Aunt Agatha shares two NY Times opinion pieces with us, and wonders what we have to say.
First, on John Bolton:
When President Bush nominated John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations last year, we argued that this convinced unilateralist and lifelong disparager of the United Nations should not be confirmed. The Senate agreed. Mr. Bush sent him to New York anyway, using the constitutional end run of a recess appointment. That appointment expires in January.
Now the Senate is being asked to confirm Mr. Bolton again. With one of last yearâ€™s critics, George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, having recently changed sides, confirmation seems more likely. But after a year of watching Mr. Bolton at work, we still believe the Senate should reject his nomination.
As ambassador, Mr. Boltonâ€™s performance has been more restrained than many of his opponents feared. He has, as far as we know, faithfully carried out any instructions he was given. And on some issues, like this springâ€™s botched reform of the United Nationsâ€™ human-rights monitoring body, Mr. Bolton was right not to accept a bad result.
But over all, American interests at the U.N. have suffered from Mr. Boltonâ€™s time there, and will suffer more if the Senate confirms him in the job. At a time when a militarily and diplomatically overstretched Washington needs as much international cooperation as it can get â€” on Iraq, on Iran, on North Korea and now on the latest fighting between Israel and Lebanon â€” Mr. Bolton is a liability, not an asset at the United Nations.
Second, on Joseph Lieberman:
Mr. Lieberman is now in a tough Democratic primary against a little-known challenger, Ned Lamont. The race has taken on a national character. Mr. Liebermanâ€™s friends see it as an attempt by hysterical antiwar bloggers to oust a giant of the Senate for the crime of bipartisanship. Lamont backers â€” most of whom seem more passionate about being Lieberman opponents â€” say that as one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, Mr. Lieberman has betrayed his party by cozying up to President Bush.
This primary would never have happened absent Iraq. Itâ€™s true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nationâ€™s moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification, the Senate would never be able to call a quorum. He has voted with his party in opposing the destructive Bush tax cuts, and despite some unappealing rhetoric in the Terri Schiavo case, he has strongly supported a womanâ€™s right to choose. He has been one of the Senateâ€™s most creative thinkers about the environment and energy conservation.
But this race is not about rÃ©sumÃ©s. The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one….
If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.
Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponentâ€™s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Liebermanâ€™s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.
There’s actually very little to say. Everything the Times rejects about these two men, I embrace. Everything the Times celebrates about their opposition, I deplore. “[T]here [are] some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war…” what the hell does that mean, or where? Lodi? Mobile? Would the editors of the Times really be more impressed if Lieberman supported Bush a la carte, like Hillary Clinton, or sent the order back, like John Kerry? (“I was for the Chilean sea bass before I was against it.”) Supporters can be true leaders, too. But one does not have to scream about the abuses at Abu Ghraib to be against them, or to call for cut-and-run at every setback to be sanguine about our chances in Iraq. Lieberman feels as I do: that on the big stuff, Bush basically gets it right. Saddam had to go, and there was no other way to get him gone but for us to do it; Israel can and must defend itself, and we are the only power to permit them to do so.
As for Bolton, the Times may be right, yet ultimately wrong. In the movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, James Stewart changes the cynical and corrupt ways of the Senate, and brings down a rotten political machine. I’ve alway loved that movie (and its co-star, Jean Arthur) and still have scenes memorized. But Mr. Bolton could never change the UN: it’s beyond saving. United States Senators are, by definition, Americans; UN delegates are, by definition, not. Our interests there don’t amount to a hill of beans. More often than not, the UN actually works against American interests, and sees that as a good thing.
But if you want to know the real difference between the UN and the US, ask Saddam and Ahmad…Achduliebe–the Iranian guy–which one they respect.