April 15, 2005 | Commentary on International Organizations

Democrats Turned Bolton Hearing Into Circus

John Bolton is likely to face a warmer reception in Turtle Bay than the one he received on Capitol Hill from Democratic lawmakers last week.

As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton may win no popularity contests, but he will at least be afforded the due respect that a man of his integrity and dedication to public service deserves.

At times, Bolton's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee looked more like a kangaroo court than a serious examination of his ability to advance the U.S. national interest at the United Nations.

A great deal of the discussion on the second day of the hearing focused on dubious, unproven allegations that he had misrepresented intelligence information on Cuba and had been unpleasant to intelligence analysts with whom he disagreed. A former State Department intelligence chief alleged that Bolton was a "quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" who "abuses his authority with little people" and was, therefore, unfit to be UN ambassador. In the words of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.), Bolton was a "bully" in need of "anger management." Bolton was given no right of reply.

The sustained and orchestrated assault on Bolton's reputation was an unpleasant display of partisan demagogery that reeked of sour grapes, five months after President Bush's re-election last November. What should have been an important opportunity to intelligently assess one of the most significant foreign policy challenges facing the United States today, reform of the United Nations, was replaced by a pitiful and ultimately unsuccessful politically motivated exercise in character assassination.

For all their rhetoric about the importance of the United Nations to U.S. foreign policy, Bolton's self-professed multilateralist critics seemed remarkably uninterested in engaging in any serious discussion of UN reform. Indeed, the UN appeared irrelevant to the central goal of their strategy at the hearing--to rubbish the reputation of the President's nominee.

In the wake of the oil-for-food scandal and the Congo peacekeeping scandal, the United Nations is an organization that has overwhelmingly lost the trust of the American people. There was little attempt made by Bolton's opponents to examine how Congress and the administration should be pushing for greater accountability and transparency from the UN, an organization that receives over $2 billion a year from U.S. taxpayers.

As a former assistant secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Bolton has an intricate knowledge of how the UN works and will be perfectly placed to push forward a realistic U.S. reform agenda at the United Nations. He will also be at the center of Bush Administration efforts to address through the UN Security Council the growing threat posed by rogue regimes such as Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Despite the disdainful scorn heaped upon his nomination, and the distasteful attacks on his personal integrity, it was the stoic, composed and principled Bolton who came out the winner from this hearing. Thoughtful in his responses and unflappable in his convictions, Bolton appeared just the right man to represent the United States at the United Nations and project U.S. leadership in the world body.

When he goes to the UN Bolton will aggressively advance the U.S. national interest, lay down clear markers for UN reform and challenge the conventional wisdom. He will be a powerful force for change in a hidebound institution where corruption, mismanagement and anti-Americanism have run rampant for far too long.

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is a fellow in Anglo-American security policy at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

Related Issues: International Organizations

First appeared in Human Events Online