Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Gut Shot

Six and a half months ago, I wrote the following on why I was voting for John Kerry:
"The more I think about it, the more I'm voting for Kerry because of all the reasons Bush strategists say I should vote for Bush. I want a President who stand solidly against terror, will aggressively move to target them, knows the importance and utter paramounce of homeland security, and above all, does not subordinate the safety of American people to score quick political points. On all of these fronts, President Bush has objectively been a disaster, and Sen. Kerry appears to have a remedy. That's enough for me."

A week after that post, I gave the following pre-debate advice to Senator Kerry, telling him to ask the following questions directly to President Bush at the first opportunity:
"The War on Terror is too important to be subordinated to Politics, Mr President. The American people deserve to know: Why have we held back in Fallujah? Why'd you allow House Republicans to kill a bill to increase Chemical Plant Security? Why are you cutting funding towards securing loose nuclear material, so terrorists can't build a dirty bomb? Why'd you threaten to veto desperately needed Homeland Security spending, right after 9/11? Why'd you oppose the creation of 9/11 commission? Why'd you oppose the creation of the Department of Homeland Security? The security of the American people is worth more than a soundbite, Mr. President. It means having a real plan, that exists in the real world, and the American people deserve real answers to these questions."

The underlying theme behind all this is that Democrats need to show the American people that Bush's anti-terror policies are often all bark and no bite. Republicans simply aren't philosophically suited for the type of battles and actions the war on terror forces us to undertake, ones that undercut the old statecentric models that the Bush administration still desperately clings to. A Democratic attack that emphasizes how Bush's policies fail even on their own terms is much more effective than weak-sounding polemics about the value of multilateralism and the UN.

So, while it is a few months too late, I was pleased to see Kenneth Baer argue that Democrats should oppose the nomination of John Bolton to the UN ambassadorship on precisely those grounds.
"In his current position at State, Bolton's job is to lead the effort to stop WMD proliferation. Yet less weapons-grade nuclear material was secured in the two years after September 11 than in the two years before it. North Korea has gone from having two nuclear bombs to having as many as eight. (As former 9/11 Commission staffer Warren Bass put it, "two bombs is a deterrent; eight is a commodity.") Iran's mullahs have stepped up their efforts to go nuclear, and the United States appears impotent to stop them. And Bolton has been credited with killing the Biological Weapons Convention.

Not only have Bush and Bolton cut funding for the Nunn-Lugar program to halt the spread of nuclear materials and expertise from the former Soviet Union, Bolton also has failed to finalize a Plutonium Disposition Agreement with Russia that could lead to the elimination of 70 tons of weapons-grade plutonium. And Bolton's biggest accomplishment in this area, the Proliferation Security Initiative--an effort to intercept shipments of WMD technology and delivery systems--looks better on paper than in practice because Russia and China are not participating.

To be sure, part of this line of argument is that Bolton and the Bush administration have acted rashly and unilaterally in a way that has made gaining trust and cooperation when it comes to nuclear proliferation and fighting terrorism more difficult. But this point should not be made on its own; it should be made in the context of how Bolton and Bush have faltered in the fight on terror. Rather than saying that Bolton has contempt for the United Nations and doesn't play well with others, Democrats should say that during the last four years, Bolton has failed to do his job of stopping the spread of WMD, making America more vulnerable to a devastating terrorist attack."

The Bush administration has gotten to talk the talk for long enough on terrorism. It's time for Democrats to make them walk the walk as well.

By way of Kevin Drum, we learn that moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), who's looking awfully vulnerable in 2006, is making murmurs about not supporting Bolton. The new liberal-hawk blog Democracy Arsenal gives us a top 10 list on why to oppose Bolton. This is a battle we can win, folks.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Steven Clemons add more to it. Looks like another major official, a Republican intelligence appointee, is coming out against Bolton, and hard.

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