Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Other GWOT: John Bolton edition

Bush has gotten himself into a political pickle with the Bolton nomination, and the odds are now clearly against Bolton's confirmation, with the political result is that George Bush is beginning to be openly described as a lame duck.

But these political issues aside, the underlying issue, at this point, is a procedural one. Although Bolton will certainly be a terrible U.N. Ambassador, the fight at this point is over whether you believe that the executive branch has an obligation to transparency to the other branches and to the American people. The Bush regime is arguing that as the President he has the right to get a vote on anyone he wants for any job, and that his nominations should get a vote without Congress being permitted a fishing expedition for documents -- even if those documents unquestionably pertain to the person's competency to perform the job. As I've written before, the Bush regime may suffer from a small consistency when it comes to Global War on Terror, but it is nothing if not single-minded in the pursuit of its "Other GWOT," e.g. its Global War on Transparency.

But the interesting question why are the Bushies putting up such a fight over these documents? After all, it hands over lots of documents every day, but then all of a sudden digs in its heels at a certain point. How does it draw the line? As part of its Other GWOT, it refuses to make even its own principles for drawing these lines transparent, since to do so would open that reasoning itself up to legal scrutiny.

Speculation is now running that it has to do with the companies that are named in the documents -- which many believe may be major Bush contributors, who are perhaps implicated in shady dealings or worse with the Chinese or the Libyans. Part of the reason for this speculation is that the last battle of this sort that received headlines was over the advice Dick Cheney had received from industry lobbyists in drafting an energy plan -- a battle that the Bushies eventually won before the Supreme Court.

In this case, however, the battle won't go to the Supreme Court but instead will be fought in the court of public opinion, over two competing procedural principles: should a President be able to get a Senate floor vote on any nominee he wants for any job, period; or do the American people first have the right to see all the documentary evidence regarding that candidate that a significant group of Senators deem pertinent to their vote? This is clearly a battle the Democrats ought to win, since in our democracy it remains (for now) awfully hard to make a principled defense of secrecy.

No comments: