Jonah Goldberg

And so the Democrats have cast a wide net in their race to derail Bolton. One thing dredged from the bottom was a letter by a woman named Lynne Finney. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., brushed aside the seaweed and old license plates to pluck this gem from the murky depths. Ms. Finney recounted in her letter that while she was working as a U.N. policy adviser for the State Department in 1982 or 1983, Bolton had asked her to persuade U.N. functionaries to loosen the rules on marketing infant formula in the Third World. When she refused, she alleges, Bolton threw a hissy-fit, tried to fire her and, when that didn't work, transferred her to a windowless room somewhere. Sounds like hardball stuff, but nobody remembers it except her, and Ms. Finney's judgment is a subject of some skepticism, to put it diplomatically.

Visiting her personal Web site (lynnefinney.com) is about as close as you can get to a visit to a crystal and candle story without leaving your desk. According to her bio, Finney is, among other things, a "life coach" who was "born into the madhouse of Hollywood's fantasy factory." In articles, she writes respectfully about Nostradamus' predictions, and she admits to having some disturbing recovered memories about her father. A Democrat, she was a Carter administration appointee.

Bolton's other accusers aren't as colorful, but they are usually just as partisan. The founder of the Dallas chapter of MOB - Mothers Opposing Bush - claims that 11 years ago Bolton threw a file at her in a Russian hotel lobby, or something like that. And this week she wrote a letter to the lefty-Democratic blog/bulletin board The Daily Kos to rally the troops in her favor in anticipation of revelations she was a plagiarist a long time ago.

But then there's Colin Powell, who, it's becoming clear, has been one of the chief critics of Bolton behind the scenes. Powell didn't like Bolton because Bolton was a Bush loyalist at Powell's State Department while Powell was mostly loyal to the State Department bureaucracy.

And this gets us back to the heart of the controversy. Democrats understandably think people who like government should serve in government. Similarly, they think people who love the nuances and subtleties of the Japanese tea ceremony that is international diplomacy should be diplomats. This is the view that you have to love the smell of manure if you're going to clean out the stables.

It is entirely possible that Bolton has been abrasive to bureaucrats, underlings and lovers of diplo-talky-talk. He may even be a jerk to his staffs (though the evidence rarely survives close scrutiny). If his nomination is derailed, Bolton would be the first appointee to this job ever rejected by the Senate, which traditionally defers to presidents on such things. And if Washington is going to establish a new standard that says people who don't treat their staffs with respect can't hold high jobs, this will become a ghost town.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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