Monday, March 28, 2005

Bolton from the Blue

As you probably know, President Bush (following his odd penchant for mistaking 'fire' with 'promote'), recently nominated John Bolton to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton is currently Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, but the new Secretary of State (another appointment made under Bush's twisted promotion policy) apparently didn't really want him around Foggy Bottom anymore, so they decided why not, let's send him to the UN?

I have resisted blogging about Bolton until now, but since Congress is out of session and all seems fairly quiet news-wise - at least in the political realm - I thought I'd spend a bit of time on it tonight. Of course the fact that I'm still completely mind-boggled about how Bush could even think this was a good idea has kept me from even trying to explain it ... I've decided now I'll just not bother with that. Immediately after his trip to Europe to 'smooth things over' and reiterate American support for international cooperation, Bush comes home and nominates a man to be one of our most important diplomats who has publicly stated "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," and suggested that the Security Council should have only one member, the United States.

While in his position at State, Bolton was responsible for pushing the mythical connection between Iraq and Nigerian yellowcake, and made no particularly good progress in negotiations with North Korea or Iran over their rather more palpable nuclear programs (in fact the opposite could probably be argued). I can think of very little in the way of arms control or anti-proliferation issues that actually went well during the first Bush term, with the possible exception of Libya renouncing its WMD programs.

Following the nomination, there was much discussion over whether even some Republicans in the Senate might depart from the party line on this one. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was slow in expressing support for the Bolton nomination, as were Chuck Hagel and a few others. All those on the Committee appear now to be ready to vote to confirm Bolton and send his nomination to the Senate floor. Those include Chafee of Rhode Island, who said recently that he has received assurances that Bolton will behave himself up in New York.

At least a couple Republicans, as well as most of the Democrats, seem likely to remain opposed to the nomination until the end, however. New Mexico's Pete Domenici has never been particularly supportive of Bolton, and took the unusual step of blaming him by name for failing to act more strenuously against proliferation issues during a hearing last summer. The confirmation hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee promise to be very interesting: those are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on April 7. For a few moderate Republicans, (Snowe, Collins, Domenici, possibly Chafee) those will probably be the deciding factor. I will certainly be paying close attention as well.

For further reading:
- Steve Clemons over at The Washington Note has been very active on this issue, blogging quite often on Bolton's incompatibility with the position for which he's been nominated. He provides many useful links and more background than I have as well.
- Stop Bolton is out to do just that, and includes a video clip of Bolton saying some of his most outrageous things about the UN.
- Just today, 59 former diplomats from previous administrations wrote a letter urging the Senate to reject Bolton's nomination, calling him "the wrong man for this position", and saying that Bolton cannot be "an effective promoter of the U.S. national interest at the U.N."


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