Joe's Road Trip 2012

Road Trip Day 6: A Few Political Notes

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Philadelphia, Pa

I am absolved of having to be a TV news junkie on the road. I don’t even have much time, sadly, for the morning papers…and I’m feeling the need for my daily Andrew Sullivan and Ezra Klein blogosphere fixes. But some things do get through. Apparently, they had an election in Wisconsin last night. And the comprehensively ridiculous former UN Ambassador John Bolton had an op-ed celebrating the “failure” of nuclear talks with Iran. (He didn’t even get that right.) I have thoughts about both below:
Wisconsin–Voters don’t like gimmicks, and attempting to recall a politician who has done absolutely nothing illegal is a grandstand play of the most trivialorder. From the start, I’ve equated the left’s attempt to unseat Governor Scott Walker with the right’s attempt to impeach Bill Clinton–a total waste of time and money. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with what Walker did (as a moderate, I agree that the power and non-salary benefits of the public employees unions need to be curtailed, but that there are less draconian ways to do it than Walker’s meat cleaver). It’s simply bad for democracy to force a recall election just because you disagree with a man’s politics. If you disagree so much, where were you in 2010 when he was elected? Where will you be in 2014 when he runs again? Walker was legally elected. He has a right to a full 4-year term unless he shows himself morally or criminally unfit for office. He hasn’t. Anything short of that is simply gamesmanship, cynical and divisive politics. The President was right to stay away from this. Those Democrats who made a big deal of it are simply out of touch with what most people want and expect from politics–less heat and noise; less unnecessary contentiousness; more respect for the public’s time, attention and money. (Update: I just noticed that my esteemed and undeniably brilliant colleague Michael Grunwald has taken a similar position to mine on this issue in the post immediately below. There you have it: critical mass. The recall was a dumb idea.)

John Bolton– is a mortal nutjob, a senseless warmonger of the worst order. It was shameful that George W. Bush would have any part of this guy, much less appoint him as U.N. Ambassador, which I thought was a juvenile screw-you gesture to the hapless nonentities who populate that sorry and largely irrelevant institution. But Bolton’s celebration of the “failure” of the Iran talks is a cut below his usual tripe. For one thing, any sane, sentient human being wants these talks to succeed, so that Iran makes it excessively plain, in an irrevocable and transparent fashion, that it will not pursue nuclear weapons…and that the brave, young members of our military aren’t sent off on another mission impossible. For another thing, if Bolton knew anything–I mean the tiniest smidgeon–about these negotiations, he’d understand that what happened in Baghdad was a sign of success, not failure. The Iranians were hoping that empty gestures would be enough to split the international alliance–that the Russians and Chinese were desperate for an excuse to jump ship. Guess what? The Russians and Chinese held firm. No concessions were made. The Iranians have had to go back to the drawing board. They’ll try to concede a bit more, but not enough, in Moscow. Let’s hope that doesn’t work, either. But they can’t continue this for very long, because in July the sanctions intensify and Iran’s complete economic collapse becomes a real possibility.

The idea that Mitt Romney would associate himself with this thoughtless goofball is as feckless as his embrace of Donald Trump, and considerably more dangerous. Romney has taken flak, rightly, from Republican realists for his overly aggressive, ill-informed foreign policy statements. He is making a fool of himself on the issues most central to the commander-in-chief function of the presidency. He needs to ditch John Bolton, and fast.