Get­ting rid of ‘best’ U.N. am­bas­sador . . .

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Robert No­vak

Over lunch in New York two weeks ago, John Bolton told me he was think­ing about aban­don­ing his long strug­gle for con­fir­ma­tion as U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and leav­ing gov­ern­ment ser­vice. But he asked me to de­fer writ­ing about his sit­u­a­tion. The White House felt any­thing I wrote would un­der­mine last-ditch ef­forts at con­fir­ma­tion.

That re­flects con­tin­u­ing fail­ure by Ge­orge W. Bush and his team, six years in power, to per­ceive the im­pla­ca­ble na­ture of Demo­cratic op­po­si­tion. The White House was still ea­ger not to of­fend Sen. Christo­pher Dodd, the Demo­crat most de­ter­mined to block Mr. Bolton. Fur­ther­more, Bush aides to the end sought to bring around lame duck Repub­li­can Sen. Lin­coln Chafee to al­low Mr. Bolton’s nom­i­na­tion on the Se­nate floor dur­ing the lame duck ses­sion.

All such ef­forts were fu­tile. Mr. Dodd and his col­leagues were de­ter­mined to get out­spo­ken con­ser­va­tive Mr. Bolton, and they got him. Mr. Chafee kept show­ing con­tempt for his nom­i­nal party even af­ter the White House saved him from de­feat in the pri­mary. The Demo­cratic elec­tion vic­tory on Nov. 7 sealed Mr. Bolton’s fate, end­ing Repub­li­can ef­forts to find an­other two years for Mr. Bolton even with­out con­fir­ma­tion.

A se­nior White House aide told me the pres­i­dent had been “con­sid­er­ing” an of­fer of deputy sec­re­tary of state (which re­quires Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion) or Cabi­net-level coun­selor (which does not). When he de­cided last week he wanted out, Mr. Bolton had no in­ter­est in any al­ter­na­tive post. But nei­ther job was even men­tioned to Mr. Bolton. Af­ter serv­ing four years as an un­der sec­re­tary, Mr. Bolton fol­low­ing the 2004 elec­tion asked for the deputy sec­re­tary’s job. The new sec­re­tary of state, Con- doleezza Rice, said no, but of­fered him the U.N. post.

Mr. Dodd’s cam­paign has been re­lent­less and un­fair. “He’s been a very in­ef­fec­tive bully,” Mr. Dodd has said in de­scrib­ing Mr. Bolton’s per­for­mance at the United Na­tions as a re­cess ap­pointee. In fact, the per­ma­nent U.S. staff there re­gards Mr. Bolton as Pres­i­dent Bush’s most ef­fec­tive U.N. en­voy, his record cli­maxed by achiev­ing a unan­i­mous Se­cu­rity Coun­cil vote on the Korean ques­tion. Mr. Dodd’s de­light over Mr. Bolton’s de­par­ture is shared at the United Na­tions by anti-Amer­i­can Third World am­bas­sadors and U.N. bu­reau­crats.

The con­tin­u­ing Demo­cratic ra­tio­nale for op­pos­ing Mr. Bolton is the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­fusal to turn over intelligence in­ter­cepts re­quested by Mr. Bolton as un­der sec­re­tary of state. But the lib­eral ca­bal that op­posed him for the United Na­tions also voted against him in 2001 for the un­der sec­re­tary’s post. That in­cludes Sen. Joseph Bi­den, now re­turned as For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man. He tends to vote against Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees when there is any op­po­si­tion.

But Mr. Dodd, strik­ing a pose of smil­ing af­fa­bil­ity, has been the driv­ing force be­hind the as­sault on Mr. Bolton. An ar­dent sup­porter of nor­mal­iz­ing re­la­tions with Cuba, Mr. Dodd is in­ex­orable in block­ing any nom­i­nee hos­tile to Fidel Cas­tro’s dic­ta­tor­ship. He kept Otto Re­ich from get­ting con­firmed as as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for in­terAmer­i­can af­fairs and now has done the same to Mr. Bolton.

White House aides were liv­ing in an un­real world when they pri­vately blamed Mr. Dodd’s hos­til­ity to Mr. Bolton on me and blamed my hos­til­ity to Mr. Dodd on Mr. Bolton. In fact, I was scourg­ing Mr. Dodd for his proCas­tro bias long be­fore Mr. Bolton be­came an is­sue.

The feck­less­ness at the White House in man­ag­ing Mr. Bolton’s nom­i­na­tion is ex­em­pli­fied by the feel­ing there to the end that Mr. Chafee could be brought along. Hav­ing poured money into Mr. Chafee’s Rhode Is­land Repub­li­can pri­mary cam­paign against a con­ser­va­tive chal­lenger, Mr. Bush in private is fu­ri­ous over be­trayal by the mav­er­ick Repub­li­can. Mr. Chafee’s fel­low GOP sen­a­tors be­lieve that if he were re-elected, he would have per­mit­ted Mr. Bolton’s name to go to the Se­nate floor. Quirky to the end, Mr. Chafee says the Demo­cratic elec­tion vic­tory is rea­son to block Mr. Bolton.

“It was a trav­esty,” Repub­li­can Sen. Norm Cole­man, in de­scrib­ing Mr. Bolton’s demise, told me. “Bi­par­ti­san­ship is a two-way street.” Mr. Cole­man, who as chair­man of the Se­nate Per­ma­nent Sub­com­mit­tee on In­ves­ti­ga­tions probed U.N. cor­rup­tion, be­lieves Mr. Bolton “was the best” of Mr. Bush’s U.N. am­bas­sadors.

Now Mr. Cole­man loses his chair­man­ship, and Mr. Bolton is gone. No won­der U.N. Deputy Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Mark Mal­loch Brown, a Bri­ton who brazenly has in­ter­fered in U.S. pol­i­tics, was caught smil­ing at Tur­tle Bay this week.

Robert No­vak is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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