In truth, there have been mean and unpleasant people in government for as long as the government has existed. James Grant, author of a recent biography of John Adams, said that if all the difficult people were excised from the textbooks, "American history would be a lot shorter and more easily mastered."i don't like arguments that ignore key points of the other side's position and that's what's going on here. the article neglects to mention that john bolton is being nominated to be an ambassador. one job requirement of being an ambassador is the ability to be diplomatic.
For Mr. Smith, the real danger of the Bolton case is that the bar for behavior may be set too high.
"The irony here is that a lot of jerks get confirmed," he said. "If we are going to establish as a threshold that you have never offended anybody, then the government would be populated with Ward Cleavers."
furthermore, bolton has been nominated for not just any ambassador position, but arguably the one that requires the most diplomatic skills. most diplomats represent the u.s. to a single foreign government. even if they had an abrasive personality, it is at least possible for them to build a long term relationship with the foreign government. these relationships could conceivably overcome whatever liabilities their personality might bring. not so with the UN ambassador. he doesn't deal with a single nation, he deals with all of them, including nations, like cuba, with whom the u.s. doesn't even have diplomatic relations. it seems to me that the UN ambassador requires more diplomatic skills than any other ambassadorial position.
the objections to bolton are not examples of where an bad personality obscures the candidates' job qualifications. bolton's personality and ability to relate to others are themselves important qualifications for the job.
the Times article doesn't address this point at all. for all its examples of assholes in the history of government service, it doesn't mention a single diplomat. nor does it make any acknowledgment that being diplomatic is a unique requirement to being a diplomat.
the criticisms of bolton create no danger that "the bar for behavior may be set too high" for government positions in general. it might raise the bar for the kind of behavior that indicates who will be a good diplomat. i just can't understand why that would be a bad thing.