But Bolton's approach to the United Nations, which was also the approach of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, is anathema to U.S. liberals. During the confirmation hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer played a tape of Bolton's frank description of the United Nations' top-heavy bureaucracy. "There are 38 floors to the U.N. building in New York. If you lost 10 of them, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," Bolton is heard to say.
Triumphant in her belief that she had caught Bolton out, Boxer declared: "You have nothing but disdain for the United Nations. You can dance around it, you can run away from it, you can put perfume on it, but the bottom line is the bottom line." Sen. Joseph Biden wondered aloud why Bolton even wanted the job.
Bolton was placid during his grilling -- though why so few Republicans chose to attend the hearing is anybody's guess. Perhaps sensing that substantive policy differences with Bolton would not be enough to sink his nomination -- he is, after all, supposed to represent President Bush at the United Nations, not President Kerry -- the Democrats switched tactics. This is a well-worn pattern by now. We saw it with Robert Bork, and then with Clarence Thomas and countless others. It is the find dirt game. Or perhaps the invent dirt game.
It has now reached truly hilarious depths. It seems, don't say this too loud, that Bolton has been known to yell at subordinates, particularly those who lie to him. This intelligence has led Democratic senators -- and two very limp Republicans, George Voinovich and Chuck Hagel -- to conclude that Bolton lacks the proper "temperament" for a high-ranking position in the U.S. government. Can anyone say this with a straight face?
Here's the real bottom line: Republicans have permitted this to happen. If the president had backed Bolton more forthrightly; if Republican senators had supported him during his hearing; and if two Republicans had not bid for The New York Times' approval, this could not have happened.