Will Bolton be a bull in the global China shop?
In a move that defines political stubbornness and arrogance, President Bush bypassed the Senate and installed John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations by a recess appointment. When senators are away -- as they are now, on summer recess -- presidents will play, as Bush did.
Why characterize Bush's constitutionally authorized action as stubborn and arrogant? Because he knew from the outset that Bolton's nomination as this country's permanent representative to the world organization was fraught with problems.
In the months following Republican Bush's selection of the sharp-tongued diplomat, it became clear that Senate confirmation was not guaranteed -- even with the GOP in the majority. That's because Democrats remained solidly opposed to Bolton and moderate Republicans, led by Ohio Sen. George V. Voinovich, expressed serious misgivings about his fitness to serve in the position and urged Bush to withdraw the nomination.
Voinovich, former governor of Ohio, has been in national spotlight because of his willingness to speak his mind on this important issue. His opposition to the nominee stemmed from his belief that in this era of global conflict and America's declining popularity around the world, an individual who had publicly expressed his disdain for the United Nations was the wrong person for the job of ambassador.
Voinovich made much of the fact that Bolton would not bring to the task the deft diplomatic touch that is so essential in dealing with the 190 other U.N. ambassadors.
Like the senator, we agree with President Bush when he says that systemic changes are needed in the largest bureaucracy in the world and there must be accountability for the annual expenditure of billions of dollars for various programs and for running the organization. We also applaud the president for saying that corruption must be rooted out and reforms instituted so the U.N. can "renew its founding promises."
In appointing Bolton, Bush said the ambassador "believes passionately in the goals of the United Nations Charter, to advance peace and liberty and human rights." However, there is a difference between believing passionately in goals and being able to make those goals a reality.
The United Nations is the ultimate diplomatic arena and Bush has sent a very undiplomatic individual -- based on his past record -- to represent the United States.
The recess appointment expires in January 2007 at the start of the new Congress. By then, it will have become clear whether Bush was right in putting his trust in John Bolton, or whether he should have taken Voinovich's advice and given Anne Patterson, the acting permanent representative to the U.N., the top spot.
The senator's concern about Bolton's ability to do the job is so heartfelt, he intends to send the ambassador a book entitled "Heart and Soul of Effective Management" by James F. Hind.
Voinovich says the book helped him. Bolton certainly could use that kind of help.