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'A high fastball'

Issue: "Bob Geldof: Whose jubilee?," June 25, 2005

It's a fairly bold move when a freshman senator tries to make a power play on the president, especially when it's the leader of his own party. Then again, judging from South Dakota Sen. John Thune's words, it's hard to tell exactly what he's up to. Back in April on the MSNBC show Hardball, Mr. Thune defended John Bolton, the president's choice to become ambassador to the United Nations.

"But the reality is, what we need today I think at the UN is somebody who is reform-minded, somebody who isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers," said Mr. Thune on April 19, though he allowed that legitimate issues regarding Mr. Bolton had been raised.

Now the South Dakotan has backed off his support of Mr. Bolton. That change caused widespread speculation that Mr. Thune's vote on Mr. Bolton is directly tied to the fate of South Dakota's Ellsworth Air Force Base, which the Pentagon wants to close.

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Mr. Thune is encouraging people in Washington to connect the dots. When asked about a possible Ellsworth-Bolton connection, Mr. Thune told WORLD, "I think a lot of these decisions I'm making right now-when it comes to my work in the Senate-trickles back down to the work we're doing on Ellsworth. . . . I'm going to make votes based on what's in the best interest of the people I represent in South Dakota and in the nation. And I think there are decisions being made that aren't good for my state, but also for the country."

It's a risky gambit from a freshman senator, especially against a resolute president who values party discipline. But Mr. Thune says he plans to stand firm, as he told the (Sioux Falls) Argus Leader: "Every now and then you have to throw a high fastball by [the president] to let him know you are still there."


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