Request of the Week
MARK SAYS: Happy to oblige. John Bolton was my guest on Wednesday's Hannity, speaking with piercing clarity about Iran, Iraq and the post-American world. But I have to say a small part of me always thinks of these ridiculous hearings and pictures him with hands on hips doing the full Carmen Miranda. By the way, this is the last in the present series of Request of the Week, but don't forget there's a cornucopia of my greatest hits on a wide range of topics from Clinton and Sinatra to Saddam's bodice-ripping novel and the Nepalese monarchy in the book Mark Steyn From Head To Toe.Thanks for all your requests over the years - we're now getting requests for columns that weren't even written when this department opened for business in November 2002. Thus, Michelle's requested column, which first appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times in April 2005:
Boy, this confirmation battle over John Bolton, the President's plain-spoken nominee for UN ambassador, is really heating up. Senator Barbara Boxer, the Democratic Party's comely obstructionist, has charged that Bolton needs "anger management lessons".
I don't know about you, but nothing makes me want to hurl a chair through the window and punch someone's lights out like being told I need anger management lessons. So I was interested to hear about the kind of violent Boltonian eruptions that had led Senator Boxer to her diagnosis. Well, here it comes. (If you've got young children present, you might want to take them out of the room.) From the shockingly brutal testimony of Thomas Fingar, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence Research:
He was "standing up" with "hands on hips"! Who's he think he is â Carmen Miranda? Fortunately, before Bolton could let rip with a "pursed lip" or escalate to the lethal "tsk-ing" maneuver, Fingar was able to back cautiously out of the room and call the FBI anger management team, who surrounded the building and told the deranged diplomat to come out slowly with his hands above his hips.
Well, I haven't been so horrified since â¦well, since David Gest split from Liza Minnelli and launched a multi-million dollar suit for damages because she'd beaten him up. As The Daily Show's Jon Stewart observed, "There is no conceivable amount of money worth telling the world that you were beaten up by Liza Minnelli." Likewise, whatever one's feelings about the UN and Kofi Annan and multilateralism, there's nothing that could get most self-respecting men to appear in front of a Senate committee and complain that John Bolton put his hands on his hips. At least, Liza allegedly beat David to a pulp. True, she'd recently had two hip replacements, so if she'd slapped her hands on her hips, she'd have fallen to the ground howling in agony, and David could have run for his life. Or, indeed, strolled for his life, given that she was overweight, barely five foot tall and a decade his senior. But my point is: even David Gest might have balked at complaining about hands on hips.
Still, in the ever accelerating descent into parody of the Senate confirmation process, nothing is too trivial. By the time Senator Boxer and co are through huffing about the need for anger management lessons, Two-Hips Bolton will be able to walk into every saloon in Dodge and the meanest hombres will be diving for cover behind the hoochie-koochie gals' petticoats before his pinky's so much as brushed his waist.
If the Senate poseurs and the media wanted to mount a trenchant critique of Bolton's geopolitical philosophy, that would be reasonable enough. But there's not even a pretence of any of that. Instead, his opponents have seized on one episode â an intelligence analyst in a critical position with whom Bolton and others were dissatisfied â and used it to advance the bizarre proposition that every junior official should be beyond reproach, and certainly beyond such aggressive "body language" as putting one's hands on hips. Or as Peter Beinart, the editor of The New Republic, complained to the BBC the other night: Bolton was "disloyal to his subordinates".
It's been obvious for three years now that the torpid Federal bureaucracies â the agencies that so comprehensively failed America on 9/11 â are resistant to meaningful reform, but Beinart, in demanding that the executive branch swear fealty to the most incompetent underling, distills the "reform" charade to its essence: we'll talk reform, we'll pass reform bills, we'll merge and de-merge and re-merge every so often, we'll change three-letter acronyms (INS) to four-letter acronyms (BCIS) just to show how serious we are, and a year or four down the line we may well get real tough and require five-letter acronyms. But in the end we believe underperforming bureaucrats in key roles should be allowed to go on underperforming until retirement age. And, if you happen to show you're just the teensy-weensiest bit upset with one of them, we'll blow it up into a month of hearings on TV.
So vast battalions of America's "public servants" sit around all day cross-examining each other about some guy's unacceptably aggressive body language. He put his left hand in! His left hip out! In, out, in, out, he shook them all about! It's the hot dance craze we all do at the Sinister Neocon Conspiracy Initiation Ceremony:
If he doesn't get the nomination, he's got the makings of this summer's novelty hit, "Neoconga #5":
And, if an underperforming bureaucrat winds up getting Atlanta or Dallas nuked, tough. Better that happen than that out-of-control nutcakes rampage around with hands on hips. After all, as National Review's John Derbyshire put it three years, deftly summing up the philosophy of this new war: Better dead than rude.
As for the job Bolton's up for, what would make Barbara Boxer and Joe Biden put their hands on hips? Child sex rings run from UN peacekeeping operations? Sudan sitting on the Human Rights Commission while it licenses mass murder in Darfur? Kofi Annan's son doing a $30,000-a-year job but somehow having a spare quarter-million dollars to invest in a Swiss soccer club? There are tides in the affairs of men when someone has to put his hands on his hips and toss his curls. And, if the present depraved state of the UN isn't one of them, nothing is. Unlike most of the multilateral blatherers, John Bolton is hip to that.
from Request of the Week, 29 Dec 2011
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