Miami Herald: As a rule, presidents should have wide latitude in appointments for high office. When questions arise, the nominee deserves the benefit of the doubt -- absent an egregious transgression. John Bolton's well-known disdain for the United Nations doesn't by itself disqualify him for the job of U.S. ambassador. But his ideological zeal, demonstrated by his dismaying record of carving the facts to fit narrow political goals, make him a singularly poor choice for this important position.
Bolton's selection apparently was intended to send a message about the need for U.N. reform. We see nothing wrong with that. Previous U.S. ambassadors such as Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and the late Pat Moynihan had little tolerance for the endless buck-passing and insufferable gasbaggery that often characterizes U.N. diplomacy.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself has acknowledged the United Nations' woeful shortcomings, especially in the realm of human rights.
But what the United States needs above all at the United Nations today is a persuasive voice in support of U.S. policy, someone who can sway doubters by force of argument and reason. Given the erroneous "intelligence" used by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in an address to the United Nations to justify the U.S. war in Iraq, U.S. credibility has deep fissures that need repair, not more drilling.
To judge from his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, Bolton is the wrong choice. How can he persuade other nations that U.S. intelligence on, say, nuclear weapons in Iran or North Korea is on the level when he has been credibly accused of bullying subordinates and colleagues in the U.S. intelligence community whose information didn't agree with his preconceived views?
Bolton denies that he was attempting to twist the facts to suit his agenda, but his denials aren't persuasive. Furthermore, his feuds with others in the CIA and the State Department show little hope of his being able to carry out the improvement in international cooperation that President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have promised during the president's second term.
As far back as the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when Ambassador Adlai Stevenson shamed his Soviet counterpart by showing pictures of missile sites in Cuba whose existence the Russians had denied, good intelligence has been a way to promote U.S. national interests. The proper use of good intelligence can show the world that U.S. policy is based on facts, not fiction.
In the war over ideas -- where the General Assembly and Security Council are the battlefields -- credibility is a potent weapon. John Bolton isn't the man who can wield that weapon effectively.