I’m in Denver for the weekend — out here for a conference on U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations organized by the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation and the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver. It seems that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office based in Kansas City was a significant sponsor of this event — so I was suprised to see so many Taiwanese government officials here express to me that they could easily constrain their enthusiasm for John Bolton.
Bolton did have some probable fans in the room, though I’m not sure. There was one blustery local political representative who seemed to hammer various speakers with ‘demonization of China’ rhetoric every chance he got. All that said, the discourse at this meeting was excellent, thoughtful, and balanced.
But on Bolton, Denver surprises me. I’ve discussed Bolton not only in this great city where Gary Hart lives — but also in small, undeveloped rustic parts of the state — particularly Cotopaxi, Colorado.
I highly recommend stopping in at the Cotopaxi General Store, situated in this small nook on the Arkansas River, and checking in with the folks who hang out and stop in there.
Virtually everyone I’ve met — from liberal internationalist to classic conservative to hard core libertarian — thinks that John Bolton is either “damaged goods” at this point or is the wrong person to represent American interests in the U.N.
I have one friend who is a realtor and rancher down near Cotopaxi who doesn’t give a damn about politics and wants Washington to stay as far away from him as possible. He feels that citizens have delegated to their representatives responsibilities to see to the welfare of their constituents — and even he has heard how reckless and abusive John Bolton is. My friend in Cotopaxi said that to him “Bolton sounds dishonest and would be an embarrassment to the country and president.”
I had nothing to do with the brilliant editorial, “Lessons for John Bolton,” that appeared in the Denver Post this morning, but the timing could not be better.
Here is the link, but I want to reprint in full:
Denver Post — 16 May 2005
Lessons for John Bolton
In the melodramatic fashion of a classic Washington soap opera, John Bolton’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has moved from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration by the full Senate.
During the weeks when his nomination was stuck in committee, we learned much about Bolton – especially his high-handed way of dealing with others and his contempt for the U.N. Perhaps the most serious concern was that Bolton tried repeatedly to twist intelligence to fit his policy positions, including findings on North Korean, Cuban and Syrian weapons of mass destruction programs.
For those reasons, Bolton could not win a majority in committee, and he suffered the indignity of seeing his nomination go to the Senate floor without recommendation, and with the harsh criticism of a well-regarded Senate Republican ringing in his ears. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, spoke for many when he said Bolton was not the best candidate for a job in which relations with American allies are critical.
Nevertheless, Bolton is the president’s choice, and Voinovich allowed his nomination to go to the Senate floor where there is a chance he will be confirmed. If that’s the case, we hope he has learned some lessons along the way.
In some quarters there will be high expectations that as ambassador, Bolton would improve his diplomatic bearing, yet there’s a risk that he will misread the approval of senators who are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. They might not mind much if Bolton deploys his prickly personality against the U.N. bureaucracy, but they expect him to provide constructive diplomacy when dealing with policy matters on behalf of a president who has made it clear he intends to work more closely with other nations in his second term.
Voinovich called Bolton “the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.” He was one of four Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee who expressed concerns about Bolton, clearly with the president’s best interest at heart.
Bolton’s nomination is now mixed up in the partisan showdown over judicial appointments, with some Republicans claiming that Democratic opposition is more political than anything else. Bolton’s support by Senate Republicans — if it holds — could end up being a vote aimed as much at dominating the Democrats, having less to do with the nominee’s fitness to represent the United States in the Byzantine halls of the U.N.
— Steve Clemons