Robert Novak

  That might seem strange territory for a career international bureaucrat, but Malloch Brown was a man on a mission. He asserted that "much of the public discourse (about the United Nations) that reaches the U.S. heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors, such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News." He went on to cite "too much unchecked U.N.-bashing and stereotyping over too many years." His overriding message appeared to blame corruption at the United Nations on Americans, especially the Republican Party.

  Malloch Brown's caricature of American public opinion was condemned by Coleman as part of the "blame America first game" and appealing to Democrats such as Sen. Christopher Dodd. Indeed, Dodd continued his vendetta against Bolton, which was instrumental in blocking the envoy's confirmation by the Senate.

 Dodd, a principal Democratic spokesman on foreign policy, contended that the ambassador must have been reading another speech, because Malloch Brown's remarks "were constructive" and "not an attack on the United States." But The New York Times used different language, reporting on June 7 that the U.N. functionary the previous day "assailed" the world organization's largest financial contributor.

  The attempt by the U.N. bureaucrats, echoed by Dodd, is to isolate Bolton from his State Department superiors. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Bolton to express her agreement with him. That was confirmed in the largely ignored State Department briefing June 8 by spokesman Sean McCormack. He said Rice had telephoned Annan June 7 to express her disappointment. Under Secretary Nicholas Burns, said McCormack, called Malloch Brown June 8 to complain that "a high-ranking U.N. official would single out a member country."

  The Bush administration clearly does not regard the U.N. bureaucracy as merely acting in pique against the hard-nosed John Bolton. With Annan's term ending in little more than six months, funding is at risk amid complaints on Capitol Hill that the United Nations is still plagued by incompetence and corruption. The secretary general and his deputy are trying to exploit the partisan divide in American politics to discredit Bolton's insistence on reform -- a gamble fraught with peril.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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