The John Bolton confirmation hearings are a perfect illustration of the failure of the Democrats as an opposition party. Bolton’s views on the United Nations should have prompted serious debate on the role of the UN from Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations who surely disagree fundamentally with his views. However, the Dems understand that Bolton’s views, and his in-your-face attitude, are popular these days. So instead of engaging in a sustained discussion of substance, like a responsible and principled oppositon party would, they argued that Bolton’s a bad guy who kisses up to his superiors and mistreats his subordinates. It was a little like the Clarence Thomas hearings, minus the sex (actually the Thomas hearings were essentially minus the sex too).
To make matters worse, the Democrats’ attempts at character assassination were fundamentally dishonest on their own terms. As Bill Kristol shows, Bolton did not kiss up to his superiors at the State Department, to the contrary he clashed with them. And the evidence of mistreating subordinates consisted largely of his effort to have one guy, in whom he had lost confidence, moved to another position.
If a Democratic president ever nominates any of these Senators for anything, I hope the Republicans will resist the temptation to explore how they treat their subordinates. But heaven help Madeleine Albright and her staff members, who persecuted whistle-blower Linda Shenwick for providing Capitol Hill and the media with public information about waste, mismanagement, and rule-breaking by officials at the United Nations, of all places.
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