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May 03, 2005
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

I sometimes think we spend too much time in these forums arguing amongst ourselves, and not enough doing battle with those who truly hold opposing views.  Tonight Laura Rozen alerted me to a new piece published on  I pulled up from my sprawled position on the couch, ready to go toe-to-toe with the other side.

The lead piece on was written by someone named Joel Mowbray, who also published it in the Washington Examiner (a freebie funded by a conservative Denver millionaire).  Mowbray argues that:

No better example exists of Democrats’ hypocrisy on the Bolton nomination than their treatment of Clinton’s last appointment to the very same position, Richard Holbrooke . . . . Despite substantial evidence [of possible ethical violations] being uncovered, Holbrooke got off with a slap on the wrist–and then Democrats didn’t even voice a whisper of concern about Holbrooke’s alleged “behavior.”

Mowbray claims that:

The divergent paths for each — Richard Holbrooke and John Bolton — reveal Democrats’ rabid partisanship and belies claims they oppose John Bolton on the grounds that “character matters.”

I was about to leap to google for a refresher on Holbrooke's confirmation battle, when I read on and realized I might not need to. 

Mowbray admits that Holbrooke was found guilty of no crime, yet maintains that his alleged ethical lapses far outweigh the allegations against Bolton and ought to have been taken more seriously. 

But his argument collapses of its own weight right out of the starting box.  So why didn't Holbrooke's nomination founder?  While Mowbray blames the Democrats for "hypocrisy" and "rabid partisanship" he admits that the GOP-led hearings turned into a "love fest" for Holbrooke.  He reports that Holbrooke's one critic, Jesse Helms, "appeared to bond" with the incoming Ambassador over stories of childhood visits to the UN.  He notes that Senators Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) and John Warner (R-VA) "lavished praise" on Holbrooke and that there was "nary a witness with any harsh words" for the nominee. 

He contrasts this to Bolton's hearings where Democrats have shown antipathy and Republicans "apathy."  He notes that Lugar seems "far more enthusiastic about Clinton's choice than Bush's." 

And your point is?  Democrats and Republicans agreed that because of his eminent qualifications and capabilities, there was little question that Holbrooke merited confirmation (it nonetheless took Holbrooke more than a year to get confirmed, though partly due to reasons having everything to do with unrelated to his own candidacy).   Now Democrats and some Republicans agree that based on his track record, there are serious grounds to believe Bolton should not be confirmed.   Let's see, Holbrooke helped end a genocidal war in Bosnia . . . John Bolton has helped end a bunch of arms control agreements.

Mowbray laments that no one seemed to take the charges against Holbrooke seriously enough.  He doesn't volunteer why Jesse Helms, not one known to back away from a fight with a Democrat, would have looked the other way had he seen anything approaching grounds to sink the nomination.

Mowbray kindly made my argument for me.  The reason there was bi-partisan consensus in favor of Holbrooke is that, politics aside, everyone agreed he was the right man for the job.  The reason Bolton is on the ropes is that, politics aside, serious people on both sides of the aisle have grave misgivings about how Bolton will perform in a critical role. 

Christopher Dodd has pointed out that he voted to confirm John Tower and John Ashcroft, much to the chagrin of fellow Democrats.    While Chuck Hagel and Lincoln Chafee are known as moderate Republicans and their skepticism toward Bolton does not come as a big surprise, the same is not true for George Voinovich and Lisa Murkowski. 

No one can claim that politics does not play a role here, but with the Democrats in the minority, Bolton would be entertaining in the Ambassador's suite at the Waldorf right now if partisanship were all that was at stake.

Conservatives are trying to keep up with the relentless drumbeat of Steve Clemons at and others who have marshalled argument after argument and fact after fact explaining why John Bolton is not the man we need in New York.  But given the case Mowbray lays out on he might as well have been writing for


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Mowbray is a loon who thinks the State Department is a fifth column. Good for you for turning the tables on him.

Mowbray even writes this, referring to the charges against Holbrooke for setting up meetings with foreign officials while not being employed by the US government:

"According to the official familiar with the investigation, the distinction was lost on many of Holbrooke’s former subordinates, who repeatedly leapt into action to help their former superior."

Uh...can we think of someone else in confirmation hearings for UN Ambassador who has former subordinates coming out of the woodwork to CONDEMN him, as opposed to helping him? Come to think of it, have ANY of Bolton's former subordinates come forward to help him? Yet another reason why Mowbray's article makes the opposite point that he intended.

Read Mowbray's book: Joel is a wonderful throwback to Joe McCarthy, or even better, Ray Cohn.

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