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William Fisher: Big Apple Here I Come

Big Apple Here I Come

By William Fisher

President Bush poked a thumb in the eye of Senate Democrats today by his recess appointment of John Bolton as America’s ambassador to the United Nations – and triggered wholly predictable responses from the foreign policy community.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, called it a "devious maneuver" that only "further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton's credibility."

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "The president has done a real disservice to our nation by appointing an individual who lacks the credibility to further U.S.
interests at the United Nations.”

And Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Bolton was a "seriously flawed and weakened candidate."

Reaction from Republicans was equally predictable.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said, "The president did the right thing by sending Mr. Bolton to the U. N. He is a smart, principled and straightforward candidate, and will represent the president and America well on the world stage."

And Senator Jon Kyl, a conservative Republican from Arizona, applauded the appointment. He said that Senate Democrats’ obstructionism left the president no other choice. “Everybody (at the UN) will know that he's the president's man."

Democrats’ reaction to the president’s circumvention of the Senate confirmation process comes at a time when Bush needs all the support he can muster to confirm his nomination of John Roberts to serve on the Supreme Court.

Critics say Bolton, who has been accused of mistreating subordinates and has been openly skeptical about the United Nations, would be ill-suited to the sensitive diplomatic task at the world body. The White House says the former undersecretary of state for arms control, who has long been one of Bush's most conservative foreign policy advisers, is exactly the man to whip the United Nations into shape.

John Gershman, Director of the Global Affairs Program at the International Relations Center and Co-Director of Foreign Policy In Focus, told IPS, “President Bush's recess appointment of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations places a Bush administration loyalist opposed to the United Nations and international law in a position that demands a skilled diplomat. His appointment is a travesty for those that support international law and a stronger United Nations.”

Rami G. Khouri, Editor-at-large for The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and an internationally respected commentator on foreign affairs, told IPS, “So much for checks and balances.”

And a spokesperson for Human Rights First, an advocacy group, told IPS, “The recess appointment of John Bolton will add to the challenges faced by U.S. Foreign Service officers who work to promote human rights. These diplomats have faced formidable obstacles in part because of increased U.S. unilateralism and the rejection by the U.S. of international standards relating to humanitarian law and laws prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment The Bolton appointment sends a clear signal to the world that the Administration’s go-it-alone approach is alive and well. Sadly, the day-to-day business of promoting human rights just got harder.“

A “contrarian” view came from Joshua Fouts, Director of the Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California. He told IPS,”I think the core issues surrounding the appointment of Bolton have largely been fully debated. While a recess appointment is not the best solution, what I think is most important, at this juncture in the UN's history, is that the United States have an official senior representative in place to frame their role and position in the debate about the evolving role of the United Nations in world.”

President Bush said this morning that the post was "too important to leave vacant any longer." Bush said he was sending Bolton, a 56-year-old lawyer, to the United Nations with his "complete confidence."

Bush has the power to fill vacancies without Senate approval while Congress is in recess. Under the Constitution, the recess appointment will last until the next session of Congress, which begins in January 2007.

The appointment ended a stormy five-month impasse with Senate Democrats who had accused the conservative Bolton of twisting intelligence to suit a hawkish ideology and of abusing subordinates.

Speaking at the White House, with Bolton and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his side, Bush said, "A majority of U.S. senators agree that he is the right man for the job. Yet, because of partisan delaying tactics by a handful of senators, John was unfairly denied the up or down vote that he deserves."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan welcomed Bolton's appointment and did not address the question of whether Bolton would be weakened by the recess
appointment. He said the manner of Bolton's appointment was Bush's prerogative.

Bolton, whose criticisms of the United Nations cast doubt on his ability to be effective in his new post, said he was "profoundly honored, indeed humbled by the confidence" the president had shown in him.

Bush had refused to withdraw the Bolton nomination even though the Senate had twice voted to sustain a filibuster against him.

State Department officials accused him of berating career officials and analysts who challenged his views, and of selectively choosing intelligence to support his assertions about the dangers posed by Cuba and other nations.

When a Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Ohio Sen. George V. Voinovich, decided to oppose Bolton, the nomination moved to the full Senate with no recommendation – a relatively rare action for the usually bi-partisan Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The nomination has been held up by Democrats' demands to see two sets of documents related to Bolton's State Department work. One involved national security intercepts of conversations.

Last Friday, 35 Democratic senators and one independent, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, sent a letter to Bush urging against a recess appointment. "Sending someone to the United Nations who has not been confirmed by the United States Senate and now who has admitted to not being truthful on a document so important that it requires a sworn affidavit is going to set our efforts back in many ways," the letter said.


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