Bolton's Problem--Not the Bullying, But the Lies
Let's get something straight about John Bolton. Pace commentators like Henry Fountain ("You're a Mean One, Mr. Smith" in today's "Week in Review" section of the Times), the controversy over Bolton's nomination to be American ambassador to the UN does not center on whether he is "too tough" or "too mean" for a government job. And so stories like the ones Fountain tells about how "difficult" people like Howard Metzenbaum, Alexander Haig, and Jimmy Carter could be are completely irrelevant.
The problem with Bolton, as stories like this one and this one and many others have detailed, is that he repeatedly lied about US intelligence in an effort to support his extreme ideological views, then attemped to browbeat, threaten, or fire principled intelligence officers who refused to support his lies.
We've just spent two and a half years sifting the causes of the massive political failures that underlay the 9/11 attacks and the false allegations regarding WMD that led us into war with Iraq. Do we want a UN ambassador whose track record practically guarantees that he will continue and intensify the politicized distortion of intelligence that has already deeply damaged American credibility around the world? That's the real issue--not whether, as Fountain puts it, "the bar for behavior may be set too high" by critics seeking job candidates who "have never offended anybody."