Friday, May 04, 2007

Mind vitamin of the day I

John Bolton's speech accepting his Bradley Prize is a nice one. Some excerpts:

The Bradley Foundation's contribution to the intellectual defense of liberty in this country and around the world is beyond measure. Its support and persistence has been manifested in many ways, in particular such as its long-time partnership with the American Enterprise Institute.

There are, of course, many other people I should mention. For example, I should note Senators Lincoln Chafee and Chris Dodd, who did so much to help make me eligible for this Prize. Prominent citizens of Pyongyang, Havana, Damascus, Tehran and elsewhere also pitched in, simply by being themselves.

* * *

To be sure, in most government agencies, conservatives generally find themselves in more or less hostile territory. After all, belief in limited government, as the Bradley Foundation holds, means there is not a government program or service that cannot either be eliminated, trimmed or made more effective. Without exception. Even more difficult is the policy arena, where some civil servants believe they should be fundamentally responsible for policy, rather than, in Jim Baker's phrase, "the guy who got elected," and his political appointees. And yet, for the most part, the permanent bureaucracy is content with policies and programs as they are. Ironically, there are many truly professional civil servants, ready to follow our policies, who are repeatedly amazed when we do not follow them ourselves.

In fact, some on the left go even further, arguing that a President should not even be allowed full control over the bureaucracy. In my case, Senators argued that an opponent of arms control should not be made Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, or that a UN critic should not be made UN Ambassador. Following this logic, if, in 1861, there had been a Cabinet Department of Slavery Affairs, Lincoln should have been required to name a pro-slavery Secretary. This line of argument is fundamentally anti-democratic and constitutionally perverse.

We are reminded of Britain's "Yes, Minister" television series, where the senior career civil servant assures a new Minister that his entire job consists only of moving the pile of papers from his in basket to his out basket. No need to read, understand or modify them; just move the pile from one side of his desk to the other. The new Minister is delighted to hear this, and the career civil servant is delighted that the Minister accepts this "division of labor." Too many of our political appointees took lessons from that program. I did not. I had my battles with the bureaucracy, which probably explains why I am here tonight. So let me make a confession. On many occasions, during this and prior Administrations, knowingly and willfully, I have committed acts of conservatism. It gets worse. I enjoyed every minute of it.

And the Senate did the nation a disservice by failing to give him more minutes to enjoy.

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