April 08, 2005

A Non-Cohen Scourge

Richard Cohen is such an easy, lame target that I 've decided to go after bigger, more agile game in this Scourge. But be careful, this New York Times editorial may cause injury as the reflexive Bush Bad knee-jerk action takes effect:

When a president picks his administration officials, the opposing political party can't expect to be thrilled with the selections.

So naturally, whomever is selected must be opposed, demonized, and destroyed.

Right now, Democrats in the Senate are trying to block the nominations of three men chosen by George W. Bush for important posts: John Bolton for United Nations ambassador, Stephen Johnson for head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Dr. Lester Crawford for commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Obviously, the first problem with these men is that they are, ...wait for it ..., men! But I love the phrasing "trying to block." There is of course, no hope in actually defeating these nominees in a floor vote, so instead the tyranny of the minority will be substituted.

They have excellent reasons for opposition in each case, but some reasons are more excellent than others.

Conversely, and by definition, some reasons are much worse than others as well. But we won't read about that in these august pages.

Mr. Bolton stands out because he is not only bad in a policy sense, but also unqualified for the post to which he's been named.

In other words, we can't defeat your arguments, so we'll just declare victory and then engage in battle over his nomination. Mind you, as UN Ambassador, it will not be John Bolton's job to make policy, but to implement it. Hence the true nature of the battle is only peripherally about John Bolton. Except for a little snippet of dialogue I caught on NPR yesterday by someone from the Earnest Young Person Action League for Utopian Justice and Puppies, or some such organization, who happened to mention that John Bolton was being nominated for this post as a payoff for his role in stopping the vote recount in Florida in 2000. Ah yes, the gift that keeps on giving...

At a minimum, the United States representative to the United Nations should be a person who believes it is a good idea.

Define "it." A world body to have dialogue and work on world-wide problems in an open, free and democratic manner would seem to be a good thing. But, of course, that's not what the United Nations really is, now is it?

Mr. Bolton has never made secret his disdain for the United Nations, for multilateralism and for consensus-seeking diplomacy in general.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Anyone who doesn't hold the UN as it exists today in contempt has a serious inability to distinguish between a corrupted reality and utopian fantasy. And can we please dispense with the idea that one cannot be multilateral without the participation of, say, France?

When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins taking testimony on Mr. Bolton's nomination next week, it is also expected to hear other charges about his fitness, like allegations that when he was under secretary of state for arms control, he tried to distort intelligence reports by intimidating analysts who disagreed with him.

Why, I wouldn't be surprised if someone came forward and accused him of stealing classified documents in his pants and shredding them at home! Or so he may claim!

After the invasion of Iraq, complaints that top advisers to the president had attempted to make intelligence reports conform to a preconceived conclusion about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs were often aimed in Mr. Bolton's direction.

But John Bolton's opponents are belatedly discovering that attempts to mau-mau the flak throwers is a rather different game altogether.

All of this is very much to the point.

Oh my, there is a point to this after all.

When the country chooses an ambassador to the United Nations, it ought to avoid picking someone whose bullying style of leadership symbolizes everything that created the current estrangement between the United States and most of the world.

I do not accept the assumption underlying this statement. Unlike the esteemed, learned editorialists of the New York Times, I don't believe that the estrangement the United States is having with most of the world is the fault of the United States. In fact, it is the codependency problem the New York Times has with anti-American entities and their enabling of self-destructive regimes that is, dare I say it, the root cause of this estrangement. Acting like a responsible adult and not yielding to peer pressure to get along in the face of a determined enemy is exactly what I want in a UN Ambassador. Instead of asking, "Why do they hate us?", the New York Times should be asking them, "Why do you think the US ignores you?".

One of the goals of Mr. Bush's second term was supposed to be rapprochement with other nations, whose assistance the United States desperately needs to curb the proliferation of the real weapons of mass destruction.

My, my, the last time I checked the rapproachement (such a lovely French word) with the, ahem, French, was going swimmingly. Why Jacques Chirac and George Bush even agreed on Syria leaving Lebanon. Sacre bleu! Given the fact that any real enforcement of efforts to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are going to be paid for and carried out by the United States, once again, shouldn't these other nations be trying to make up with us at least as much as we are trying to make up with them?

Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee are fighting to actually kill Mr. Bolton's nomination; all eyes are on Lincoln Chafee, the moderate Republican swing vote who has a record of being very supportive of the United Nations.

Once again, we can easily discern what the Democrats are opposed to, yet we still have no real idea of what they are for. Kill! Kill! And how about that Lincoln Chaffee? He is such a looker with all eyes on him.

In the case of Dr. Crawford and Mr. Johnson, a few senators are threatening to block what would be easy confirmations by putting a hold on each nomination before it goes to the Senate floor.

Ah yes, the tyranny of the minority again.

The right to block a nomination, like the right to filibuster a bill on the Senate floor, is one of the few tools the minority party has for affecting public policy.

And the Democrats desire to fight every battle with this weapon could in part be an explanation for why they find themselves in an ever shrinking minority in the Senate.

But it needs to be used with discretion.

Oh dear, the little Senator who cried Wolfowitz once too often is now finding himself ignored.

Mr. Johnson, in particular, seems like a bad choice for such a fight.

Don't you understand, it has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the fact that President Bush nominated him. Gee, I thought you people were really smart.

His main drawback is that he is unlikely to put up the slightest resistance to Mr. Bush's policies, which have not been helpful in protecting the nation's clean air and water.

Bullshit. The nation's air and water continue to get cleaner all the time. And despite your fervent wish that President Bush would appoint people who will constantly argue with him and fight him on everything every step of the way, well, that just isn't going to happen.

Unfortunately, that will be the case whether this particular nomination goes through or not, and the president clearly has the capacity to find a less qualified yes-man for the job.

And we all just know President Bush is only interested in yes-men. Jeez, you'd think in the interest of diversity he'd at least have the good sense to pick some yes-women. And right here and know I'd like to take the New York Times to task for its blatant sexism. The appropriate term is yes-person.

Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida are threatening to stall Mr. Johnson's confirmation unless he promises to end a suspended Florida study in which families would be paid to allow researchers to study the effects of pesticides on their children - a macabre investigation co-sponsored by the American Chemistry Council.

God, how I love publicity seeking, populist driven, Congressional micromanagement, don't you? And somebody better tell Senator Nelson that stupidity as dense as Barbara Boxer's is like a black hole that sucks the brains out of everything entering its stupidtational field. He better get as far away from her as fast as he can or he may disappear into her non-event horizon and never be seen again, which isn't exactly what potential presidential candidates are wont to do.

The idea that the E.P.A. would pay families to continue exposing their children to potentially dangerous chemicals is on its face outrageous - and made worse by the study's ghoulish acronym, Cheers, for Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study. But the study has already been stopped, pending a review. It would have been a good sign of independence if Mr. Johnson had called a complete halt, but there seems little likelihood that the study will ever be revived.

I have to believe that this is something less than a fair characterization of the study, otherwise the New York Times would have seen fit to hammer President Bush and his proxy, Mr. Johnson, with it ad nauseum.

This seems like a weak reason to stop a Senate vote.

Reason? Democrats don't need no stinkin' reasons to stop a Senate vote! At least, not any good reasons. It would seem even the New York Times is starting to be embarrassed a bit by the Democrat's behavior.

In the case of the F.D.A., Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington are threatening to keep the nomination from the floor unless Dr. Crawford prompts his agency to make a long-delayed decision on whether the so-called morning-after pill may be sold over the counter.

Even if it's an answer they don't like?

Their cause is righteous.

Damn, theology overruling science again! But I can't shake an image of half the table at the New York Times' editorial meeting at this point shouting, "Righteous! Righteous!", like Crush in Finding Nemo.

If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the pills can end unwanted pregnancies - so making them readily available could drastically cut down on the number of abortions.

Of course, the fact that some consider this to be no different in substance than abortion is of no consequence. After all, people who think that way are Christianists, many of whom followed what the New York Times consider to be a flawed, conservative man.

Two committees of expert advisers voted overwhelmingly in favor of selling the medication over the counter, but the F.D.A. has failed to do anything.

Hey, at least they got to vote on the proposals, which is more than the Senate can do for these nominations. The irony is palpable.

Another proposal, which would limit its sale to women over 16, has also been pending.

I have a daughter who will turn fifteen this week. The fact that Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray want her to be able to get this drug without her parent's consent, or even knowledge, makes my blood boil.

Dr. Crawford has been the deputy or acting commissioner during a very troubled period for the drug agency. He presided over fiascos involving cox-2 painkillers, antidepressants and other drugs.

Bad time for his turn in the barrel, but I don't equate the timing of a lot of publicity over these drugs with responsibility for having the problems occur in the first place.

He is clearly afraid to let his agency make a decision on the morning-after pill that will get him in hot water with social conservatives or with those who believe that the F.D.A. should be run on the basis of science, not theology.

Even if their cause is, ahem, righteous?

That timidity doesn't suggest that he would impose needed reform in other areas.

And after all, extrapolating from one or two data points is what the New York Times does best when it has a preconceived conclusion it is arguing in favor of.

The Senate should vote on Dr. Crawford and defeat his nomination on the merits.

Give him his vote and then run him out of town. They've got to make President Bush come back cowed with hat in hand.

If the Democratic senators are going to choose a disastrous Bush nomination to block, our choice is Mr. Bolton's.

But John Bolton doesn't even get a vote. No, no, no, defeat isn't enough for him. He must not only be opposed, but also demonized and humiliated. This is the only way to get at the true target -- President George W. Bush.

Correction: This editorial misidentified the senator working with Hillary Clinton to hold up a nomination by President Bush. He is Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, not Senator Ben Nelson. Senator Ben Nelson is from Nebraska and is not involved in this issue.

And what is most fascinating about this correction is that it is all wrong. Senator Bill Nelson is working with Senator Barbara Boxer to oppose Stephen Johnson's nomination, not with Senator Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton is working with Senator Patty Murray to oppose Dr. Lester Crawford's nomination. If the New York Times can't even get it's corrections right on the more trivial aspects of their editorial opinions, how can I trust their judgment on the important matters?

Posted by Charles Austin at April 8, 2005 05:03 PM