When five former Republican secretaries of state sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month in support of the confirmation of John Bolton, one name was notably absent from the signature line: Colin Powell's. It wasn't by accident. Powell is none too pleased with George W. Bush's nomination of Bolton to serve as the new U.N. ambassador, and, as the New York Times and Washington Post both report today, he's spreading his views in a quiet -- you might even say diplomatic -- way unfamiliar to the nominee himself.
The papers say that Powell has spoken in recent days with both Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel, two Republicans who have expressed doubts about Bolton's fitness to serve. While Powell did not say outright that the senators should oppose Bolton's nomination, the Post says he gave them "a frank assessment of the nominee as a man who was challenging to work with on personnel and policy matters." Neither Powell nor the senators would discuss the substance of their conversations, and a spokeswoman for Powell took pains to argue that the former secretary of state isn't actively campaigning against Bolton's confirmation. "General Powell has returned calls from senators who wanted to discuss specific questions that have been raised," Powell spokeswoman Margaret Cifrino told the Post. "He has not reached out to senators."
Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg at the National Review Online can't figure out what all the fuss is about. "I still don't get it," Goldberg writes. "Are we to believe that successful diplomats always treat the staff nicely? Does anyone think Bolton is going to scream at the foreign minister of China on the floor of the General Assembly simply because he's known for yelling at fellow bureaucrats when he needs to get results? What, precisely, is the connection? What, exactly, is the concern?"
Yes, what, exactly, is the concern? After all, it's not like there's videotape of Bolton blowing his stack in a debate with a senior U.N. official or anything. Oh, wait, there is, isn't there?