Bolton: The First Casualty of the Supreme Court Battle
In preparing for the most heated kind of nomination battle, the Bush administration seems to be distancing itself from yesterday’s fight:
President George W. Bush is unlikely to seek a recess appointment for John Bolton in the near future, increasing the sense that his nomination for US ambassador to the United Nations is running out of steam.
A senior administration official suggested that a recess appointment — a presidential confirmation of an official while the Senate is in recess — would antagonise relations with Democrats ahead of what is expected to be a contentious Senate debate over filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
The debate over Mr Bolton has been overshadowed since Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced last week her pending retirement from the Supreme Court. The White House is now gearing up for a battle to find a replacement.
It’s the obvious — and the wise — political decision. Setting aside the substantive dimension of Bolton’s nomination, the White House cannot afford to be hamstrung by a relatively insignificant ambassadorship. It must focus on the vacancy that will have long-lasting impact and help define the Bush presidency. In any event, Bolton’s chances are near zero, and the populace is more concerned with the Supreme Court than with the UN bureaucracy.
Actually, Republicans should be thankful that Bolton preceded O’Connor. The timing gives Bush yet another opportunity to show moderation — to make a concession, then call for civility. By moving away from the recess appointment, he appears willing to bargain. If you combine this gesture with the fact that the filibuster deal may hinder the Democrats, then the GOP may enjoy a few early advantages.