Senator Lincoln Chafee, who came through with a yes vote yesterday [said:] "It's a no-win. Either we don't support the president or we vote for a very unpopular pick to represent us at the United Nations."
Yes, and maybe by voting for this "very unpopular" (unfit picks often are) pick, you won't win when you run for re-election. Fred Kaplan underlines Sen. Chafee's coward approach while you can find continual coverage on why John Bolton is a wrong choice here and here. OTOH, yesterday David Brooks provided his usual right wing talking points approach [it's sad how kneejerk his column turned out to be] in his NYT column, while being a bad prophet respecting the Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee that actually partially voted his conscience.
This "no-win" situation, of course, is the normal rule these days for Republicans with consciences bothering them. That is, supporting the president and supporting the right thing is two different things. Of course, it's only a "no-win" situation if you think supporting the President is more important than doing the right thing. Since the latter is deemed necessary these days for a majority of Congress, being right is now a problem. I would think that now and again you Republicans might be able to dissent, but it is deemed basically treasonous to do so these days.
Holding up a patently lousy choice a few weeks and forcing a "no recommendation" committee vote (remarkable as a historical matter, but perhaps only symbolically useful) is deemed a special act of courage. And, even then, pressure from above pushed the senator to agree to vote the guy out of committee ... even though he finds the guy patently unqualified and knows (perhaps with the help of a few turncoat Democrats) there is a good chance that Bolton will be confirmed by a floor vote.
Now and again, the a few Republican senators (and even some representatives) will do something to show that there is not a total lockstep approach (the "nuclear option" might not have the votes), but overall, blanket conformity rules the day. This is but one reason why the filibuster (and other checks on one party rule) is so important. [In the comments, "Joe" provides some commentary.]
Notes: A couple additional points. (1) Steven Clemons showed some restraint in reporting some rumors on some allegedly sordid sexual goings on by John Bolton unlike some others, including Atrios. The latter approach is unwise, since we need not drag ourselves in the muck to find things wrong with this guy; besides, it is dubious if the sex was nonconsensual etc. As to the Brooks piece, but one stupid comment was the part about no one being fired -- as a junior official, Bolton did not have the final say.
(2) As to kneejerk lockstepping, it bothers me when I come into contact with various sorts that basically know the current bunch are wrong, but out of loyalty and sentiment support them. One person on the talk boards in particular really (to be blunt) pisses me off in this respect, including when I see the erudite veneer come off and snarky anti-Democrat comments come out. The person's distaste for Bush and his ilk is nice and all, but if you fail to firmly oppose him, you basically deserve what you get.