A compelling editorial, “Grill John Bolton” in the Sacramento Bee this morning starts:
Barring a transformation that’s hard to imagine, John Bolton, nominated by President Bush to become this country’s ambassador to the United Nations, should be asked to seek other employment.
For his temperament alone, Bolton has been a dubious choice from the start: He has publicly derided — make that insulted — the United Nations, calling it virtually irrelevant and saying that, at best, it’s a useful tool for advancing U.S. foreign policy interests.
In the unhealthy international atmosphere created by the administration’s unilateralist policies, sending Bolton to New York sends a message that’s at odds with the healing process that Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others have begun in reaching out to other countries.
At minimum, Bolton is one of the nation’s most divisive Bush nominees to come down the pike. There are others — certainly Alberto Gonzales and John Negroponte. Other recent editorials have alluded to others Members of Congress are trying to stall. But those in the arena of foreign policy simply can’t maintain a credible position that others around the world will respect while John Bolton is serving as George Bush’s spear-carrier in the U.N. Bolton is saying he’ll only throw the spears when his boss tells him to. But he loves throwing them too much and has often gone off the reservation in the past — and I see no reason not to expect the same in the future.
Senator Chafee is playing a difficult and complicated game with this vote — and I recognize that. But he is on the Foreign Relations Committee and has particularly important duties regarding his stewardship of our national interests than many other Senators. An important role of screening and pre-confirmation authority has been delegated to him.
Politically, he wants to vote against the Bush administration on controversial judicial appointments as he thinks that will appeal to his Democratic Party cross-over supporters in Rhode Island. But when he is a member of the SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, he has to matter in the case of the President’s worst diplomatic appointment.
John Danforth was a great U.N. Ambassador — but he got out in 6 months, knowing that the administration was going to start kicking apart the U.N. and doing things that he could not abide by. John Danforth eulogized the late Senator John Chafee, Lincoln Chafee’s father, at his funeral. The Danforths and Chafees are old friends.
Senator Chafee, talk to Senator Danforth off-line. If he is the Senator and kind of Republican I think he is, he won’t encourage you to vote one way or the other. He will encourage you to think through American objectives in the United Nations and ask you to think about credible engagement in an important institution that needs reform. He’ll then say that at these hearings two things are important. First, is this nominee, John Bolton, fit for the job? Second, is this nominee an outstanding example of fitness and a representative of principled American engagement in the world or are there far better choices?
Senator Chafee, I hope you are reaching out to informed and balanced commentators and people whom you respect in this and not just relying on thin assurances from the administration about Bolton’s behavior given what you clearly know about him.
— Steve Clemons