I was talking to Oliver, and he asked me, “What do you think of Bolton.”
Since I really have not written much about his nomination (other than the hypocrisy of the Raw Story), the short answer is:
My firm belief is that anyone who thinks that John Bolton is going to single-handedly go in and bully the United Nations into submission is smoking crack and has no concept of the powerful force known as institutional inertia.
Anyone who thinks Bolton can go in there and ‘shake things up’ and actually change anything is fooling themselves and fails to understand that the very nature of the UN is one that the assembly is made up of people who have their own national interests at stakes. They aren’t going to roll over because some foul-mouthed (presumably) bully goes in and scolds them.
Remember the Helms-Biden reforms? Remember this speech in 2000?
Having said all that, I am aware that you have interpreters who translate the proceedings of this body into a half dozen different languages.
They have an interesting challenge today. As some of you may have detected, I don?t have a Yankee accent. (I hope you have a translator here who can speak Southern ? someone who can translate words like “y?all? and “I do declare.?)
It may be that one other language barrier will need to be overcome this morning. I am not a diplomat, and as such, I am not fully conversant with the elegant and rarefied language of the diplomatic trade. I am an elected official, with something of a reputation for saying what I mean and meaning what I say. So I trust you will forgive me if I come across as a bit more blunt than those you are accustomed to hearing in this chamber…
Let me share with you what the American people tell me. Since I became chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have received literally thousands of letters from Americans all across the country expressing their deep frustration with this institution.
They know instinctively that the UN lives and breathes on the hard-earned money of the American taxpayers. And yet they have heard comments here in New York constantly calling the United States a “deadbeat.?
They have heard UN officials declaring absurdly that countries like Fiji and Bangladesh are carrying America?s burden in peacekeeping. They see the majority of the UN members routinely voting against America in the General Assembly.
They have read the reports of the raucous cheering of the UN delegates in Rome, when U.S. efforts to amend the International Criminal Court treaty to protect American soldiers were defeated.
They read in the newspapers that, despite all the human rights abuses taking place in dictatorships across the globe, a UN “Special Rapporteur? decided his most pressing task was to investigate human rights violations in the U.S. ? and found our human rights record wanting.
The American people hear all this; they resent it, and they have grown increasingly frustrated with what they feel is a lack of gratitude.
After a few global Mon Dieu’s and Dios mio’s (pardon my French) around the world and in the media, that was it. Back to business as usual.
That WAS IT. We brought the original bastard, THE Alpha Conservative of the 20th century, the biggest ass-kicker we had, Satan and Hitler and Strom Thurmond all wrapped up in one hard-of-hearing package, marched him right into the middle of the UN with both guns blazing, and… they yawned at him. In fact, much to the dismay of hard-liners everywhere, it was even worse than that, because you all remember what happened next:
We sent the meanest, snarlingest conservative who ever walked the earth- the equivalent of Pat Buchanan with PMS and a southern accent- to the United Nations to lay down the law, and the next thing you know he is running around the country holding hands and playing kissy-face with a drunken Irish rock star in tight leather pants, all the while talking about increasing American committments to debt reduction, Aids prevention, and a whole list of one-worlder wish list items. Worse yet, he was reduced to tears:
“One of the things that he and conservative politicians like Senator Jesse Helms have in common ? what distinguishes him from other rock stars ? is that they can not only go home and tell their daughters that they met with Bono, but he can speak to them and address issues in a way that touches the heart,” said Marie Clarke, national coordinator for the Jubilee USA Network, a debt-relief organization that has benefited from Bono’s support.
“He touches them, especially Christians, by reminding them of the scriptural call to … protect the vulnerable of society. Which has led to that now famous story of Bono making Helms cry in a meeting.”
And how does Bolton compare to Helms? Let me just say this– I followed Jesse Helms, I knew Jesse Helms, and just so you understand, John Bolton is no Jesse Helms.
Again, we brought the big gun, the human hand grenade, the walking ‘nuclear option,’ and they neutered him before David Broder could even say ‘segregation.’ Excuse me if I am unimpressed with the notion that Bolton is going to fix the UN single-handedly.
But enough about Helms. If you still aren’t convinced, let me offer up another name:
Just say the name out loud and an innocent kitten dies somewhere. A brief mention of her name and Alec Baldwin and Barbra Streisand are gassing up the Leer Jet for the move to France. If I had to choose to confront Kirkpatrick or Bolton, I wouldn’t hesitate with my decision. I’d pick Bolton, and you could throw in Jesse Helms, Ann Coulter, and Augusto Pinochet and it still wouldn’t matter. You get the point.
Likewise, anyone on the left who thinks that Bolton is going to go in there and ruin the UN hasn’t been paying much attention, either. Pardon me if I also think that claims Bolton is going to destroy the UN are a touch, shall we say, overwrought. The UN is flawed, but any changes Bolton might institute will be minor. You want to change the UN- tell Congress. They pay the damned bills.
So, to sum things up, I really don’t care other than that I think a President should have his nominees confirmed. I would rather he nominate someone else, but it won’t matter. In six months this will not even be an issue other than in hysterical MoveOn.Org fund-raising e-mails. I have complete faith in the capacity of the United Nations to chew up and spit out whoever we send there.
And while we are on the topic, I have mentioned that I think the UN is flawed. Absolutely. Part of the problem is structural and a reflection of the member’s self-interest, as I mentioned above.
I don’t, however, buy into the notion that the UN is fatally flawed. It does do good work, and that should be acknowledged. I have a helluva lot of things I would like them to do, but that would require committments that no one in the world, tragically, appears willing to make (GENOCIDE IN SUDAN, ANYONE?). That was part of the reason I believe The UN Dispatch took on Roger Simon (a debate that has now devolved into a tedious flame war).
I talked to Peter Daou, and I understand why he did what he did– there is no excuse for the Oil-for-Food scandal or for the rape outrages, and people using these because they just hate the UN are, as Peter noted, being unfair and disingeneous (and I am not claiming that is why Roger is so worked up about the scandal- neither is Peter).
In order to address your critics, you have to engage them, which Daou did, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, which I thought was designed in part to get attention. That was sort of hinted at pretty clearly in the initial post:
Is Simon’s hyper-focus on a single UN-related issue based on deep convictions? Unbending principles? Moral outrage? Maybe. Then again, there’s his explanation:
“Thanks to the Secretary General of the United Nations for providing this blog with its first 50,000+ visitor day.” – Roger L. Simon
I have read Roger Simon for a long time, and I am fully convinced he is passionate about UN reform and deeply appalled by the Oil-for-Food scandal. In West Virginia, we have a saying for gentleman like Roger:
“He’s good people.”
Peter used him because he is a highly visible critic of the UN scandals, and he could address the critics who attack the the UN over the oil-for-food scandal simply because they hate the UN. Makes pretty good sense to me, and guess what? It worked. People are now debating the UN and discussing the good and bad things the UN does.
At any rate, Democrats using this Bolton nomination to weaken the administration are equally wrong, and don’t deny it. You would have to be born yesterday to not recognize that this is, in large part, a test of the administration’s power. If Bolton fails, Democrats will be running around screaming gleefully about Bush being an impotent lame duck, and not out of a deep concern for the UN.
I also believe that it is an absurd idea that Bolton as an Ambassador will somehow sully our reputation. The people overseas screaming about Bolton are the same people out there who wouldn’t be happy with the United States if Jacques Chirac was Bush’s nominee. Does anyone think they would be dancing in the streets in Paris and Cairo if Bush nominated Mario Cuomo? Please.
Wanna test my theory? Without google, who is France’s UN Ambassador? Britain’s? Syria’s? Russia’s? Chile’s? Spain’s? You don’t know, and 99.99% of the world doesn’t either, myself included. And the same number has no clue who the hell Bolton is and they won’t have any more of a clue in 6 months, regardless if he is confirmed or not. The only people who care already hate us, and Bolton isn’t going to change that ONE LICK.
Besides, ambassadors do what the POTUS tells them to do, so they are going to hate our representative regardless. Do you thnk world opinion would have been any different if Mr. Rogers had told them where to go stick their UN Resolutions before the Iraq war rather than having- Cripes. I have already forgotten who our last (current?) UN Ambassador was/is.
So, everyone just pipe down and grow up. If Bolton is confirmed, the UN will survive just fine, and nothing will change. If Bolton is not confirmed, the UN will still be here. Regardless of who is eventually confirmed, I propose we ratchet down the rhetoric, and try to get behind the reforms that Kofi Annan has himself proposed.
We’ll all be better off in the long run.
*** Update ***
More from Pennywit:
First, the Bolton nomination is not that important. While Bolton does represent Washington in the United Nations, “ambassador” seems to be a rather lowly position for the amount of fuss that has been made over him. What can he do in the UN once he gets there? He can’t really “reform” the institution without cooperation from other nations. If he is insufficiently diplomatic, he can be removed from his office quite easily. As ambassador, he has no policy authority authority. The ruckus around him is unjustified…
Overall, I find it appalling that so many in the blogosphere leap immediately to the rhetorical big guns — “traitor,” “backstabber,” “spineless,” “stupid” — for a situation that does not call for it. I know that spinmeisters and hacks on both sides of the aisle want their audiences to believe that every confirmation battle, every issue, is a FIGHT TO THE DEATH, but it just ain’t so.
Relax. Put away the knives. And save the rhetoric for situations where it’s truly warranted.
*** Update ***
Edited when I was reminded in the comments of Jeanne…