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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Bolton's swift exit a blow to American democracy

Editor's note: Leon D'Souza, a graduate of the JCOM department, now serves America in uniform. He is a frequent guest contributor to the Hard News Cafe.

By Leon D'Souza

December 4, 2006 | John Bolton's resignation last week as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations appears to have had a transforming effect on George Bush's presidential demeanor.

Gone is the tough-talking Texas cowboy on Pennsylvania Avenue, the hard-headed White House boss who once ran end-runs around political opponents. The new Dubya is an impotent Washington whiner, griping and harrumphing about "stubborn obstructionism," while yielding to adversaries without so much as an attempt at counterargument.

Don't get me wrong: I've never been a fan of Bolton's blusterous unilateralism, especially his well-documented contempt for the very organization he was appointed to serve. But his uncontested exit was, without doubt, as much a democratic failure as his underhanded recess appointment.

Admittedly, the U.N.'s bÍte noire wasn't shown the door as a result of conclusive debate establishing his unsuitability for the job; rather, he was forced to step down on account of perceived unpopularity in a Senate where the balance of power has shifted.

As The New York Times noted, "administration officials largely gave up on Bolton's Senate confirmation last month," despite recent avowals of his diplomatic service. Time magazine referred to the president's acquiescence as "bowing to the inevitable" -- "another acknowledgement by the White House of the political consequences of the Nov. 7 Congressional elections."

The whole sordid business, to my mind, reeks of complicit cronyism; a government by warring factions, operating as cartels, all subverting the political process to benefit their own parochial interests.

Strategic capitulation, in this new system, becomes easy currency for future consensus-building. Messy persuasion takes a backseat to self-serving compromise, often at the expense of the public good.

It's an unholy quid pro quo, to be sure, and democracy is the unfortunate casualty.

If I may be candid, it isn't like me to find common ground with the president on nearly anything of consequence. And yet, on his official statement concerning the U.N. diplomat's unceremonious departure, I think disgruntled Dubya was right on the money.

"I am deeply disappointed," he told reporters, "that a handful of United States Senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate."

That is to say, the envoy's reappointment should at least have merited due deliberation and democratic consideration.

Mr. President, I couldn't agree more.

What's tragic, however, is that you chose to do nothing about it.



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