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December 4, 2006
Has Bush Surrendered On Presidential Prerogative?

Two changes in the Bush administration's key foreign policy posts make it appear that the White House has signalled a full retreat on its executive prerogative. Ambassadors John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilizad have tendered their resignations, from the UN and Iraq respectively, withdrawing from the two most controversial posts in the foreign service. Following the abrupt departure of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, the Bush hardliners seem to be exiting stage right in reaction to the mid-term losses for the Republicans.

Bush had a few words about Bolton's departure:

President Bush, in a statement, said he was "deeply disappointed that a handful of United States senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate."

"They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time," Bush said. "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation."

John Kerry believes that the Bush administration has changed direction with the Bolton resignation:

"With the Middle East on the verge of chaos and the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea increasing, we need a United Nations ambassador who has the full support of Congress and can help rally the international community to tackle the serious threats we face," Kerry said. He said it was an opportunity for Bush to nominate an ambassador "who enjoys the support necessary to unite our country and the world and who can put results ahead of ideology."

Pardon me, but the presidency carries with it certain prerogatives, among them the power to determine the foreign policy of the United States. In fact, it's one of the chief responsibilities of the office, and normally Presidents are given the leeway to determine the people best suited to carry it out. The treatment of John Bolton was unprecedented -- the rejection of a political appointment in the foreign service not because of any disqualifying event, but because the Senate didn't like the policy of the administration.

It's a serious breach of the separation between the branches of government. Congress does not dictate foreign policy nor should they veto ambassadorships unless the nominee has no qualifications to the position. Bolton has years of service in foreign policy, and has demonstrated his ability to conduct the affairs of the US at the United Nations for the last year. It sets an awful precedent: Congress just invalidated the 2004 Presidential election that put foreign policy in Bush's hands.

It looks like Bush, for all his expressed disappointment at Bolton's departure, doesn't want to fight to retain that prerogative. Of course, he hasn't been helped by Republicans like George Voinovich and Lincoln Chafee, who have participated in the damage done to the Constitutional exercise of foreign policy management by the executive. The loss of Khalilzad has the same quality about it, even though the inside source at the White House claims that Khalilzad will get another post with the Bush administration -- perhaps the UN job vacated by Bolton:

A Bush administration official and a UN diplomat separately described the planned changes. The administration official said the switch would take place early next year. The United Nations ambassadorship being vacated by John Bolton, who announced today he will be leaving that post, is a job that may be open to the 55-year-old Khalilzad, according to the administration official.

The administration official said what job Khalilzad would get next was among the most hotly debated personnel matters within the government. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is considering him for deputy secretary of state or the role of her counselor, in addition to the UN post, the official said.

Crocker will be replaced as ambassador to Pakistan by David Satterfield, Rice's adviser on Iraq, the administration official said.

We'll see. So far, it doesn't look like the last two years of the Bush adminstration will have room for tough-minded fighters like Bolton and Khalilzad.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 4, 2006 9:24 PM

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» The victory of petty politics over national interest from Public Secrets: from the files of the Irishspy
There's no other way to put it. Today's news that Ambassador John Bolton, the best representative to the United Nations the US has had since the days of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jean Kirkpatrick, tendered his resignation when it became [Read More]

Tracked on December 5, 2006 12:23 AM

» Bolton's Resignation from Mensa Barbie Welcomes You
Bolton's resignation should have us ALL thinking twice about the direction of our Country and with continuing concern for America's safety. The Captain asks an important question: Has Bush Surrendered On Presidential Prerogative? Excerpt: [Read More]

Tracked on December 5, 2006 4:30 AM

» Bush Surrendering Presidential Prerogative? from Outside The Beltway | OTB
Ed Morrissey is quite dismayed by the shake-up in the Bush foreign policy team marked by the ouster of Donald Rumsfeld, resignation of John Bolton, and now the transfer of Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilizad. Given that Democrats and a handful of RINOs wante... [Read More]

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» A Surrendering of Executive Prerogative? from PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts
Ed Morrissey is concerned that President Bush is giving away his authority over foreign policy: Two changes in the Bush administration’s key foreign policy posts make it appear that the White House has signalled a full retreat on its executive pr... [Read More]

Tracked on December 5, 2006 7:33 AM


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