Thune Opposing Bolton as BRAC Payback

Senator John Thune, who promised during his campaign against then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle that electing him would save Ellsworth Air Force Base, is opposing John Bolton’s nomination as UN Ambassador in a bizarre protest against that base’s inclusion on the BRAC list.

Thune now says he’ll oppose Bolton for U.N. (AP)

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Thursday that he would vote against the nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, hinting his vote is a protest against the Pentagon’s recommendation to close Ellsworth Air Force Base. But he did support his party on the vote that mattered most Thursday. Republicans needed 60 votes to end the Democratic procedural delays and move to an immediate final vote on Bolton’s confirmation. Fifty-six senators – including Thune – voted to end the stalling, four shy of that threshold. Now the final Bolton vote will probably not take place until June.

Thune said Thursday that saving Ellsworth is “inseparable from my work” in the Senate. “It is part of the fabric of every day of our agenda and the things we are trying to accomplish here,” Thune said Thursday. “It’s something that has become a great preoccupation of mine now.”

Asked whether his opposition to Bolton was because of his qualifications or the base-closing plan, Thune said dryly: “I’m concerned about our diplomatic posture as a nation, and I’m concerned about our defensive posture. These issues are not unrelated.”

While I understand Thune’s desperation to save Ellsworth–and would be surprised if a deal isn’t worked out to save it, given the significance of knocking off Daschle–this tactic strikes me as counterproductive as it is odd. A junior senator has to support the party leadership on key votes if he hopes to have any chance of influencing legislation.

via Michelle Malkin

FILED UNDER: Congress, Military Affairs, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. And, no doubt, this will help SD’s cause.

  2. {sigh}

    :rolling eyes:

    {another sigh}

  3. ColoradoConservative says:

    Personally, I don’t blame Thune one bit. He is absolutely seething. Ellsworth is the base for 1/2 of our B-1 fleet. I can understand consolidating the fleet but instead of bringing everything to Ellsworth they’re putting everything in Texas.

    You must understand how important Ellsworth is to western South Dakota and Rapid City in particular. I can not overestimate it and Thune staked his Senate race on saving Ellsworth.

    This is a shot across the bow that Thune will NOT be a company man. South Dakotans, of all stripes, are very very angry.

  4. Just Me says:

    You know I heard the same arguments during the first round of base closings, and every town that lost their bases managed to survive.

    I totally understand him being mad, and I can totally understand him trying to do what he can to change the decision, but throwing a temper tantrum and voting against the administration in a fit over something totally unrelated is rediculous and childish. It is like somebody kicking their dog, because their boss yelled at them.

    Somebody needs to give Thune a time out.

  5. DC Loser says:

    It may not help South Dakota, but it sure will help Thune in his re-election bid. Tip O’Neill was right about all politics being about local issues.

  6. Anderson says:

    One wonders what non-political reasons there are for closing the ND base and putting it all in … Texas? Has anyone noticed any Texans at the upper levels of our government?

  7. Anderson says:

    Oh, and don’t forget this:

    Downsizing military bases is a painful but crucial step in the process of transforming the U.S. military into the kind of fighting force especially suited for this age of terror, President Bush told Naval Academy graduates Friday.

    “We have more bases than we need,” Bush said in a commencement address to the academy’s Class of 2005. “Supporting these facilities wastes billions of taxpayer dollars – money that can be better spent on giving you the tools to fight terrorists and confront 21st-century threats.”

    So if you oppose a base’s closing, you’re with the terrorists.

  8. Just Me says:

    “One wonders what non-political reasons there are for closing the ND base and putting it all in … Texas? ”

    I can list a few.

    Saves money, because you don’t have to duplicate services in two different places.

    Because the bases in Texas are larger, they can better accomodate absorbing a smaller base, than shutting down the one in Texas and moving it to SD (although if I remember right there are some Texas bases on the list, but I won’t swear to it).

    Another one is weather. Weather in Texas is warm most of the year, verses SD. YOu can get more training time in without as many weather related problems.

    There may be others, but one that quickly comes to mind is that better than 50% of military volunteers come from the South, keeping the bases closer to their homes, may be in the end more likely to keep them in the military than moving them to places like SD or NE.

  9. c124 says:


    I guess you only fight in warm climes and the atmosphere is warm as Florida.

  10. Toolmaker says:

    Daschle is looking better every day.

    You never want to place all your eggs into a single basket. It may look great on paper, but History has many examples of why its best to spread out Military bases, even duplicating what they do at other sites.

    BTW, Consolidating Military bases to save money..? You think that the 300 Odd Billion we are spending in Iraq may have anything to do with this? If this Administration continues on its present course, we will have more Military in Iraq than we do in the United States.

    At some point i hope the American Public begins to see through the ineptitude.

  11. Just Me says:

    Closing a series of bases hardly amounts to putting all the eggs in one basket. There are still tons of eggs spread out across several more baskets.

    The big question was which baskets the eggs should go in. We may all have our opinions, but in the end I don’t think it is a bad idea to consolidate some bases together. Now if the closure plan was truly a “let’s put all the bases in three or four cities” sure you could make that argument, but there are still tons of bases across the US that are remaining open.

  12. wavemaker says:

    DAMN, it’s a good thing we have that Base Closing Commission, so that the politics could be removed from these decisions.

  13. Uffda says:

    Actually, Ellsworth AFB is in SOUTH DAKOTA, not North Dakota, as some of the previous posters have stated. This is a big deal for the state and Thune based a large part of his campaign on his purported ability to protect the base. His position is not a hissy fit, but one to be expected. He was undercut by the Administration.

  14. Just Me says:

    Yes, and I remember Fritz Hollings yacking about how he would save Charleston’s shipyard, and he couldn’t do that (Strom was also saying he would save it, and he couldn’t either). In the end the Shipyard got closed, and Charleston survived.

    And the citizens didn’t hold the loss against Hollings or Thurmond, both of whom retired from the senate after both being reelected to more terms.

    Like I said, I can understand Thune being angry, and I can understand him fighting to keep it open, but at least take your fight to things that are pertinent to the fight, and the UN appointment isn’t anywhere near pertinent.

  15. McGehee says:

    He ought to have brought this up privately to the White House — not publicly, Jim Jeffords fashion.

  16. Juliette says:

    Those of us who have worked on aircraft, accompanying weapons, etc. know that it’s easier to maintain said equipment in 100 degrees F weather than at 10 below (not to mention wind chill factor). And that’s just the mechanical/electrical resources.

  17. Juliette says:

    On topic: Thune is just the latest example of why there isn’t much difference between most politicians on either side.