May 13, 2005
Senate Democrats: plenty of trees, but no forest in sightBy Thomas Lifson
The nomination of John Bolton to be United States Ambassador to the United Nations once again demonstrates the tactical brilliance of the national Democrats. Until the campaign against him was in full bloom, I had never suspected that personal abruptness, a demanding nature as a boss, a bit of a temper, and the willingness to push back against recalcitrant subordinates were disqualifiers for high public office. In fact, I had suspected the opposite: that in a universe of civil service—protected bureaucrats a degree of vehemence might be a considerable plus.
But those Senate Democrats sure do know how make a guy look bad. I am particularly struck by the way the likes of Senator Barbara Boxer, whose daughter Nicole once married into the Rodham clan for a few years, solemnly appear concerned and troubled by the thought of someone with a temper enjoying a high—profile position within our government.
The Senate Democrats were so effective at this pretense that they even sucked—in Republican George Voinovich, who was once actually fined by the FAA for screaming at air traffic controllers, daring them to shoot down his private plane, which he wanted to take off in while Air Force One was overhead and air traffic temporarily suspended.
Let's face it: nobody can generate media momentum and create an atmosphere inside the beltway like the Democrats.
But to what end? To stand for the fundamental principle that the United States should be nice to the United Nations?
Although the MSM are doing their best to ignore it, The United Nations is being exposed as a cesspool of corruption, run by a privileged bureaucracy which fights every attempt to expose its mendacity and reform its ways. Horrific sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers with no effective investigations and the greatest financial scandal in all human history are two of the worst, but far from the only sins of this body. How is anyone supposed to take seriously an organization which puts Libya in a position of responsibility for overseeing human rights?
And the Democrats are fighting to prevent a tough guy from dealing with these clowns.
Diplomats, as a group, have never exactly enjoyed the highest regard among the American public. Maybe it's the posh receptions, the striped pants, the immunity from parking laws, the florid language, or the habitual duplicity. Or maybe it is just the American tradition of respecting deeds more than words. Whatever the source of disdain, Americans as a whole do not buy into the notion that the solution to our problems is to learn to be more like the French, the acknowledged masters of politesse.
Yet that is the message that the Senate Democrats are sending to the American public.
By the slimmest of margins, John Bolton's nomination has moved from the Foreign Relations Committee to the floor of the Senate. Now, the Democrats have within their power the option of a filibuster to prevent a vote. Some of them see this as an opportunity to establish the validity and potency of filibuster, implicitly aimed at setting a precedent to be used in the much bigger fight over judicial nominations. No one in the Republican ranks contemplates changing Senate rules to preclude filibusters on non—judicial appointments. So, theoretically, after a successful filibuster of Bolton, they would argue that even Republicans agreed that filibusters should not be ended, and roll out their favorite charge: hypocrisy.
But the filibuster is a double—edged sword in the era of C—SPAN and the blogosphere. If the GOP has the cojones to actually force the Democrats to keep on talking, rather than caving in to the announced intention to filibuster, the Democrats will hang themselves in public.
Do the Democrats really want to supply the 2006 and 2008 GOP campaign consultants with video snippets of impassioned defenses of the UN? Do they really want to keep talking and talking, with the inevitable fatigue setting in? We live in the era of gotcha video clips. A careless word or phrase can be used to devastating effect. Ask John Kerry about the 'global test' or 'I voted for it before I voted against it.'
Do the Democrats really want Robert Byrd, who has a bit of personal history with the filibuster, having used it to fight Civil Rights legislation 4 decades ago, bloviating endlessly, with the cameras running?
Decades of political dominance from the 1930s to the 1990s, combined with a friendly national media, still potent despite the challenge of a new media infrastructure, have seduced the Democrats into believing that simple mastery of the process of politics will suffice to return them to power. Bill Clinton's two terms as president, based on personal mastery of style as well as shrewd triangulation, did nothing to cure the delusion.
The Democrats see trees — the minutiae of the daily political process — and recognize tools which they can use with great facility. But the forest itself — the strategic ends to which that process is employed — still eludes their vision.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.