Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Divider, Not a Uniter

George W. Bush came to office proclaiming that he intended to be a "uniter, not a divider". His record belies that lofty pronouncement. Time after time he has shown that he has neither the temperament nor the desire to unite.

The latest example is the recess appointment of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton's nomination had been stalled in the Senate over an impasse between the White House and Senate Democrats regarding the release of information on Bolton's use of sensitive wiretap transcripts. With neither side willing to budge, Bush waited for the Senate to adjourn for its August recess, and then appointed Bolton to the position without Senate confirmation.

That Bush was within his legal rights to make this appointment does not diminish the fact that he is, as always, more interested in having his way than in reaching compromise or consensus. A uniter? Hardly.

The President announced that he was making the appointment because of the "partisan delaying tactics of a handful of Senators" that denied Bolton an "up or down" vote. That is only true if you consider 43 Senators--which is how many voted against cloture on the Bolton nomination--to be a "handful". The President also did not mention that Senator Joe Biden, speaking on behalf of the senators requesting the additional information, essentially promised a final vote without delay once the requested information was delivered. The Bush White House would have none of it.

The fact that Bolton was Bush's nominee in the first place is evidence of just how tone deaf this administration is to the sensible propriety one would expect from "a uniter, not a divider." "A bull in a china shop" is how the headline of an analysis by the Financial Times of London began. Bolton's nomination was voted out of committee to the Senate floor without a recommendation--hardly a ringing endorsement.

The controversial Bolton is famous for throwing tantrums, bullying subordinates, and seeking to have fired intelligence analysts whose conclusions contradicted his own ideological beliefs and political positions. And the revelation of his behavior comes at the very time that many have concluded that the politicization of intelligence was in part responsible for our failure to accurately understand Iraq's pre-war WMD capabilities.

This man who Bush would send as our ambassador to the United Nations has been openly and crudely disdainful of the world body. Incredibly, Bush feels that the vindictive and tactless Bolton is just the guy to repair our strained relations with countries around the world, and to nurture reform at the U.N.

The Financial Times analysis observed that Bush, in making the appointment, has "stretched his executive prerogative to the limit." The article notes that "even some of the new ambassador's staunchest supporters have conceded that a recess appointment was likely to undermine his standing at the UN."

Bolton's most passionate Senate critic has been not a Democrat but Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio, who noted that "this is not the behavior that should be endorsed as the face of the United States to the world community in the United Nations." Voinovich goes on to say that "John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be."

Regardless of how Senator Voinovich feels about it, John Bolton is now on the job at the U.N., and George "My Way or the Highway" Bush has obtained the outcome he wanted. But at what cost?

Copyright (C) 2005 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved


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