You don't often get an opportunity to right a terrible wrong. But the Senate has a chance to do just that when it gives the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations a second look starting today.
Last year, after hearings best described as a character smear, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to give Bolton its blessing, denying the president's nominee any real chance at a straight "up or down" vote by the full Senate.
But President Bush still needed an ambassador - and a strong one - at Turtle Bay. So, after last summer's Senate meltdown, he wisely gave Bolton a "recess appointment." That temporary posting ends when the Senate recesses this year - unless the senators vote to confirm Bolton.
They should. Even as a "temp," Bolton has done a bang-up job at the United Nations - proving his critics wrong about his effectiveness.
In fact, so much so that one of his most damning - and surprising - detractors has changed his tune.
On the Foreign Relations panel, Sen. George Voinovich last year voiced strong opposition to the White House's nominee - the sole Republican to align with the committee's Democrats on the issue.
The Ohio lawmaker claimed he had concerns about Bolton's management style/interpersonal skills, which made the talented Bolton (despite his experience at the State and Justice Departments) the wrong person to represent us at the world body.
It was hooey then - and it's hooey now.
But Voinovich converted, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that he's impressed by Bolton's first year at the U.N. - liking his work on badly-needed reform and rasslin' with the prickly North Koreans and Iranians.
Voinovich added that if President Bush renominates Bolton (as he's now done), he'd "vote to confirm him," warning Senate colleagues that failing to show unity on Bolton will only weaken America's international position at a critical time.
This time, Voinovich is on the mark. With the Middle East going up in flames, North Korea brandishing missiles, Iran threatening nukes and continuing challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, America needs to speak with one strong voice at the United Nations.
Bolton has that voice. No shrinking violet, he's just the type of no-nonsense, "get 'er done" diplomat Washington needs in New York right now, fighting for American interests in the divided and increasingly impotent U.N. Security Council.
In recent months, Bolton has gone to the mat with the shameless, foot-dragging Russians and Chinese to get the United Nations to do something about the festering Iranian and North Korean nuclear and missile threats. Thanks to his dogged efforts, the Security Council has finally made some progress here by issuing a formal statement calling on Iran to end uranium enrichment (a process vital to producing nukes).
On North Korea, Bolton got the council to impose targeted sanctions on Pyongyang, banning the transfer of nuclear/missile parts or technology, after North Korea launched seven missiles earlier this month on America's Independence Day.
Bolton birthed the strongest condemnation the Security Council has issued against North Korea in more than 10 years. It won unanimous support, even from the slippery Chinese and Russians - no small feat these days.
Protecting America's $3 billion annual U.N. contribution, Bolton is making headway in reforming the scandal-ridden world body, too, including commitments by the General Assembly to improve oversight and personnel management.
Critics say Bolton isn't popular with his U.N. colleagues. Good! The likely reason is that Bolton actually expects them to do something, like solve world problems and clean up the U.N.'s act.
In less than a year's time, John Bolton has become an indispensable advocate at the United Nations, advancing and protecting American interests at a time when we're facing unparalleled international challenges.
And, with Voinovich's about-face, the fig leaf of bipartisan opposition to Bolton on the Foreign Relations Committee has gone poof - leaving Democrats without the cover needed to score more cheap political points at the expense of our interests and national security.
With the real progress we've made under Bolton's leadership, it would be foolish to swap out U.N. ambassadors now. While admitting mistakes is never easy, the Senate can cover its tracks by confirming Bolton ASAP.
Peter Brookes, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, is the author of "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States."
First appeared in the New York Post