When we're wrong, we cop to it. And we were wrong about Bolton.
A few years ago, we were at a Georgetown Party. It was a mixed generational thing, with elders from both parties mingling with earnest and ambitious young people. John Bolton's nomination was just being introduced the first time.
All these 20 somethings at various non-profits (“World Peace Through MP3 Filesharing.org”, “Birkenstocks For Multliateralism.org”, etc) were hovering over the sumptuous sushi spread boldly declaring that Evil Incarnate, John Bolton would not be allowed to destroy the Holiest of Holies, the UN.
And there was a now famous blogger and left of center media persona who was at the time a relatively obscure policy wonk with an unread blog. That night this older blogger was stoking the youngsters' flames, encouraging the most strident declarations of faith in the value of standing up to the Maximum Leader.
We smirked at them all. At the blogger for the cynicism of using opposition to Bolton to brand themselves and launch a media presence. And for encouraging the youngsters to have the romantic delusion that the Senate actually would defy the White House. Besides, all of them refused to budge from the sushi.
Just goes to show the Stiftung can blow it now and then. And how cynicism can obscure the truth that there is always hope. And how even career building can also render a public service for the Nation.
That blogger, of course, is now the envy of most colleagues, having ridden Bolton and the whole nomination saga to fame and fortune. Almost no one can remember how a few short years ago they had no idea who this person was. To that person's credit, the ride was managed with supreme skill and finesse. Luck may occur, but skill turns opportunity into success. And the youngsters? They have a real notch on their belt and a new appreciation for hardball politics and yes, actual stands on principle. Hope truly is the most precious of commodities.
Bolton in the end was done in by three forces: (i) the anti-Bush multilateralists and Dems; (ii) the Powell/Armitage clique (joined by horrified careerists at State); and (iii) Rice's clique (who wanted no part of Bolton knowing full well how Bolton spied on Powell for Cheney). We knew all that sipping drinks that night fighting for sushi. What we didn't count on was Chafee and Voinovich growing a pair. And how defeating Bolton would serve as a rallying cry to a Nation in despair of Dubya's Christian Socialist Authoritarianism.
The entire affair is a wonderful example of Imperial City drama. We sat this one out as mentioned. When we have been involved in crafting things through Congress for presidential signature, we know full well the narcotic effect of deal heat on the Hill. It truly is as intense as any Wall Street deal. But sometimes that intensity is a microcosm for those involved. The Bolton saga instead resonated with Americans generally.
Stopping Bolton represented probably one of the most self-contained and focused foreign policy issues that could offer that deal frission. Our cynicism that night in Georgetown gave way to grudging respect within weeks to full on admiration. We learned a lesson. Before November 7th and the Liberation of Congress, stopping Bolton was the first step to retaking the Nation. It was Coral Sea to November's Midway.
Congratulations to all involved. The Nation and perhaps the world are better off for your hard work. But next time don't boggart all the sushi.