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April 21, 2005

Home to Roost?
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

For those who have been working on Capitol Hill over the past decade, the abrupt postponement of the Bolton nomination process is like a cool sip of water in a parched wasteland.  The oversight process, albeit on a near fluke, actually worked.  Even if its just the political gods rearranging Ohio's feng shui after the election...I'll take it.

Hannah Arendt once said:

refutation of theory through reality has always been at best a lengthy and precarious business.  The manipulation addicts, those who fear it unduly no less than those who have set their hopes on it, hardly notice when the chickens come home to roost...

Conservative movement types will doubtless miss the trail of feathers leading to the Foreign Relations committee hearing room.  The Bolton affair invites too many delicious left-wing conspiracy reveries to actually stop the heavy breathing and consider the strategic implications of what's happened.

This is significant.  Personified by Mr. Bolton, the fang-toothed political style of the Bush administration, their congressional allies and their chorus of support. may well have reached a threshold within the Republican party.  Thank goodness for the self-respecting Senate. Hopefully this is a sign that decorum and civility will survive despite the toxic circumstances which the lower chamber has fully embraced.  In fact, the "House of Fun" Representatives should just hire Don King, move to Vegas to practice duking it out for the next election.  Just for kicks, let's review the Bolton leadership style as it manifests on Capitol Hill:

  • Conference committees often do not meet publicly, instead doing most of their work on bills in private.  Sometimes conference committees designed for working out differences between the House and Senate never meet.

  • House votes are held open long past official time limits to allow the leadership to brow beat for votes.

  • Amendments proposed by minority members are killed by the Rules Committee, often in late night meetings.  There are few opportunities to propose amendments (closed rules) and far too little time to read bills before votes.

These behaviors along with the increasingly obvious and unseemly co-dependence between commercial interests and the Republican party have made even good-government Republicans seem seedy by association. Over the past year, Roll Call newspaper has reported on how lobbyists are given insider seats while legislation is being written (lots of space since the Dems aren't invited) and on closely orchestrated teams for messaging and issue organizing corporate grass-roots campaigns (also known as "astro-turf").

It is too bad the administration didn't take the path of caution and send an agreeable candidate up for the UN post.  In that scenario, Congress might have passed the prior weeks discussing the foreign affairs budget and the administration could have spent its political capital pushing for its innovative and very worthwhile Office of Post-conflict Reconstruction and Stabilization at the State Department.

Policy is colliding with politics. Will the Bolton experience persuade the more radical elements in the party to change their ways?  I remain skeptical.  As long as the Rovian calculation between politics and policy garners few such casualties, the RNC will continue to run its messages through the most reptilian part of the human brain, the commercial interests will stay lined up at the conference room doors and Americans won't catch sight of the possibility of our greater good until these players are cast aside.


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