Voinovich’s Behavior Should Be Encouraged

On Tuesday, Senator George Voinovich circulated a letter to his colleagues urging them to vote against the Bolton nomination. While Bush has called Bolton a “seasoned diplomat,” Voinovich laid bare the truth that Bolton would be a “controversial and ineffective ambassador.” Voinovich wrote in his letter, “In these dangerous times, we cannot afford to put at risk our nation’s ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective ambassador to the United Nations.”

Over on the DNC blog, George Voinovich’s act has been portrayed as a “profile in cowardice.” It is understandable that ardent partisans still hold grudges against Voinovich’s decision to allow the Bolton nomination to proceed through the Foreign Relations Committee without an up or down recommendation, but for those of us who are seriously concerned about Bolton becoming the next ambassador to the UN, we should be encouraging Voinovich’s most recent act of dissention. The truth is it will take bipartisan members of Congress to overturn Bush’s nomination. Voinovich, who has been described as someone who “really cares about public management,” will necessarily have to lead that effort if it is to be successful. To criticize him now throws up the white flag before we have engaged in the battle; it is cutting the legs out from under the leader who is putting his political capital on the line.

The vote of the committee is over. The vote on the Senate floor is not. If senators who are inclined to demonstrate their independence for justified and conscientious reasons are treated as “cowards,” I don’t imagine that many of them (who are increasingly showing their independence) will see the benefits of turning against Bush. Voinovich has stayed true to his promise that he would fight against the Bolton nomination when it went to the Senate floor, and as for me, I’m right behind him because there’s too much at stake and Bolton is most certainly “unfit to serve.