(HOST) The nomination of John Bolton to be U. S. ambassador to the United Nations may be in trouble, but – as commentator Barrie Dunsmore tells us – maybe for the wrong reasons.
(DUNSMORE) During John Bolton’s Senate confirmation hearings, a senior State Department official accused him of being a “serial abuser.” This was a reference to the way Bolton treated people below him in the bureaucracy. Allegations of several instances of that kind of behavior have now been made public, prompting three Republican Senators to waver in their support for the nomination. That’s why the vote on Bolton has been delayed – not because Democrats were playing politics, as President George W. Bush has charged.
In recent days, some prominent Republicans have come to Bolton’s defense, among them former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. In an Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, Eagleburger says the U. N. would benefit from Bolton’s bluntness. He also suggests that, if being tough on staff disqualified someone from high office, a lot of high offices would remain empty. On this point Eagleburger is clearly thinking of the man he served for many years: former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was notoriously harsh with his staff. I traveled on his plane for much of his time in office and frequently saw him castigating both high- and low-level aides who accompanied him during the days of shuttle diplomacy.
There was a popular anecdote at the time about the aide who brings Kissinger a lengthy analysis he had ordered. Kissinger tosses it back at him calling it garbage. The scene is repeated several times. Finally Kissinger says to the aide, “Are you sure this is absolutely the best work you can do?” When the aide stammers back, “Yes, sir,” Kissinger responds, “Okay, this time I’ll read it.” Kissinger’s record may be controversial, but his management style was never a factor in rating his performance as Secretary of State – nor should it have been.
But, in my view, whether or not Bolton is a nice guy is beside the point. What is the point is that he is totally unsuited to represent the United States at the United Nations because he fundamentally does not believe in the institution. Like most right-wingers, he is terrified that this country will become terminally infected if it gets too close to international organizations.
The other disqualifier ought to be that he tried to bully an American intelligence official into changing his analysis about Cuba’s biological warfare program. Bolton wanted to publicly accuse Cuba of developing such a program and making it available to other rogue states. The United States had no such intelligence. And when the weapons analyst refused to approve the Bolton speech making the Cuban allegation, Bolton tried to have him fired.
Given the intelligence fiasco concerning Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the last thing this country needs is another major policy-maker who wants intelligence to conform to his ideology. It is on those grounds – not management style – that the Senate should reject Bolton’s nomination.
This is Barrie Dunsmore.
Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.