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May 28, 2005
McCain Rides To The Rescue Of Democrats Again

John McCain has decided to insert himself into the fray of yet another leadership debacle in the Senate, this time the John Bolton nomination to the UN. As Bill Frist embarrassed himself by scheduling Bolton for a floor vote by relying on the "comity" that McCain's last diplomatic effort yielded only to watch as the Democrats double-crossed him and filibustered Bolton, McCain launched his own initiative to reach an agreement -- by forcing the Republicans to capitulate yet again:

One of John R. Bolton's leading Republican backers, Senator John McCain of Arizona, signaled his support on Friday for a compromise in which the White House might allow Senate leaders access to highly classified documents in return for a final vote early next month on Mr. Bolton's nomination as United Nations ambassador.

The conciliatory signal from Mr. McCain came as Senate leaders traded blame over who was responsible for the miscalculation that led to Mr. Bolton's nomination being blocked Thursday. But the White House showed no sign that the Bush administration might change course.

"The Democrats who are clamoring for this have already voted against John Bolton," Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said in a telephone interview. "This is about partisan politics, not documents. They have the information they need."

Appearing on the Fox News Channel, Mr. McCain reiterated his support for Mr. Bolton. He also praised an argument made by, among others, Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, who has urged the administration to provide the Senate with more information related to Mr. Bolton's conduct. Senators calling on the administration to share the documents "have some substance to their argument," Mr. McCain said.

Once again, we have the senior Senator from Arizona falling all over himself to validate Democratic tactics while maximizing his weekend press profile. McCain has to be considered one of the leading dupes from the Seven Dwarves who fashioned the last capitulation, the one one which Frist relied when he scheduled the Bolton vote. McCain has to prove that the "comity" that he claims to have revived still exists, and so he has transferred the blame for this impasse from the Democrats to the White House.

However, McClelland is right. The holdup on Bolton has nothing to do with the documents the Democrats have requested. None of them plan on changing their vote based on whose names got redacted from the NSA intercepts. That has become just another red herring, as the New York Times reports, albeit buried at the bottom of the article:

The Congressional officials said three main factors ultimately turned the tide in favor of Mr. Biden and his main ally, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut. One was the decision on Tuesday of Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, the sole Republican to have opposed Mr. Bolton at that point, to campaign actively against the nomination.

A second was a sign on Wednesday from another Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, that he, too, might oppose Mr. Bolton. The third factor, and perhaps the most important, Congressional officials said, was the success of Mr. Biden and Mr. Dodd in convincing fellow Democrats in dozens of phone calls that the vote was not about Mr. Bolton but about standing up for the Senate and its prerogatives against incursions by the executive branch.

Just as with the judicial confirmations, it has nothing to do with John Bolton as a nominee, but instead amounts to nothing less than a usurpation of power -- not just between the Senate and the Presidency, but a usurpation of majority rule. The Democrats have stopped pretending it has any other purpose.

That message has yet to reach John McCain, or he simply doesn't care. It gives him another opportunity to stick a white hat and ride a donkey to the rescue of the Democrats, whooping and hollering all along the way in order to make sure that every newspaper sees how reasonable he is. In his own way, he has become the Jimmy Carter and/or the Neville Chamberlain of the Senate: he jumps into disagreements and surrenders almost everything he can in order to wave a piece of paper over his head and claim victory.

I blame Bill Frist for this debacle more than John McCain, however. McCain is an unprincipled glory hound who stands ever ready to sell out the Constitution in order to get the attention he craves. It's Bill Frist's job to keep him on a short leash. If he's not up for that job, then he needs to turn it over to someone else -- someone who would have been bright enough not to bring Bolton's nomination to the floor this week in the first place.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 28, 2005 9:36 AM

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