John Bolton accepted a recess appointment as ambassador to the United Nations this morning, bringing to a close a long and embarrassing chapter of Senatorial obstructionism. Bush didn’t hesitate a single day of the Congressional hiatus to elevate Bolton to the top spot at Turtle Bay, a cesspool of corruption and intrigue that sorely needs a firm voice and a stubborn disposition:
“This post is too important to leave vacant any longer,” Bush said.
Senate Democrats had blocked Bolton’s nomination in a dispute over documents amid accusations that Bolton doesn’t have the temperament for the nation’s top U.N. post.
Under the Constitution, the president has the power to make temporary appointments without Senate confirmation when Congress goes into recess. Lawmakers began their current break on Friday.
The recess appointment puts Bolton at the United Nations until at least January 2007.
Senator Chris Dodd tried a last-minute rhetorical block on Bolton’s appointment, warning the White House that a recess appointment would mean that Bolton does not have the “confidence of Congress” in his new position. Quite clearly, the President doesn’t care. Bolton always had Bush’s confidence, and right now Bush wants that position filled by someone who undoubtedly speaks directly for George Bush at all times. He also wants someone who will take on the difficult task of reforming the UN, a task which quickly proved too daunting for the more courtly John Danforth.
If the Democrats want to stamp their feet and pout over this, they have no one to blame but themselves. They have made the filibuster for executive appointments a regular factor instead of the rare technique it had been before the last two sessions of Congress. They still have not learned that elections have consequences and that when voters put a party in charge of both the Executive and the Senate, it means that they intended to see smooth implementation of that party’s agenda.
The filibuster on Bolton should particularly embarrass the Democrats, although it won’t, as the UN ambassador post is a political appointment that only lasts as long as the president wishes. Unlike judicial nominations, it does not carry a lifetime commitment — and as such, Congress has historically given the President leeway in selecting those whom he feels best represent his policies. Filibustering over a document dispute for this long, especially since the effort was made so transparent with the prior example of Miguel Estrada as simple political obstructionism, says much more about the confidence of Democrats about their future as a minority party than it does about their confidence in Bolton as UN ambassador.
ADDENDUM: Here’s an interesting look at recess appointments by recent presidents. Thus far, Bush has 106 in over 4 years; Clinton had 140 in two terms, and Reagan had a whopping 243.