It's great entertainment these days to watch the White House Press Corpse finally stop acting so corpse-like and start taking it to WH Press Weasel Scott McClellan regarding the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N. But those journalists are still missing a critical point.
It's not whether Bolton is qualified or appropriate for the job. As anyone who's been following this story knows, it does seem a bit odd that the administration would nominate, as its rep to the U.N., a man who once said, "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference." Or who also said, "The United Nations doesn't exist."
But when the journalists covering the story try to press Li'l Scottie on this, it's too easy for him to wriggle out, saying something like, "The President trusts Mr. Bolton, he's confident in his abilities and thinks he would make an excellent U.N. ambassador... yadda yadda yadda ..."
But those journalists shouldn't be asking whether Bolton is appropriate for the job -- that's too easy a question to dodge. They should be asking whether he's the best person for the job, which is a much more precise and specific question, and theoretically tougher to evade. Like so:
Reporter: Scott, given Bolton's well-publicized contempt for the United Nations, can you explain how this administration came to choose him as the best possible nominee for this position? That is, of all of the possible candidates that the president could have selected from, is it the president's position that there is not a single person who would have been a better nominee?
Scottie: Well, as I've said repeatedly, the president trusts Mr. Bolton and has full confidence in ...
Reporter (indulging in "weaselus interruptus"): No, Scott, that's not addressing my question. I was asking, given that Mr. Bolton has made it clear how thoroughly he dislikes the entire institution of the United Nations and how he's even stated that it "doesn't exist", can you explain how the president came to believe that Mr. Bolton was absolutely the best choice for this nomination?
Is it really this administration's position that a man who clearly despises the United Nations is, far and away, the best choice to be this country's ambassador to it? Are you saying that no one in this administration could come up with a single name of someone as a possible nominee who didn't hate the U.N. and who would have been a better choice?
You can see what I'm getting at here -- the question is not whether Bolton is an acceptable choice; it's whether Bush considers him to be, without a doubt, the best possible choice for the job. The point here is to put McClellan on the spot; to defend the notion that no one -- not a single person -- in the administration could come up with a better candidate than a man who despises the very organization he's being sent to work with.
And it doesn't stop there. One could ask the same question of numerous Bush nominees:
Q: Scott, can you explain how, out of all the possible choices for U.S. Attorney General, the president chose a man who referred to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and who wrote a position paper defending the idea of torture of prisoners? Is it the administration's opinion that Mr. Gonzales is absolutely the best man for the job? A man who, as the highest-ranking law enforcement in the country, thinks torture is acceptable?
Anyway, you get the idea. Sadly, the WH press corps haven't figured this out yet.
BONUS TRACK: Actually, this whole Bolton bullshit might be irrelevant, as even some of the Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee suddenly have other things they have to do elsewhere:
The nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was put in further peril on Friday when a fourth Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed concern about him.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the senator felt the committee "did the right thing delaying the vote on Bolton in light of the recent information presented to the committee."
Asked if Bolton had Murkowski's support, spokeswoman Kristin Pugh said, "I can't speculate on how she would vote."
She said Murkowski was traveling and could not be reached.
Yeah, there's that "gotta be somewhere else at the moment" escape. But it's this line further down in the article that expresses nicely everything I was getting at above:
Democrats appeared unified against Bolton, who most called one of the worst possible choices for the diplomatic post.
Exactly. It's not that he's not even the best possible person for the job -- it's that it's overwhelmingly clear that he's probably the worst possible choice. It's almost as if the entire White House administration got together and said, "Well, we gotta nominate a new ambassador to the U.N. Who can we pick that's gonna piss those people off as much as possible? Who's the most annoying, patronizing, condescending, psychotic anti-U.N. asshole and bigot we can come up with? Oh, yeah, I have just the guy for this. Hey! John! Got a minute?"