Two interesting comments on the Bolton hearings. First, the Cunning Realist has this to say in response to Rich Lowry's claim that opposition to Bolton shows that liberals are not just opposed to neocons, but to conservatism per se:
"I don't know about Chris Matthews or the liberals. But as one of those good old-fashioned conservatives, I can assure Rich that something called "the unapologetic projection of American power in the service of the nation's interests"---whatever the heck that means---has nothing to do with it. It's about the prima facie recognition that the position for which Bolton is nominated is too visible and---because of this Administration's colossal mistakes in the past---too important right now to entrust to a reckless, boorish, disrespectful and disrespected jerk. And one can apply each of these wonderful personal attributes to the actual job requirements (yes, it's supposed to be a real live job, not an ideological middle finger raised to the rest of the world) of Ambassador to the U.N. to see exactly how much of an embarrassment and a disaster it's likely he would be if confirmed." (Emphasis added.)
Exactly. It is supposed to be a real live job. When I wrote my long post on Bolton, I decided to consider only those aspects of his record that were directly relevant to his doing his job well, not to my disagreements with his substantive views. I assume that George W. Bush is not going to nominate any of my ideological soulmates to this job, so I didn't bother with that. I didn't even bother to mention such things as his unwillingness to say, even now and with the benefit of hindsight, that the UN should have done more to prevent the Rwandan genocide. That does affect how he will do his job, insofar as it forces one to ask whether he believes there is anything that the UN should try to accomplish; whether he has any positive vision at all for the UN. But there were so many other issues that spoke even more directly to job performance that I didn't think I had to get into that one.
If we, as a people, start to think that the momentary satisfactions of 'raising an ideological middle finger to the rest of the world' are more important than appointing someone who can consistently advance our national interests, then we are in deep, deep trouble.
Mark Schmitt at The Decembrist has, for my money, the most insightful commentary on the implications of the Bolton hearings (and other recent setbacks to the Republican leadership):
"A command-control system like the White House-led Republican congressional system can be absolutely formidable for a certain period of time. But when it breaks down, it breaks down completely. The collapse is sudden, and total. Signals get crossed, backs get stabbed, the suddenly leaderless pawns in the system start acting for themselves, with no system or structure to coordinate their individual impulses.
Is this happening? I don't know, but it's getting close. I thought I'd seen it before, but each time they've pulled it back together. This time, I think there's too much happening at once.
The irony of all this for conservatives is that if they actually read Hayek and got anything out of it other than "government sucks," they would know this. Hayek's libertarianism was very pragmatic. Centrally controlled systems are flawed above all because they have no mechanism to correct their own errors, unlike distributed, self-organized systems. The Democrats in the Clinton years always operated in chaos, no one followed the party line, and there was a cost to that, but in the chaos and improvisation they found ways to get out of the holes that they had dug for themselves. The Rove/DeLay/Frist system doesn't have any means for correcting its mistakes -- look at the blank, lost looks on the faces of Senators Lugar and Chafee yesterday when they just had no idea what to do with a nomination that had fallen apart and couldn't fulfill their promises."