Obama Referred to John Bolton as “Damaged Goods” after Bush Recess Appointment
Morgen on February 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm
All indications are that President Obama will utilize the upcoming congressional break to make one or more recess appointments of nominees currently held up in the Senate due to GOP opposition. Perhaps even controversial nominee Craig Becker, whose nomination for the National Labor Relations Board was effectively blocked today by a filibuster which included two Democrats in addition to the newest Republican, Scott Brown. So expect to see the White House use the “obstinacy” of Republicans, and the “need to govern”, as justification for a forthcoming decision by the President to proceed unilaterally with one or more appointments.
Contrast this positioning with then Senator Obama’s reaction to the recess appointment of John Bolton to the UN by President Bush in 2005:
“To some degree, he’s damaged goods,” said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I think that means we’ll have less credibility and, ironically, be less equipped to reform the United Nations in the way that it needs to be reformed.”
It appears that Obama did not invent this “damaged goods” meme, which was echoed by numerous liberal politicians and media outlets at the time. But he certainly had no problem deploying it to advance his argument that bypassing Senate confirmation reduced the credibility of the appointment.
And keep in mind that the situation with Bolton’s nomination was exactly equivalent to the current one, as Republicans held the majority in the Senate in 2005 and Bolton would have been confirmed had Democrats allowed an up or down vote. Obama could have expressed his opposition to Bolton by simply voting against him, but instead he chose to support the effective filibuster of his nomination by Senate Democrats.
Of course the worst part of this whole episode was that the attacks on Bolton were actually part of a coordinated strategy by liberal Democrats to undermine his assignment at the UN, if they could not block his nomination. At a time when we were actively seeking the support of other leading nations in dealing with the challenges in North Korea, Iran, and Afghanistan.
So I guess the only question is whether turn about is fair play, and conservatives should label any forthcoming recess appointees by the President as “damaged goods”? While it would be entertaining to watch the Administration defend against the President’s own words from 2005, I think the smarter play might be for Republicans to take the high road and continue to focus most of their efforts on opposing the extreme elements of the President’s policy agenda. With one exception.
If the President has the audacity to appoint Becker whose nomination is opposed even by members of his own party, then Becker is definitely “damaged goods”.