Monday, December 04, 2006

Bolton steps down

Earlier than expected, maybe, but with his nomination clearly dead in the water, his departure was a foregone conclusion.

In a sort of weird aside, the White House went out of its way to dispute the notion that Bolton "resigned." Technically they're right; he will simply leave when his recess appointment expires. But if the White House thinks that anybody outside of Washington reads much significance into the difference, they're wrong. Bolton has essentially withdrawn his nomination for a permanent spot because it's clear he will not be confirmed. The rest is semantics.

While I won't particularly miss Bolton, I do think he deserved an up-or-down vote. The president ought to be able to nominate anybody he wants for serve-at-the-pleasure-of posts like ambassadorships, and barring gross incompetence his choice ought to be respected. Bolton might have been a bull in a china shop, but he was not incompetent. He also comported himself pretty well during his tenure, not proving to be the disaster critics feared. One could argue that he was simply lying low in order to win permanent confirmation, but that's nothing but speculation.

Speaking of speculation, with Bolton leaving the rumor mill turns toward the question of who will replace him. There's some silly stuff, like suggesting Donald Rumsfeld should get the post (if there's one man more unpopular in Congress than Bolton, it's Rumsfeld). Other names tossed out there include Jim Leach, an outgoing Iowa congressman.

The speed with which Bush moves to nominate a successor will provide some indication of how important he views the post. Considering the myriad international issues facing the administration -- Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, North Korea, Sudan, free trade, global warming -- one hopes he moves quickly to name a replacement, and that the person he names is one likely to win quick confirmation.

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