A few additional thoughts on the Congress, which has recessed until after Labor Day. Its Members are scattered all over the known world. First, John R. Bolton was appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations. The President made the recess appointment, which will expire on January 3, 2007, because Liberal Senators again blocked an up-or-down vote on Bolton’s nomination.
When President Bush first nominated Bolton it was a thunderbolt. Liberals were aghast. Immediately they began to campaign against him. Extensive hearings were held before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by an unenthusiastic Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), voted on the Bolton nomination. A doubtful Senator George V. Voinovich (R- OH) decided that Bolton was not the right man for the job and helped send the nomination to the Senate Floor without a recommendation.
Notwithstanding that problem, there would have been sufficient votes to confirm Bolton. Liberals claimed they began to debate but did not filibuster the Bolton nomination until Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. called for a cloture vote. They then ensured there would not be sufficient votes to end the filibuster.
Senator Joseph P. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Democrats asked the White House to provide records of communications that Bolton had sought from the National Security Agency. The White House has refused, citing executive privilege and the risk of an undesirable precedent. Biden, who fancies himself an alternative to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) in the 2008 Presidential race, told the White House “No names. No vote.”
The President could have surrendered the records after some advisors argued it would not necessarily set a precedent. The President could have withdrawn the nomination but he would not do so unless Bolton asked for his nomination to be withdrawn. Thus, President Bush’s only option was the recess appointment. That appointment is problematic because Bolton doesn’t have a Senate vote backing him up. (That may be less problematic than many think because Bolton would have been confirmed by at least a 54-46 vote or a closer vote.) The disadvantage is that Bolton was appointed for a seventeen month term, which will expire upon adjournment of the 109th Congress. Thereafter, if Republicans control the Senate, Bush again could nominate him.
Constitutional experts are divided about whether Bush would make another recess appointment to carry Bolton through the end of Bush’s term. I suspect that the President would want to keep Bolton at the U.N. because the plain-speaking Bolton would shake things up. That is why Bush appointed Bolton in the first place. Democrats said after Bush made the Bolton appointment that this is going to be an issue in 2006. I can hear the President saying, “Throw me in that briar patch.”
Before the August recess my good friend Senator Bill Frist made what some called a startling decision, to advocate more money for embryonic stem-cell research. Senator Frist talked with me at length about his decision and said he had to follow his conscience. I told him that I never discourage anyone from following his or her conscience provided it is a properly formed conscience. I advised him his decision would be a deal-breaker with the pro-life community and his Presidential ambitions. He understood but felt he had to act because he had spoken with some of the best scientists in the world. They urged him to change his position and claimed that the embryonic stem-cell research policy President Bush proposed in 2001 has made 22, not 78, embryonic stem-cell lines available for federal funding. The Frist proposal would use only embryonic stem-cells that would be neither implanted nor adopted during a couple’s fertility therapy but instead would be discarded or destroyed after fertility therapy if the couple absolutely wished.
As regular readers know, I like Bill Frist. I thought he was one of the better choices our movement had for the Presidency. After I spoke with many pro-family (as distinguished from pro-life) leaders, I am convinced that the Senator could make a fatal mistake if he aspires to the Presidency. One leader suggested that Frist could be telling us he does not intend to run for President and that he would return to the practice of medicine.
Bill Frist is a good man whose love of science has clouded his moral vision. Can he overcome this problem? Perhaps, but it would take something quite remarkable. We’ll know more what the temperature of the movement is in 2006 but presently Frist has lessened his chance for the GOP nomination.
Finally, Helen Thomas was already a veteran UPI reporter when I began working in the media 45 years ago. She recently told one of her colleagues that if Dick Cheney were to run for the Presidency and win she would kill herself. Her comments, which she claimed were an off-the-record rant, were printed and picked up by Matt Drudge. They were broadcast all over the world. Said Thomas, “I’ll never, ever speak to another reporter again.” What a wonderful commentary on the establishment media: It can’t even trust its own.
I will be on vacation for several weeks. God willing and my computer working, my commentaries will appear again thereafter. The only time I wish I were still in Wisconsin is during August. It is closer to that refreshing Canadian cool air.