John Bolton Rises from Grave, Erupts onto Blogosphere

President Bush used a recess appointment this morning to name John Bolton as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The maneuver bypassed efforts of Senate Democrats to hold up Bolton’s nomination until the White House provided “records of communications intercepts Bolton sought from the National Security Agency when he was the State Department’s point man on arms control,” as CNN describes it. Bolton will serve as the ambassador to the U.N. until at least January 2007.

Although Bolton’s controversial public comments are matched only by opinions about his Schnauzer-like moustache and eyebrows, more recently, debates over whether he should be ambassador to the UN have taken a back seat to discussions of the Valerie Plame leak, the London bombings and Supreme Court nominations. But today’s appointment threw a log on the not-quite-dormant Bolton fire.

Roger L. Simon thinks the hot temper and “rudeness” that Democrats cite as reasons to keep Bolton out of this position will actually do wonders for the UN: “If there is one thing that pseudo-idealistic kleptocracy the United Nations needs right now, it is some rudeness … a solid blast of bigtime rudeness that doesn’t stop until all the Oil-for-Food swilling kleptocrats are blown out of their troughs at the secretariat building.”

Cliff May at The Corner strikes down arguments made by Bolton’s opponents: “Bolton’s opponents are saying he is ‘damaged.’ If that’s true, it’s because they have for months been working assiduously to damage him. … They say without Senate approval, Bolton won’t represent the Congress. He will, however, represent the President of the United States. The fact that he may not represent Chris Dodd should not be terribly debilitating.”

On the other side, James Joyner at Inside the Beltway thinks a recess appointment is “a big mistake.” He writes: “For one thing, UN Ambassador is hardly of sufficient importance to justify thumbing Senate Democrats in the eye this way. For another, John Bolton is hardly Robert Bork. Indeed, Bolton may be a case that epitomizes why the filibuster is sometimes a good thing.”

What Joyner calls “thumbing Senate Democrats in the eye,” Beth Ferree at Religious Wrongs describes another way: “I can picture [Bush] looking at the backs of Congress as they go off to break, sticking his tongue out and saying, ‘Nah, nah, now I can do whatever I want and they can’t stop me!’”

Meantime, a New York Times piece today about the decision last April by the school board of Odessa, TX, to add a Bible study elective to the public high school curriculum has bloggers stirred up.

As Kevin Drum at Political Animal points out, the article is “he said/she said” journalism at its worst, offering “quote after quote after endless quote from people saying the course is either a fine addition to the curriculum or else a horrible infringement of the First Amendment.” Drum calls the piece “a virtual showcase of the worst that journalism has to offer.”

But just because the Times item eschews actual facts in favor of reactions from people on the extremes, that hasn’t kept bloggers from adding their own opinions to the pool.

Matt at Rambling Rants makes an argument against the course that starts with an appeal to remember our past — “We teach our children that the United States was born due to religious oppression in England in the 1700’s. Yet here we are three hundred years later and our society has seemed to have forgotten this fact from History 101” — and ends with the demand to “Embrace change!” So love the past, then change it? But don’t forget your love for Christmas! Matt hasn’t. “Don’t get me wrong: I celebrate Christmas [Hell, I know some Jews who celebrate Christmas.] …”

Also weighing in on the Bible elective is TheAlGuy at Ramblings from My Mind. He, too, takes the argument to some far-off conclusions: “The place for this is in Sunday School and Bible School … I want my kids taught facts not mythology… as we teach more and more of this stuff in schools our kids become less and less able to compete in the real world for the high tech productive jobs of the future.”

Perspective of Pete calls this “The Beginning of the End,” and reacts to a part of the Times article that claims, “The critics say [the Bible elective] ignores evolution in favor of creationism and gives credence to dubious assertions that the Constitution is based on the Scriptures, and that ‘documented research through NASA’ backs the biblical account of the sun standing still.”

Pete’s perspective? “The sun standing still … this is what we’re dealing with.”

Drum would probably point out that no, that’s not necessarily what we’re dealing with — just what critics of the program say we’re dealing with.

Perhaps if the Times article had actually described the Bible course curriculum instead of simply quoting what others say the class teaches, the bloggers would have a little more to go on for this one.

So would the rest of us.

Samantha Henig

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Samantha Henig was a CJR Daily intern.