With the ink still not dry on my college diploma, I struck out for New York City in search of my first serious job. Working at the United Nations was at the top of my list. I carried with me a glowing letter of reference from Sen. Hubert Humphrey, for whom I had been a campaign volunteer, and in my naivete I was sure I would get an important desk job where my performance would soon catch the eye of the secretary-general.
I was told that I could be a tour guide on weekends, showing the tourists at Turtle Bay the basic attractions, which flags belonged to what nations, what a great organization the U.N. was, how it improved on the failed League of Nations. Saving the world on the weekends didn't quite fit my expectations, and I looked for "other opportunities" in Manhattan.
To the liberal Democrat I was then, having grown up in a devout New Deal family, the U.N. was the great hope for humanity. In our Utopian imagination, the U.N. would be the place where different countries with different kinds of governments would put factionalism aside, discard tribal loyalties and every day in every way Make Nice.
We soon watched innocence and idealism swamped by greed and cynicism, as the U.N. became a fat and inefficient bureaucracy, riven with strife and anger, a mouthpiece for the most corrupt and incompetent leaders in the world. As if in a satire by Evelyn Waugh, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights became a platform for speeches by representatives of nations with the worst record of human rights abuses.
Our ambassadors to the United Nations have often been forced into isolation, to defend the United States from attacks by nations whose only contribution to the debate is insignificance, envy and hypocrisy. The likes of Adlai Stevenson, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were powerfully eloquent defenders, and their rhetorical flourishes have recently found voice in John Bolton, whose recess appointment expires in January. President Bush has resubmitted the nomination, but despite what everyone says is his good job, he's unlikely even to get an up-or-down vote in the new, kinder, gentler Democratic Senate.
If the senators were to re-examine his record in the spirit of what we're told is the less partisan Democratic Congress, instead of preening with outdated cynicism, they could demonstrate that they mean what they say about eliminating cheap and thoughtless partisanship.