Cover Story

Take your mark

Well-scripted salvos cripple John Bolton's nomination to the UN ahead of a Senate showdown

Issue: "John Bolton: Take cover!," May 7, 2005

With the steady hand of a master gunnery sergeant, John R. Bolton, President George Bush's pick to be the next ambassador to the UN, has taken dead aim at the realpolitik coursing through the veins of the foreign policy establishment:

On UN leadership: "The Secretary-General does not operate on a higher plane than mere mortal national officials, and the Secretariat's contribution is more likely to be at the molecular rather than the molar level" (Sept. 2000).

On UN peacekeeping: "Simply inserting blue helmets into a conflict zone will not, in and of itself, resolve outstanding political differences" (May 2000).

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On a UN-approved International Criminal Court: "Where litigation will all too often simply be war by other means" (Feb. 2000).

On the UN and Iraq: "If the members of the Security Council cannot maintain their discipline against a state that systematically obstructed their own authority-after it had used weapons of mass destruction against its own population and committed unprovoked aggression against a small neighbor-what can they handle?" (June 2000).

On the UN and Oil for Food: "Saddam has cynically exploited the UN's oil for food program with the help of sympathetic UN administrators on the ground in Iraq" (Dec. 1999).

On Libya: "The State Department engaged in what can only be described as a coverup concerning the upcoming trial of the Pan Am 103 defendants" (Jan. 2000).

On North Korea: "While nuclear blackmail used to be the province of fictional spy movies, Kim Jong Il is forcing us to live that reality as we enter the new millennium" (July 2003 speech in Seoul).

Now, his confirmation mired in controversy ahead of a May 12 Senate committee vote, the comments of the combative and brilliant foreign policymaker are falling like live grenades at his own feet.

If history has proved Mr. Bolton right, his enemies are conspiring to render those statements, in the end, self-immolating. As their campaign to defeat him gains exposure-and political financing-Mr. Bolton finds himself in desperate need of his own multinational peacekeeping force.

A cadre of groups sprang into action after Mr. Bush named the 56-year-old Mr. Bolton as his choice to succeed U.S. Ambassador John Danforth on March 7. The protest movement caught the White House by surprise, considering that Mr. Bolton currently serves as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and has successfully completed the congressional confirmation gantlet before.

He was an assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration. Under the first President Bush, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. During the Clinton administration he was appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In recent years between government posts, Mr. Bolton, a Yale graduate, was senior vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.

Critics now call him a "serial abuser" of State Department employees who bullied or tried to fire those with whom he disagreed. USAID subcontractor Melody Townsel charged that he chased her and threw a shoe and tape dispenser at her in a Moscow hotel in 1994. Ms. Townsel's supervisor, Charles Black, said he doubted the account because she said nothing when it supposedly happened. That did not keep Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, from circulating an e-mail from Ms. Townsel describing the scene just ahead of an April vote to approve Mr. Bolton. That prompted Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) to join Democrats on the panel in calling for a delay to examine the charges.

Other charges have proved likewise insubstantial. Newsweek quoted unnamed sources saying British foreign minister Jack Straw complained of Bolton interference on nuclear arms negotiations with Iran. But the British Foreign Office told the BBC that Mr. Straw had "no recollection whatsoever about the incident." An official said on April 25, "We have worked very closely with John Bolton in the past-I think what we are seeing is a storm in a teacup."

If the rush to discredit Mr. Bolton appears spontaneous, it is in fact the choreographed work of dedicated tax-exempt organizations and political operatives that oppose Bush foreign policy. One leading group, Citizens for Global Solutions-a one-year-old merger of the World Federalist Association (and affiliate World Federalist Movement) and the Campaign for UN Reform-supports a global tax on UN member states to fund UN programs and holds to "the primacy of the General Assembly" to be "empowered to resolve differences among different treaties and differing standards among labor rights, trade agreements, environmental protection, human rights standards, and social development targets."

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