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Tilting at Windmills

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July 26, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE RETURN OF JOHN BOLTON....Great. Now that lunatic Jack D. Ripper wannabe John Bolton has sworn off appearances in the New York Times, he shows up on my doorstep instead. Thanks a lot, Nick. Shorter Bolton: If Barack Obama gave a speech praising mothers as the glue that holds America together, I'd write a turgid op-ed essay arguing that Obama shows a dangerous inability to grasp that it's really our unique dedication to uncompromising militarism that holds America together. Oh, and what's more, Obama obviously doesn't understand the meaning of the words mother, glue, hold and America. Nyah nyah.

Which just goes to show: it's not just bloggers who can write incoherent screeds while munching Cheetos in their underwear. Guys in suits and ties on our nation's premier op-ed pages can do it too.

Kevin Drum 12:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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Guys in suits and ties on our nation's premier op-ed pages can do it too.

Kevin, you live in the OC, but you're subscribing to the SF Chronicle?

Posted by: Jeff II on July 26, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

It's quite sad to see the slow death of a great newspaper.

It is not enough for the neocons to destroy people and institutions in the lands faraway: they will not rest until every decent organization at home has been transformed into a refuge for the mentally deficient, morally bankrupt, and the ethically corrupt aka GOP.

Posted by: gregor on July 26, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II,

You must be talking about Deborah J. Saunders, the conservative columnist for the SF Chronicle.

Posted by: adlsad on July 26, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Bolton. So afraid of the world, and yet so impotent to stop its progress. I believe we will really see the generational shift towards Obama and GenX/Y in the ways which a truer more grounded understanding of the world takes control of US foreign policy. The younger generations understand much better than our predecessors that, if given a real option, people want peace and freedom. States, on the other hand, crave power and control. The Bolton mindset refuses to see the primary reasons the cold war was won -- our freedom was simply preferable to the people of the USSR. Bolton sees our freedom as the result of strength and power, not as the cause. But the more the Soviets saw how we live and work, and the freedom we have, the more they wanted it. This is how we will win against the silly little Al Qaedas of the world as well. If we act as the neocons wish, we simply become the thing the poor Muslim street fears, and the world blows up in WWIV. If we react to extremism not out of fear, but out of understanding, generosity, and yes, a sense of this being one world united, the future looks very good indeed. Live long and prosper.

Posted by: YankeeFrankee on July 26, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Being an uber-hawk on steroids seems like the easy job in the world. "Just bomb 'em."

Posted by: on July 26, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

What a sad view of the world. Bolton represents the vilest aspects of neocon dogma. The fact that the LA Times even deigned to print this drivel is reflective of the quick slide into irrelevance and tabloidism that paper has been hurling toward for the last few years. What a sad piece to read, overall.

Posted by: Frank Jacobs on July 26, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

If you have John Boltons showing up on your doorstep, you really have a problem. Have you thought about hiring an exterminator? Unfortunately, Boltons leave terrible stains. The sooner you hire pest control, the better.

Posted by: Anon on July 26, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

And remember not to let any John Boltons make a nest in your underwear drawer. They gnaw on the fabric and leave big holes. Then they start yammering about "indecency" 'n' stuff.

Posted by: Anon on July 26, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Talk about letting the right wingers be heard! (Ugh.)

And we recall what he was like at the UN:

From July 23, 2006 New York Times-- Warren Hoge: "...Many diplomats say they see Mr. Bolton as a stand-in for the arrogance of the administration itself. ..."Envoys say he has in fact endangered..effort by alienating traditional allies. They say he combatively asserts American leadership, contests procedures at the mannerly, rules-bound United Nations, and then shrugs off the organization when it does not follow his lead."
An unnamed UN ambassador with close ties to the administration remarked: "My initial feeling was, let's see if we can work with (Bolton), and I have done some things to push for consensus on issues that were not easy for my country. But all he gives us in return is, 'It doesn't matter, whatever you do is insufficient. He's lost me as an ally now, and that's what many other ambassadors who consider themselves friends of the United States are saying."

The opinion piece shows how he is into war, political capital, violent military action, and promoting that Texas swagger we've seen to much of, and angry conservatism. However, Barack Obama's presentation abroad really cannot be diminished by Bolton's smear campaign.

Posted by: consider wisely always/a different voice on July 26, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Slightly off topic:

Was anyone other than me bothered by Obama's push to get the Germans to send more troops to Afghanistan? It seems to me the German public has a pretty powerful fear of remilitarization: they're afraid if they taste blood again they might like it too much. If they don't want to commit troops surely there must be other ways they can contribute - financially, with equipment or logistical help, etc. I think this is one area Obama is straining too hard at concensus building with the right wing and needs to rethink US policy.

Posted by: loki on July 26, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Guys in suits and ties ...?
Maybe you should say, insane apes.

Posted by: ♂ ♫ ♀ on July 26, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

My friends, John Bolton's a douche.

Posted by: John McCain on July 26, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

John Bolton's only success was the Libya deal. The problem is that the deal couldn't be made until the British kicked Bolton out of the negotiations. When your claim to fame is that progress can be made only when you're not present, why does anyone listen to you?

Posted by: fostert on July 26, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

MHR: "American power and not pretty words convinced the enemy that the US meant business...Bolton knows history."

The problem with folks like MHR is that they have no concept of anything but militarism. (When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.) Bolton may know history but he doesn't know diddly about current global dynamics.

The world is a different place today than it was when Kennedy was in Berlin. Different problems require different solutions. The US is hardly in the economic or military position to dictate to the world any more. We can barely hold Iraq.

While the US has been pouring money down the Middle East rat hole, China has been buying up mineral rights in Africa and negotiating with South America for trade rights.

Diplomacy is the currency of today. Obama sees this and fortunately, he is well received by those countries it would behoove us to treat with respect instead of disdain. We're a legend in our own minds. Time to grow up and join the global community.

Posted by: Everyman on July 26, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I take it back. Bolton doesn't know much about history either. Only the rabid right version of it.

Posted by: Everyman on July 26, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Everyman: thanks for the correction. Agreed -- Bolton doesn't really know history and neither does MHR. The truth is that terrorism as a threat has nothing in common with the cold war. And even if it did, Bolton and MHR's "belief" that militarism was the cause of the defeat of the Soviets is ahistorical. What Obama knows is that it was the soft power the US projected that ultimately toppled the Soviets. Military power was of course important, and Obama knows this too, which is why there is so much talk of guys like Hagel in an Obama government. The US is at its best when our sensible left and sensible right work together. That is the problem today frankly: too few sensible individuals on either side of the aisle. An Obama administration would bring the sensible voices back to positions of power -- which can only be a good thing.

Contrary to the blatherings of Bolton and the other neocons about "the most liberal blah blah in congress" boilerplate they hurl thoughtlessly around, Obama is in the center of the democratic party. What we have to fear the most is indeed fear, but not our own fears: we have to fear the fears of a bunch of insecure males (aka neocons) who feel the need to use US military might and bluster across the globe (as if our strength belongs to them alone) to make up for their shortcomings in bed.. or wherever it is they feel inadequate.

Posted by: YankeeFrankee on July 26, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Guys in suits and ties on our nation's premier op-ed pages can do it too.

Just not as well as Maureen Dowd.

Posted by: Shelby on July 26, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

You complete prick Kevin. You know nothing about what you are writing.

I ate six packets of Cheetos and a dormouse while writing that article just to show you liberals.

Of course you have to write in your underpants, who wants to get blood all over their suit when they are biting the head off a live dormouse?

Posted by: John Bolton on July 26, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Tearing down the Berlin Wall was possible because one side -- our side -- defeated the other." Defeated? I don't remember any battles or anything going on. More like the Soviet side collapsed, principally I think because information mainly via TV and radio was creeping in and the populace was figuring out that the Western system was doing a lot better for the people than theirs. How do idiots like Bolton get to high position? Oh, perhaps rabid adherence to an ideogy. Kinda like your typical Kremlin official. He probably spent most of his time at the UN looking for the source of those black heliocopters full of UN troops dispatched to take away our guns.

Posted by: emjayay on July 26, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

To clarify my view on dems and repubs working together as good for America -- I would tend to think that's mainly true in the foreign policy realms we have been speaking of in this thread. Generally, when it comes to the economy, jobs and health care, the repubs simply have no good solutions.

Posted by: YankeeFrankee on July 26, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

What makes you think John Bolton wears a suit and tie to compose his op-eds? I'm thinking he wears a Jim Beam No.1 Field Tester undershirt in his den.

Posted by: James Wimberley on July 26, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Now that's funny.

In this post we get "that lunatic Jack D. Ripper wannabe".

In the next posting we get " The right will be lambasted as ultra-conservative cretins who want to conflate the Constitution and the Bible, are pro-life before birth and pro-death after trial and blindly follow war-hungry fear-mongers who obsess over "terrorists" like a Tootsie Roll commercial."

Self-awareness much?

Posted by: a on July 26, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I read it.

Kevin is being infantile and stupid. That was a
perfectly reasonable and coherent criticism of
Obama's words and world-view. Bolton raises serious
and substantive issues and concerns and spells
them out well.

Kevin engages in screeching, eye-scratching and sophomoric name-calling in an attempt to prevent any consideration
of the concerns which Bolton raises.

Posted by: a on July 26, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

John Bolton calling someone else 'radical and naive'??? Are these people serious, are they that dense? They are completely paranoid and insane, there's no other way to put it. Bolton just got beat up too many times in middle school I think, just like Normie Poederhertz and never got over it.

None of these chickenshits every served a day in the military, yet they run and hide in their upstairs bedrooms, pissing their pants every time OBL releases another cassette of babbling.

"Oh noez, daddy Bush, protect me! Protect my mundane suburban existence from the terrorists! Boo hoo, my selfish false sense of 'security' is the ONLY thing that matters!"

They will be gone soon, thankfully enough, and it really will take years to fully understand the scope of damage that the neocon agenda did to the USA.

Posted by: Sunn O))) on July 26, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Kennedy was a Democrat who would not recognize the current party."

Oh, poor Adlai Stevenson! Your positions are so quickly forgotten.

Posted by: Historian on July 26, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Mick Lame on July 26, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ah Bolton. Truly one of the stupidest and most annoying of all the stupid and annoying people that populated the Bush Administration. These people all failed so miserably that even Bush has been forced to move on. Last I heard from Bolton, he was furious that Bush is talking to N. Korea. Before that, I remember hearing him on the radio tell me that it was an incontrovertible fact that we had found Saddam's weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Such are the facts of a Bolton...

Posted by: Detroit Dan on July 26, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Obama needs a remedial course in Cold War history... One hopes even Obama, inexperienced as he is, doesn't see all these "walls" as essentially the same in size and scope.

Mr. Bolton really needs to get out of his refrigerator more often. And as someone who sees the world as black-and-white us-vs-them good-vs-evil, he certainly shouldn't be lecturing anyone about their lack of acuity.

Posted by: has407 on July 26, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I love how, in Bolton's view, The Great Ronald single-handedly brought down the Soviets.

It couldn't possibly have had anything to do with the fundamental hollowness and unsustainability of their economic system. Or with Gorbachev's system-endangering reforms.

Nope, it was all about waving a big d^Hstick.

Posted by: dal20402 on July 26, 2008 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kevin Drum,

I like a naïve foreign policy based on feel good words of "unity", "peace" and other terms which neglect the fact that there are real differences that can not be whisked away by wishing. So Mr. Grown Up, John Bolton, please don't remind me that Obama's speech was just immature new age blather and not presidential material.

Posted by: John Hansen on July 26, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, that's strange. Contrary to Bolton (and to John Hansen and "a" here) I don't see any reference in Obama's Berlin speech ( http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/obamaroadblog/gGxyd4#extended ) to a lack of need to oppose either the Soviet Union or Moslem extremists militarily. Quite the opposite: he spent several paragraphs talking explicitly about the need for BOTH. (We are, after all, talking about a guy who says he'd launch raids against al-Qaida camps on Pakistani territory even if the government of Pakistan opposes it.)

As for Bolton's ravings about Obama's mention of the need to "tear down the walls" between Moslems and non-Moslems: as a number of thread commenters have noted above, we won the Cold War through such soft power as well as hard power. We never did invade and conquer the Soviet Union militarily; we CONTAINED it militarily while gradually persuading its leaders and people that our ideas were more correct than theirs. In the case of the Soviet Union, it was our economic ideas; in the case of the Moslem world, it will have to be our ideas about religious tolerance. And soft power is even more important in this conflict than in the last one; we can't begin to militarily "contain" the entire worldwide Moslem community, which is the potential pool from which terrorists come. (The terrorists in Spain and Britain were largely natives; our own attackers on 9-11 were citizens of our supposed friends Saudi Arabia and Egypt.)

And as for Bolton's attack on Obama for his supposed "One World" beliefs: well, as a lot of people have already noted, President Reagan announced that he was "a citizen of the world" during both his fifth State of the Union address and his June 1982 speech to the UN. Is Bolton implying that Reagan had Soviet sympathies? (I don't see any need to go here into Bolton's ridiculous distortion of Wendell Willkie's military and foreign-policy views.)

So: what we have here is just further prooof of what's been said not only by Kevin but by the notoriously liberal "Financial Times" in its review of Bolton's latest book: the man is an idiot.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on July 26, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

A detailed picture of Bolton emerged during his confirmation hearings for U.N. Ambassador. He was described by a colleague as a "suck up, kick down” kind of guy, personally unpleasant to work with, and largely ineffective.

Posted by: fafner1 on July 26, 2008 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter John Hansen,

I like simple foreign policy that neglects changes in the last 20 years, and that can not be whisked away by a sophomoric retreat to the 80's. So Mr. Obama, please don't remind me that McCain is a sclerotic fossilized old man trying to recapture the world of his youth.

Posted by: on July 26, 2008 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Reagan's emplacement of Pershing missiles designed to counter the Soviet's SS-20's was met with demonstrations of the world-wide left, including those in the US."

I've corrected this statement: "Reagan's emplacement of Jimmy Carter's Pershing II missiles..."

From Redstone Arsenal's website:
"19 February 80 - President Jimmy Carter awarded the PERSHING II program the BRICK-BAT (DX) priority rating, the highest national priority granted to a system."

Posted by: arkie on July 26, 2008 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Oh myrrh, I truly miss your asterisks more than your sparkling wit.

Posted by: trollhattan on July 26, 2008 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Shorter Bolton: If Barack Obama gave a speech praising mothers as the glue that holds America together, I'd write a turgid op-ed essay arguing that Obama shows a dangerous inability to grasp that it's really our unique dedication to uncompromising militarism that holds America together.

Erm, other people's militarism.
From Wiki:
"Though Bolton supported the Vietnam War, he enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard rather than serve in Vietnam. He wrote in his Yale 25th reunion book "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost." In an interview, Bolton discussed his comment in the reunion book, explaining that he decided to avoid service in Vietnam because "by the time I was about to graduate in 1970, it was clear to me that Opponents of the Vietnam war had made it certain we could not prevail, and that I had no great interest in going there to have Teddy Kennedy give it back to the people I might die to take it away from."

Mind you, Bolton, born in 1948, had four years to consider suspending his studies to do his service in a war that was not yet lost, but . . . . other priorities intervened.

Posted by: on July 26, 2008 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

i'll say this for both mhr and john bolton: they're pseudo intellectuals of the first rate.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on July 26, 2008 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

" the populace was figuring out that the Western system was doing a lot better for the people than theirs"

Much of which was down to the Ostpolitic that the west German government followed that Bolton criticises in the article. It meant the east Germans (and the Czechs and poles) could see for themselves how much better off the west was.

Of course if it had been up to Bolton then the east german government could have turned around and told their people quite truthfully "Yes but the americans torture people and pass laws to make it legal."

Anyway the notion that John 'iraq has wmds' Bolton is worthy of anything but contempt is amusing. Even he if is now John 'IRAN has wmds' Bolton(though of course he is lying about iran just like he lied about iraq).

Posted by: rb on July 26, 2008 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

I now can't get the "munching cheetos in their underwear" image out of my head. Sounds like something Bolton would've enjoyed doing at Plato's Retreat.

While singing the Tootsie Roll song.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on July 26, 2008 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Bolton is just having flashbacks.

IIRC the writing of Bored Of The Rings involved massive amounts of Cheeto's, Dr. Pepper, and twin turbocharged Smith Corona's. Underwear must have been optional (it was the 70's after all), the Tootsie Roll song was in vogue, Plato's was in full swing, and Bolton was dodging service in Vietnam.

Too bad Bolton hasn't gotten beyond it.

Posted by: on July 26, 2008 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

I've been in this coutry almost 29 years now but the one thing you can say about the GWB years has been the rise of untalented, unqualified, ideological screed. Anybody'd think that tearing down "the wall" had allowed narrow ideological thought to leak over.

The truth is media is owned by capitalists with an agenda. Neither news nor balanced information is what it is about. Increasingly, ideological republicans like Bolton and Kristol and Will are given a voice they most assuredly do not deserve, neither by present spouting nor past record.

Posted by: notthere on July 26, 2008 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

What is up with the LA Times? It appears that they have given up on the under 65 and doesn't listen to Rush 24/7 demographic.

There was a Obama hit piece on the front page a few days ago and the front page article from a couple of Sundays ago was another thinly disguised pro-McCain piece that described how Obama was moving to the middle, where John McCain has been all along, etc...

Are they trying to look attractive to the Fox empire so that Murdoch can come and bail them out?

Posted by: spiny on July 26, 2008 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, regarding YankeeFrankee's and J.C.'s squabble as to whether Obama really is "the most liberal Senator": the "NOMINATE" analysis (pointed to by Matt Yglesias and backed by a National Science Foundation grant) -- which takes into account absences (including campaign absences) as well as votes -- shows Obama virtually identical with Hillary as being only modestly more liberal than the center of 2007 Congressional Democrats. (There are, at the moment, only 8 Democratic Senators more liberal than Obama -- and only 10 more liberal than Hillary -- but about 1/3 of House Democrats are more liberal than Obama.)

J.C., however, can console himself with the fact that they also find McCain to be very distinctly to the Left of the average 2007 Congressional Republican, and moderately closer to the 2007 Congress' overall center than Obama. (Bush, in his positions, was actually far to the Right of the average 2007 Congressional Republican, and MUCH further from the nation's overall political center than Obama.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on July 26, 2008 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

The liberal media keeps letting these voices of justice ring. What the Hell? Why in the world would someone let Yosemite Sam channel Ghengis Khan through automatic writing in a major newspaper OP-Ed? Is he going to have to throw the next biker into Novak's Corvette before everyone understands how dangerous and insane this man is? He is out of step with even the gilded age. I think Getty would have thrown him out of a hotel window. Cripes. Enough already with Ambrose B. Eyebrows and his virility substitute hate-speech. Yow. And "a"--you get a freaking f in history, current events, humanities, and hygiene (go kiss Bolton's ass somewhere else).

Posted by: Sparko on July 26, 2008 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK



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