The battle over Bolton

Posted: Apr 21, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When a United States senator publicly declaims, as Ohio's Sen. George V. Voinovich did this week, that he is suffering pangs of conscience, my question to him is, have you considered that it might be acid reflux? Consult your physician, Sen. Voinovich. If your problem really is a problem of conscience, consult your psychiatrist. Conscience among the senator's colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appears these days to be an abnormality.
 The committee is holding confirmation hearings over the president's nominee to head our mission to the United Nations, John R. Bolton. Bolton has already passed through no less than three prior Senate confirmation hearings in his distinguished life as a public servant and survived. Now, however, the Democrats have come to the conclusion that over the years Bolton has been given to dreadful temper tantrums. At least that is their professed reason for now rejecting his nomination. Frankly, it comes as a surprise to me. I have known him off and on for years, and he always seemed rather mild mannered. Further, one would have thought this shocking condition would have been discovered in earlier hearings.

 Now the Democrats have turned up a couple of Bolton's acquaintances who insist anger is his problem. After Sen. Barbara Boxer heard from one complainant, she blurted out at Bolton's hearing that he is in need of "anger management lessons." Public remarks such as that sound awfully intemperate to me. Perhaps Boxer is herself in need of "anger management lessons."

 This week Voinovich said, "my conscience got me." Apparently, he had just heard of charges of rudeness lodged against Bolton in an "open letter" from one Melody Townsel, a Bush opponent living in Texas. The rudeness allegedly took place in Moscow 11 years ago. There is no public record of the rudeness aside from Townsel's letter read at Bolton's hearing. Voinovich, a Republican, has joined the Democrats on the committee in delaying Bolton's confirmation until they can review these mounting questions regarding what the New York Times terms Bolton's "temperament and credibility."

 Who raised these questions in the Republican senator's mind? The provocateurs were Democrats on the committee, particularly Sen. Christopher Dodd and Sen. Joseph Biden. Now what do we know about these two? Biden was forced out of the 1988 race for the Democratic presidential nomination when he oafishly attempted to claim parts of a speech by British Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock as his own. That is called plagiarism, and in the ensuing controversy it was discovered that this was not the first time Biden had pilfered lines from others. He even did it in law school. Moreover, he is an artless blowhard. Many claims he has made for himself turn out to be untrue.

 Dodd is an old drinking buddy of Sen. Edward Kennedy's who publicly renounced his drinking sprees and girl-hopping some years ago. So now, he is a moral paragon. In the hearings over Bolton, he unveiled charts that purported to show how the Undersecretary of State had tried to dismiss subordinates in the State Department. Exclaimed the reformed boozer and Casanova: "This ought to be indictable." Sen. Boxer, I believe we have another candidate for "anger management lessons."

 The Democratic Party today has no alternatives to the Republicans in terms of policy. This is not the party that once offered America a New Deal or a New Frontier domestically and "internationalism" then "containment" as a foreign policy. It is a party bankrupt of ideas and of policy. In foreign policy, its great promise is to throw in with the United Nations, an institution now proven to be corrupt, ineffectual, anti-Semitic and anti-American. Bolton is a staunch critic of the UN's backward ways, and so the Democrats think they will distinguish themselves by thwarting his nomination.

 Yet they have given up on taking issue with Bolton in the realm of ideas. Instead, they indulge in character assassination. It is despicable. It is what another of their moral paragons is given to calling "the politics of personal destruction." That they have to resort to such ridiculous figures as Dodd, Biden and, alas, the psychotherapist Boxer as their assassins is more evidence of the mess they are in. Not only are they a party without ideas, they are a party without leaders of integrity. One hopes that Voinovich will discover this over the next three weeks as he conscientiously reviews Bolton's record. And one hopes the other Republicans will take heart and recognize that a governing party has to fight for its own when they are under fire. Otherwise, they will be dependent on the goodwill of their enemies.