carp: if Powell could not get away with your option (b), then surely it was unnecessary for him to be called in the first place? Your assertion, if true, shifts blame from Powell to the senators who called him.

Posted by: sammler at April 22, 2005 11:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sammler: Why are they to blame for calling him? If I was a Republican Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee (hell, if I was any senator on that Committee), I would have called to find out why Powell was the only SecState not to sign the letter of support. Maybe it was nothing, maybe it was something, but I'd sure want to know.

Posted by: NYCmoderate at April 22, 2005 12:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sammler: I more or less agree with NYC, but it's not the letter that would make me call, it's the allegations that Bolton is not a good employee. Asked to confirm or deny the personal qualities that affect his work that have been alleged in public, Powell has to answer. "Do you know him to yell at subordinates" is a very different kind of question from "Has the President made a defensible choice for the position." And once you've got Powell confirming (to whatever extent) the allegations about subordinates, then you ask about the allegations about how Bolton dealt with superiors.

"Blame" is really the wrong word here. The charge, one of the charges, is that Bolton actively subverts US policies he does not agree with. If one believes this to be true, and has confirmation from the guy's boss, a no vote is defensible even in the face of Presidential and partisan pressure (which is more about not losing a round than about how the US is best served in the position.)

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 22, 2005 12:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's hard to really hate Powell, he's stuck in the cold war "let's not blow up the world" dealing with the rational soviet union mode, and can't conceive that his opponents are not rational . . .

Powell should also stop assuming that his former bosses are rational actors.

Posted by: JD at April 22, 2005 01:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's clear Powell does not want to be the guy who scuttles Bolton's nomination. It's also clear that it would not bother him if the nomination is scuttled. It's not an especially noble position, but it's a legitimate one for a person who is, after all, retired.

If I were a senator, I would be wondering what the charges have to do with the job Bolton is being asked to perform. I imagine Bolton's alleged behavior is not that different than the behavior of a lot of managers on Capitol Hill. (JEB -- I think you are in a position to conform or deny this.) The charges that Bolton has sat on intelligence or suppressed it is more alarming, but do these charges disqualify him from a job which is, essentially, act as a mouthpiece, and serve as the Bush administration's public razzberry to the UN?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at April 22, 2005 02:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

At this point, I'm afraid that Bolton is politically damaged enough to make him useless for his intended purpose - burning the UN down & forcing a re-build.

Anyone know if Jesse Helms is healthy enough for public service?

Posted by: Mitch H. at April 22, 2005 03:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sounds to me like Powell was just honestly answering the questions he was asked.

Posted by: praktike at April 22, 2005 03:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No, Mitch, Helms is not. Wasn't 15 years ago either -- which is not a political comment, just an observation. There are Senators of both parties who stick around too long, and he was one of them.

AM: Not that different? If you mean yelling at subordinates and treating Hill and executive branch staff disrespectfully, no. Specter was known for this when I was on the Hill, for example, and so was former Sen. D'Amato. With most politicians this kind of behavior is a reaction to pressure and to some extent a product of the sense of entitlement high office can bring. Bolton's conduct, what I know of it, went some way beyond this. I think Presidents generally speaking are entitled to pick the team they want, but if it were up to me Bolton's name and important positions would not be mentioned in the same breath. You wouldn't need to rely on secondhand leaks to some reporter to find that out, either.

Posted by: JEB at April 22, 2005 03:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Honesty not appreciated these days...

Posted by: Eric Martin at April 22, 2005 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mitch Albom (Detroit Free Press columnist, "Tuesdays with Morrie" etc) had several interns quit on him, due to his abuse. Including throwing keyboards at them. Clinton was known for his abusive yelling and throwing things at subordinates. Kerry yelled at his aides about a hairbrush in a NYT piece. Hillary Clinton is known for HER abusive behavior and attempts (Travel Office?) to get people fired who run afoul of her.

Does Bolton press and ask for justification on intelligence? Yes. Both the 9/11 Commission and WMD Commision reported that intelligence failures in part resulted from lack of pressure on intelligence analysts to justify their conclusions.

Prahapartizan -- As far as the UN goes, Bolton believes (and has said ala Moynihan) that STATES are the primal actors, and the UN has only what powers states explicitly cede to it. Given that Moynhihan thought it ridiculous that according Burkina Faso the same status and respect that the UK has, Bolton's views on that are not out of line.

As the saying goes, the UN is neither United nor Nations, just as the Holy Roman Empire was none of those fictions. States have permanent interests, and act on them.

"US" against "them?" That's a naive and simplistic worldview. France voted WITH the US to condemn UN Human Rights Council member Cuba. France also endorsed China's new "anti-secession" law authorizing a surprise invasion of Taiwan. Taiwan is a democracy, China a one-party Dictatorship.

In both cases France acted in it's own national interests. Being nice to Jacques or mean to him has no difference, it's like trying to change the weather by whistling.

As for Powell vs. Bolton, Powell is a person who believes that making "deals" with various dictators (the Taliban, Saddam, Pinochet, the Saudis, Kim Jong-Il) gets results and that US military force should be very limited (i.e. the Powell Doctrine).

Bush has rejected this completely, and thus Powell's trying to deep six Bolton (who's main attribute is he backs Bush's policy) is Powell trying to get Bush back.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at April 22, 2005 08:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

psst -- Jim -- Bush met with dictator Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah today ... a few weeks back he met with Jordanian dictator King Abdullah of Jordan ... Condi Rice recently met with Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf ... before that, Rice met with Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak ... she also recently met with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

That's life, tough guy.

Posted by: praktike at April 22, 2005 08:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I meet periodically with the surly wench who manages one of the offices down the hall. Doesn't mean I like her or approve of her policies, it means she's in charge of that office and I happen to want or need something from it. Simply going and taking whatever that something might be is generally not an option.

Posted by: Achillea at April 22, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"AM: Not that different? If you mean yelling at subordinates and treating Hill and executive branch staff disrespectfully, no. Specter was known for this when I was on the Hill, for example, and so was former Sen. D'Amato. With most politicians this kind of behavior is a reaction to pressure and to some extent a product of the sense of entitlement high office can bring. Bolton's conduct, what I know of it, went some way beyond this. I think Presidents generally speaking are entitled to pick the team they want, but if it were up to me Bolton's name and important positions would not be mentioned in the same breath. You wouldn't need to rely on secondhand leaks to some reporter to find that out, either."

---


Yeah right, you'd have to rely on the word of a
founder of the Dallas chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush, who claims that 11 years ago "Bolton chased her through a Moscow hotel 11 years ago, throwing things and acting like a “madman.”

"The head of the company, Jayant Kalotra, says he doesn’t believe it happened and that Bolton was always professional. Townsel’s boss at the subcontractor, Charlie Black, also says he didn’t hear of it at the time, even though Townsel was never shy about complaining."

http://www.nationalreview.com/lowry/lowry200504220747.asp

These are petty charges from a party too afraid to actually discuss Bolton's political opinions. Scare quotes, sure, but actually discuss them? No thanks, we'll drag up 11 year old accusations from a partisan democrat and count on the naive or likeminded lapping it up.

Posted by: JackC at April 22, 2005 11:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey, Cheney/Bush supporters, lighten up. Maybe the poor guy just couldn't hold his nose any longer. And dont forget he was super-duped to plead war before the UN. Fool me once...........

Posted by: MO Maverick at April 24, 2005 01:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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