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April 20, 2005

It'll be the Coverup
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

"It's not the crime, it's the coverup."  How long has that been preached by crisis communicators in Washington?  All week, NPR has been trumpeting a piece about how, in the current highly-polarized environment, that old chestnut is no longer standard operating procedure; the new thinking, supposedly, is to brazen it out a la Tom Delay.  "Never apologize, never explain." would be the new credo.

Not so fast.  Won't it be odd if John Bolton is undone by having lied to the Foreign Relations Committee about how much effort he made to drive out to CIA Headquarters and personally chastise an overly-cautious analyst?

In that sense,  Suzanne is right, that Bolton has made the ad hominem political here.

However, all of us who have ever argued that a favorite politician's dishonesty or malfeasance in one area didn't disqualify him from office; all of us who have ever argued that Presidents deserve a presumption of support for their Cabinet nominees; all of us who can think of a cantankerous star or two that another Administration might want to put in high office one day -- is that just about all of us -- ought to pause for at least a moment of queasiness here.

Then we can go right back to chortling, because the man brought it on himself.

What's fascinating about this train wreck -- and relevant for students of scandal everywhere -- is how Bolton's demeanor during the process made his personal, um, quirks and turns of phrase fair game when he might well have just slid by.

It's worth stopping to note that Bolton's opponents laid out a solid but pretty standard-issue trap, not sneaky in any way.  You could imagine him having finessed it nicely -- "Senator, I am guilty of extremism -- in defense of virtue" and waltzing out with a 10-8 vote.

Remember, we have an Attorney General who saw nothing wrong with a colleague's memo describing the Geneva Conventions as "quaint."  As bad a signal as Bolton sends the world, Gonzales is worse.  But he was smart enough to have the Justice Department's website broaden its definition of torture just before his hearings began.

But Suzanne -- because we need something to jello-wrestle about -- doesn't this disprove the assertion that public support for the UN isn't deep enough to accomplish anything?  (I'm assuming you'll be as happy to be proven wrong about that as I will be if Bolton is not confirmed.)


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You evaded her point, which was that there have been only substantive criticisms of Bolton leveled. Beside the point or not, there has been virtually no ad hominem attacking going on.

You evaded her point, which was that there have been only substantive criticisms of Bolton leveled. Beside the point or not, there has been virtually no ad hominem attacking going on.

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