Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Clemons: implications of the Bolton resignation

Now for a quick take on outstanding issues, winners and losers, and other thoughts on implications of the Bolton resignation:
1. John Bolton's resignation reflects a loss of ground by Jesse Helms' inspired 'pugnacious nationalists'. It is also a clear loss for Vice President Cheney and his loyal followers. Jim Lobe captures this quite well in a piece he has written tonight on Bolton.

2. Bolton's resignation also hurts Condoleezza Rice in the short term because while she had to "manage" him more frequently than she liked -- often sending Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns to manage the most fragile diplomatic agendas -- Rice now has NO Deputy Secretary of State, and will soon face in January NO Counselor and NO Ambassador to the United Nations.

Losing Robert Zoellick, Philip Zelikow and John Bolton is an awful lot to lose without having clear successsors in place and ready to go. The already stretched thin Secretary of State will be stretched even thinner with Bolton's departure.

3. On the good side, if the White House and State Department get their mutual acts together, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is 'likely' to expedite at lightning speed reasonable, even partly controversial, nominees to both Bolton's UN position and to the Deputy Secretary position. This Bolton Battle won't be replayed soon. I think the incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden will bend over backwards to help Rice get a full team back in place at State as fast as possible.

4. This has not been picked up by the press, but I believe that the theatrical dimensions of the Bolton resignation were designed to make it look like the President was giving up something he really, really wanted in order to encourage Dems to 'de-complexify' the confirmation process of Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates. Watch for Dems who previously opposed Gates or had serious concerns about his Iran Contra involvement to ratchet down their concerns.

The President's dropping of Bolton may very well be designed to facilitate a fast confirmation process for Gates.

5. Who will succeed Bolton is unclear. I have written about Jim Leach in the past -- as well as many others including Paula Dobriansky and Zalmay Khalilzad.

I think Dobriansky has a strong chance of getting the job as she is respected around DC, is acceptable to both Rice and Cheney, and is not a complete rejection of John Bolton's views. She is neocon-friendly if not a true neoconservative, and she manages diplomacy and achieving America's diplomatic objectives well.

Jim Leach could also be extraordinary -- and Khalilzad could be an important asset there too as a Muslim envoy from America to an institution representing the nations of the world. He is also a well-experienced strategist and diplomat.

There are other choices I won't list here tonight as I think that these three are all qualified and realistic choices given the fact that George W. Bush is going to make the appointment.

6. Finally, it is important to remember that the Bolton Battle was not a true partisan struggle. It was one in which many Republicans covertly supported leading Democrats in the process -- and on the other side, some Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Ben Nelson openly advocated Bolton's confirmation.
Bolton did not get confirmed because of the failure of the White House to either unite the Republican caucus behind Bolton or to select a candidate that was easier for the whole Republican caucus in the Senate to accept. Republicans with a conscience stopped Bolton's confirmation process, with support from the Democrats who were in the minority.

This effort took about 21 months from the time Bolton was nominated for his current position.
good job steve.


noise said...

Bolton's leaving is good but Zelikow's leaving is bad?

IMO anytime PNAC ideologues are booted from power it is good.

lukery said...

there's something SERIOUSLY wrong when zelikow is a (relative) good guy

Kathleen said...


Big hawk, down.