WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following unprecedented criticism of U.S. popular and governmental attitudes toward the United Nations, the world organization's second-ranking official ended his June 6 speech in New York with this rhetorical question: "Who will campaign in 2008 for a new multilateral national security?" Unbelievably but unmistakably, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown was injecting himself into the next American presidential election.
"He was shamelessly pandering to partisan interests," Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who has led congressional pressure for U.N. reform, told me. Malloch Brown's remarkable speech was delivered under the auspices of two left-of-center think tanks, one of them with particularly close ties to the Democratic Party. In Malloch Brown's audience were key officials of the Clinton administration, headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called on Secretary General Kofi Annan to "repudiate" his deputy and expressed hope privately that this rejection really would take place. Instead, Malloch Brown's boss defended his unprecedented intrusion into American politics, saying he agreed with him and referring to the resulting tumult as only a "minor storm." Indeed, U.N. sources said it was inconceivable that the secretary general did not have prior knowledge of Malloch Brown's intentions.
Coleman, who as Senate permanent investigations subcommittee chairman has focused on corruption at the United Nations, sees a desperate effort by Annan to seize the initiative before the scheduled reduction of U.S. spending at the end of June.
The venue chosen by the British civil servant was extraordinary: a conference held at the Essex House Hotel in midtown Manhattan as a joint venture by two think tanks. The Washington-based Center for American Progress is headed by John Podesta, Clinton White House chief of staff and a leading Bush-basher. The New York-based Century Foundation is run by Richard Leone, a longtime Democratic political operative. The conference (on "global leadership in the 21st century") was loaded with critics of Bush, headed by Albright and including Carol Browner, Theodore Sorensen, Lawrence Korb, Richard Holbrooke, Joschka Fischer and Morton Halperin (with Rep. James Leach of Iowa as a token Republican).