In the late 1990s, John Bolton published an article titled "The Creation, Rise and Fall of the United Nations." If you had read this essay and not witnessed one minute of his confirmation hearings, you would already know that Democrats were going to despise him.
Here is Bolton's take on the post of U.N. secretary-general: "... One should not invest excessive hope in any secretary-general. The U.N. Charter describes the secretary-general as the U.N.'s 'chief administrative officer.' He is not the president of the world. He is not a diplomat for all seasons. He is not Mr. Friend of the Earth. And most definitely of all, he is not commander in chief of the World Federalist Army. He is the chief administrative officer. Nothing less than that, to be sure, but, with even greater certainty, nothing more."
A wound to the quick! In a few words, Bolton ridiculed liberal U.N. worship. It's no surprise that they did not thank him for bringing them down to earth with a jolt. Bolton's point in that article is that the United Nations is a tool, not an end itself. Rather than the "parliament of man" liberals fondly imagine, the United Nations is a collection of nations each pursuing its own interests, and an unaccountable bureaucracy awash in waste, sloth, luxury and abuse.
Frankly, in a decade that has brought us the Oil for Food scandal, the child sex slave trade carried on by U.N. workers, U.N. failures to confront horrific human rights disasters like North Korea and Sudan -- indeed, even offering the genocidal regime of Sudan a place on the Human Rights Commission (other members: Zimbabwe, Congo, Cuba, Saudi Arabia) -- the real question ought to be not why John Bolton isn't sentimental about the United Nations, but rather why Democrats are.
Bolton is not of the "U.S. out of the U.N., and U.N. out of the U.S." persuasion. He believes that the United States should lead the body, rather than be led by it. Bolton was our point man in seeing to it that the infamous "Zionism is Racism" General Assembly resolution was overturned.
He thinks the United Nations has been useful at times. The Security Council helped negotiate and monitor a truce between Iran and Iraq in the late 1980s. The United Nations supervised free elections in Namibia, and provided monitors as Soviet troops departed Afghanistan and Cubans left Angola. The first Gulf War, Bolton argues, was the only historical example of the Security Council behaving as the United Nations' founders envisioned. That vigorous reversal of blunt aggression was possible only because of American leadership.
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.