Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bolton Might be Bright or He Might Just be Nuts

I don’t know John Bolton, but I know his type and that he probably has a very high IQ, thinks himself right when he’s thought something through and is aggressive, perhaps too aggressive making it happen.  It’s also possible that he’s merely an out-of-control egomaniac.  There’s something undeniably strange about brown hair and a white moustache.

Conclusion; brilliant CEO material, disastrous as a diplomat.


Which makes him exactly the wrong choice for the UN ambassadorial job to which he has been nominated by the president.  This is not a creative position, doesn’t require the ability to weigh and consider options, has no need for policy formation and it’s not a job where you win by coming down hard.  It’s an advocacy job, a pipe-smoker’s role, building (dare I say it?) coalitions and supporting positions advanced primarily by the State Department. Bolton is a proven disaster and a bully as an advocate.


It’s the unspooling of the tightly held evidence concerning his near-manic interactions with subordinates that make him the clear choice for not being chosen. Timing is everything and a single tick of the clock proved one click too many, changing Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich's mind, opening a trickle of dissention within the committee that threatened to become a torrent.  Chairman Richard Luger knows a trickle when he sees it and thus the committee adjourned for three weeks to 'seek out additional testimony.' Three days would have meant trouble, three weeks means it’s over.


Whether or not Bolton suffers from it, I suggest that government is not a comfortable place for intellect. The whole setting is wrong. It’s an arena far more suited to ego and the cult of personality, yet bathed constantly in the requirement of consensus.  It's a dealmaker’s environment and this requirement is the antithesis of intellect.  To exercise intellectual capacity is to weigh issues one against another and make choices from positions based upon facts at hand.  Government turns intellectual brandy into the watered wine of political compromise. It's supposed to.  It was designed that way.


Back a couple of decades Lee Iacocca, the CEO who revived a bankrupt Chrysler Corporation was a hot prospect for president.  Knowing himself well enough to turn away from what was likely to have been a successful run, Iacocca claimed that political compromise was too far from the autocracy he was used to (and needed) in running a corporation. Government is the largest of corporations, yet it runs on consensus, a sort of sputtering on five out of eight cylinders that is its frustration as well as salvation.


Not a place for John Bolton, who’s been called a serial-abuser by former State Department intelligence chief Carl W. Ford, Jr.. Bolton has operated within government for decades but the system has found him out in this recent foray beyond his pay-grade.


It’s government sputtering along in its majestic commonality that sunk the Bolton nomination, because I’m going to stick my neck out and declare it dead in committee.  Like Tom DeLay, Bolton attracted flies long enough for hounds to follow a smell that was not yet a stench.  That extra tick of the clock.  And it’s the flies that save us all. 


Aggressive intellect is the stuff of revolution and anarchy, not representative government.  The democratic process discourages aggressive intellectuals and when they venture above the pay-grade supporting their talent, they’re stamped out like a bug on the pavement. Henry Kissinger didn't work after Nixon.


The founders, perhaps the finest congregation of intellectuals ever gathered, delivered to their new nation a governmental construct that denied government by intellectual.  Jefferson was against it, advocating authority by an ‘intellectual aristocracy,’ but he lost out to populism.


Undoubtedly wise.  We are muddlers, we Americans, and at our best and least dangerous while muddling.