Mild-mannered academic and essayist Joseph Epstein confesses that he finds himself yearning to have a reputation like John Bolton’s:
“If I could begin my life again I should like to arrange things so that the word got out that I am a fairly decent fellow, not entirely charmless, but with a mean streak that, wrongly provoked, has been known to run to violence. ’I know a guy,’ I shouldn’t at all mind having it reported of me, ’who once saw Joseph Epstein so angry he strangled a bulldog.’”
Without in the least desiring it, Epstein complains, John Bolton now has such a reputation–and he didn’t even have to strangle a bulldog.
Thanks to Democrats, Epstein observes, Bolton is now “being publicized as a veritable James Cagney (in ’The Public Enemy,’ where he smashed the half-grapefruit in Mae Clark’s face), Jack Palance (in ’Shane’) and Joe Pesci (in ’Goodfellas’ and ’Casino’), or as the hottest of all hotheads in the field of diplomacy.”
The envious Epstein isn’t deterred from his envy of Bolton by news that the embattled nominee has a low opinion of the United Nations because, “To have a high opinion of the United Nations ought to, one might think, automatically disqualify one for the job on the grounds of hopeless naivet’.”
Epstein suggests that there has long been a place for the mean man (or woman) in American culture. He also has choice words for Bolton’s key tormentor, Senator Biden (D., Del.):
“Following Sen. Biden’s career over the years, I have always found him one of those politicians who has the precious gift of easily persuading himself, as Tocqueville once put it, that his ’advantage and the general weal conformed.’ Whenever I hear the senator from Delaware in his accusatory mode, I always think of something Tocqueville never got around to saying: that one may have hair plugs or a high moral tone, but surely one ought not to be permitted both.”
Whoever assigned Epstein this piece has hit upon something important: ridicules is generally more effective than argument. That is one reason Ann Coulter is such a particular hate object–she makes people laugh. If Bolton’s supporters can make people laugh at the charges against him, they have a chance of confirming him, thereby paving the way for getting judicial nominations through a hostile Congress.