Monday, August 1, 2005

A Kick-Down Appointment

President Bush today used a recess appointment to make John Bolton the ambassador to the United Nations. In taking this action, President Bush has bypassed the Senate, which has held up the appointment because of Bolton’s reputation as, according to a former colleague, "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy." This is not the kind of representative that the United States should have in the UN, and President Bush has again shown his true colors as one of the most divisive political leaders of our time, instead of as the uniter that he promised to be in the 2000 campaign.

The position of ambassador to the United Nations, more than almost any other Presidential-appointed position, should go through the process of being confirmed by the Senate. This is not a position within the executive branch where the job, while officially to run an agency or department, is primarily to advise the President in a specific policy area. Instead, the UN ambassador represents the position and interests of the United States to the rest of the world, and it should represent the entire United States, not just the President and his inner circle.

Before the attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush had begun a policy to steer the country towards a more isolationist position in the world. The events of that day again thrust the United States into the world spotlight, however, and there was no way that we could go at it alone. By sending John Bolton, a man who has questioned the value of the UN, to take part in the UN, President Bush has sent a very clear message that the United States has little, if any, respect for the world body.

This is a huge mistake that will have effects on the U.S. position in the world long after Bolton's temporary appointment expires. At a time when the U.S. is at its least popular in world opinion in decades, and in an increasingly global society, we need as many allies as we can get in as many areas of the world as possible. President Bush thumbing his nose at the world by sending John Bolton to speak for him cannot help in this quest.

After the September 11 attacks, President Bush said repeatedly that nations were either with us or against us. With this appointment, Bush has clearly shown that he is against the world. On March 18, 1968, during his campaign for the Presidency, Robert F. Kennedy spoke at the University of Kansas on the quality of life in America and America’s position in the world. Here is the end of his speech:

"From the beginning, our proudest boast was that we, here in this country, would be the best hope for all of mankind. And now … we wonder if we still hold a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, and whether they have maintained a decent respect for us, or whether like Athens of old, we will forfeit sympathy and support, and ultimately security, in a single-minded pursuit of our own goals and our own objectives."

Appointing John Bolton to the United Nations clearly shows that President Bush does not hold any respect for the opinions of mankind, no less a decent one, and instead is going ahead with a single-minded pursuit of his own objectives. This appointment can only lead to a weakened U.S. position in the world, exactly the opposite of what a UN ambassador is supposed to do.