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Stand By Your Man?


As long as Jim Baker and his Iraq Panel pals are going to try and get President Bush to see reality on Iraq, perhaps they could also clue him in on the fact that no one outside of his deluded inner circle (and crazy vlogging groupies) wants John Bolton at the UN.

"There's a lot of competent people. Send someone new up, Mr. President," Biden said on "This Week." "He doesn't even have the votes in the committee. He doesn't even have the votes of a Republican-controlled committee today. We're going to have a hearing on him. There is going to be a vote on him. He's going to lose."…

Bolten played down speculation the administration might go around the Senate and find another way for Bolton to continue to represent the United States at the United Nations, perhaps by finding an alternative means of paying his salary or appointing him to serve as an acting or deputy U.N. representative.

"I don't know about that," Bolten said. "Our effort is going to be to try to get him confirmed in the ordinary course."

Mr. President, sometimes you need to face up to the fact that you can't always get what you want. This is one of those times — it's best for the nation, best for your party, and best for the rest of the world if you grow up, get down off your stubborn and petulant high horse, and recognize that no matter how loyal you may be to your man, Bolton, the Senate and the other diplomats at the UN just aren't that into him. 

But don't take my word for it:

One signal that the new Congress should immediately send to the president and the outside world is the replacement of America's United Nations ambassador John Bolton. Mr Bolton is a unabashed relic of the failed neoconservative era in foreign policy which was so emphatically defeated last week. He has never concealed his contempt for the UN. His presence as the US's chief representative at the most important of international organisations sends a message which is not, and never was, in America's interests. Even timid Downing Street would like to see the back of Mr Bolton so that diplomacy can make a fresh start. Mr Bolton's nomination has never received the congressional confirmation that it ultimately requires; President Bush resubmitted it last week. Senator Biden and his colleagues should ensure that Mr Bolton is rejected, so that the administration is forced to nominate a candidate whose approach is more in tune with the changed times in Washington.

The urgent mood for sensible change that brought the Democrats to power – and which has seen Mr Bush's ratings slump further this weekend – is already influencing the administration on its most important challenge. The disaster of Iraq was underlined again yesterday by typically depressing news of carnage, affecting Britons, Americans and Iraqis. Even before his election defeat Mr Bush faced a growing political imperative to extricate the US with a minimum of casualties and a maximum of salvageable dignity within a defined time-frame. The election has heightened that pressure. It means the Iraq Study Group, headed by the former secretary of state James Baker, which meets in Washington this week, acquires greater significance by the day. Those wishing to see a more realistic and less doctrinaire policy need to exert maximum pressure on the ISG to adopt brave new solutions. That includes Tony Blair, whose proposals to Mr Baker tomorrow should be made public. Like the president, the prime minister has to face the hard fact that the central focus of his foreign policy has failed and that we are in a new era now.

Hello — our allies do not want Bolton at the UN.  Just say no. 

It takes both sides bending in order for there to be a bi-partisan agreement. Bi-partisanship does not mean that you, George Bush, get to continue issuing orders and that the Democratic members of Congress continually acquiesce. Especially when there is serious debate as to whether the course of action you are trying to shove down their throat is particularly wise or not. And there is a LOT of debate about the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the Bolton nomination.

Certainly, Bolton has had some success at the UN, most recently in blocking Venezuela from obtaining a seat on the Security Council, by finding some common ground in moving away from the US-backed Guatamala toward the neutral ground of Panama.  That was good diplomacy, and although it looked for a while like it wouldn't happen, Bolton being willing to bend a bit and get behind Panama once it was clear that Guatamala wasn't going anywhere was a good move.

But effectiveness on a few endeavors at the UN does not erase what Bolton stands for in the eyes of many in the diplomatic community:  neocon policies, steadfast support of the Cheney agenda, and a clear disdain for admission of any errors and an unwillingness to listen, really listen, to competing viewpoints.  Whether or not Bolton remains in that "my way or the highway" bubble in which the Bush Administration has resided for far too long, that is the albatross that Bolton carries into every meeting, every negotiation, every action that the US attempts to push forward.

And that is detrimental to any objective we are trying to achieve.

It is an unfortunate truth, but there it is.  Bolton's tenure at the UN has been tainted from the start by his long history of neocon allegiance and public statements on the irrelevence of the United Nations.  Not exactly the best starting point for any diplomat stationed to a post there, is it?  When you add in his temperament issues, and the way that his nomination was rammed down the nation's throat regardless of the anti-Bolton sentiment in the Senate — the body that is designed to give advice and consent and which clearly said "no" to the President on bi-partisan footing on this nomination…well, let's just say the President's petulant recess appointment smacked more of an ego-driven tantrum than of consideration for the best thing for the nation as a whole.

It is time for someone fresh at the United Nations.  If the recent elections said anything, it was this:  that the American public is sick of the way that the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress are doing business.  And John Bolton is the poster child for the way the Bush Administration has been doing business.

Do the right thing for a change, Mr. President:  nominate a real diplomat to the UN post.  Be a bigger man than people think you can be, for once, and surprise us — and yourself — for a change.  Try being a grown-up and stop thumbing your nose at the importance of diplomacy in some misguided smack back at your father's career, and try understanding, just this once, how important it is to the safety of our nation that we have a good relationship with other nations and an ability to negotiate and work together in a multi-lateral approach instead of just ordering them around.  We'll be on much stronger footing for it, and people around the world might just stop hating all of us so much if we start acting like adults again.

Think of it this way, all of America deserves to have the best person for the job.  You don't have to just make Dick Cheney happy any more.  Toss off those neocon shackles and hire a real diplomat with a lot less baggage.  But Bolton?  Just say no.  Stop humiliating the man and let him withdraw his name, and find someone that everyone can agree is an excellent choice.  Think Pat Moynihan — someone like him would be not only appropriate, but welcome, and a move of strength on your part.

Real men can admit mistakes and learn from them.  Try being one for a change.

UPDATE:  Please take a few minutes this morning and phone the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and let them know that you think John Bolton is the wrong man for the job:  call toll free at 1-888-355-3588 via the Capitol switchboard.  Concentrate your efforts on Lincoln Chafee, Bill Nelson and George Voinovich, please, but a call to each member would be helpful.  Most of them aren't expecting calls this week, so it has a bit of an enhanced messaging to hit them today.

Richard Lugar (R-IN)

Joseph Biden (D-DE)

Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)

Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)

Christopher Dodd (D-CT)

George Allen (R-VA)

John Kerry (D-MA)

Norm Coleman (R-MN)

Russ Feingold (D-WI)

George Voinovich (R-OH)

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Bill Nelson (D-FL)

John Sununu (R-NH)

Barack Obama (D-IL)

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Mel Martinez (R-FL)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com