W hurls brick in UN pick
By THOMAS J. DeFRANK
NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
The United Nations
WASHINGTON - When it comes to the United Nations, President Bush is not his father's son - and the choice of flame-throwing diplomat John Bolton as his new UN ambassador is a message of scorn to the Turtle Bay bureaucrats.Unlike President George H.W. Bush, a former UN ambassador in the 1970s and a fervent advocate for the organization, his son has fumed for years about what he considers the UN's blame-America-first mind-set.
"The UN is an anti-American organization," a Bush official said last week. "We will never get anything out of them. But there are always some people who indulge in wishful thinking that maybe they will do something for us. Colin Powell thought so. [Former UN Ambassador John] Negroponte thought so. John Bolton doesn't."
Bolton's appointment, announced last week by Secretary of State Rice, was an unexpected opportunity for Bush to throw a bone to his conservative base while also signaling that he is fed up with the UN's corruption and aversion to reforming itself.
"This is a total screw-you to the UN," a Bush loyalist on Capitol Hill chortled. "Up here, we love it."
Bolton had coveted the deputy's job at the State Department and had the strong backing of Vice President Cheney, a longtime patron. But a White House source said "[Rice] didn't think it was a good fit" and chose trade representative Robert Zoellick instead. Surprisingly, Bush sided with Rice over Cheney.
Bolton replaces former Sen. John Danforth, who resigned after less than six months on the job and told associates he was frustrated by the UN's bureaucratic intransigence.
"Danforth was fed up with the fecklessness and incompetence, and he didn't want to fight anymore," one Bush official explained. "Bolton will fight. He understands that the most successful UN ambassadors are the Jeane Kirkpatricks, who go up there and stick a thumb in their eye."
Bush fumed about the UN long before he entered public life, and his irritation has escalated since becoming President. At one of his first press conferences, in May 2001, he denounced as "outrageous" the UN's decision to remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission in favor of Sudan.
"It undermines the whole credibility of this commission to kick the United States off, one of the great bastions of human rights, and allow Sudan to be on," Bush told a Daily News questioner. "That sent an awfully, awfully strange signal to the world."
Two years later, the UN Security Council's refusal to back the Iraq war infuriated the President and caused an irreparable schism with the White House, according to Bush aides. Relations have become even frostier with Washington as UN officials, among others, have been implicated in lining their pockets from the Iraq oil-for-food program.
Throughout his career, the sharp-tongued Bolton has been legendary for his criticism of the world body many conservatives love to loathe. He once derided its effectiveness by arguing, "There is no such thing as the United Nations, [only] an international community that can occasionally be led by the only real power left in the world ... the United States."
Columbia University Prof. Edward Luck, an expert on the UN, said many countries are already wary of Bolton's appointment, adding that some UN officials privately describe his posting as a calculated insult to the UN.
"John is very bright, very articulate and quite thoughtful," Luck said. "On the other hand, he does not have a strong record of attracting people to our side. He is more of a divider than a builder."
Democrats will hammer Bolton at his confirmation hearings, and even some GOP senators think his appointment is overly confrontational when Bush is trying to mend fences with his global critics. He's likely to be confirmed anyway.
And the UN?
"They will react negatively to him," a career foreign service officer predicted, "but they have no choice to accept him. There's no way you can isolate the United States."
The United Nations - the term was coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt - has had a triumphant and tragic existence since its founding in 1945 with the primary goal of preventing another world war.
What do you think Bush's message was to the UN with the appointment of John Bolton to be ambassador to that body?