Richard Holbrooke met John Bolton on Tuesday morning, 15 March, in Washington — just before a full committee hearing of the House International Relations Committee called by Henry Hyde on United Nations reform. Holbrooke was brilliant in the meetings and articulated an enlighted, tough, realpolitik set of reasons that American interests were undermined if not robustly engaged in the U.N.
I feared that Holbrooke would give in to pressure by Bolton and the whole comraderie thing of people nominated to the U.N. Ambassadorship to come out and say some nice things about Bolton and support his candidacy. After all, Bolton had succeeded in getting the previously reticent Chuck Hagel to put his support of Bolton in bold flashing neon.
Holbrooke made the right call though and kept his powder dry, staying officially neutral on the nomination. But Holbrooke’s neutrality is the kind I like.
Taking off for China and other parts of Asia on March 16th, he gave a number of public talks — one before a group of American and Thai business leaders.
Holbrooke said of Bolton’s chances:
Unless he changes his views it is going to be a very tough confirmation.
Holbrooke weighed President Bush’s selection of Paul Wolfowitz for the World Bank and Bolton for the United Nations and remarked:
I think he (Paul Wolfowitz) will be World Bank president, but Bolton will have to fight for his job.
The zinger comment from Richard Holbrooke was:
If you read his (John Bolton’s) statements it’s clear if he had a choice the United Nations would not exist at all.
But then according to the Reuters report on Holbrooke’s comments:
Holbrooke said he did not support or oppose Bolton’s nomination.
Kudos to Richard Holbrooke for his excellent testimony in Hyde’s Committee and for taking the high road on the Bolton nomination and not preempting civil society’s efforts to block this shockingly bad choice for this important post. (You can go to this page, click on the March 15th link, and watch the hearing over your computer.)
Americans won’t get much of a say on the Wolfowitz appointment to the World Bank — and I think that unless Europeans go into the streets on the matter — Wolfowitz is going to get that job. There are no Senate confirmation hearings required, and no chance to grill Wolfowitz.
But Americans, through their elected Senators, have a voice — and get a choice — on Bolton.
Wolfowitz and Bolton together, and lets not forget Gonzales at Justice and Negroponte as Intel Czar, create an overdose of highly placed people who have punctured the mystique of what America is in the eyes of our friends in the world — and those who used to be inspired by our principled global leadership.
Holbrooke is right. We won’t have much of a say on Wolfowitz who will most likely get his job — but Bolton is one straw too many, and on that Americans do have a say.
— Steve Clemons