By Mark Follman
For days now, conservatives have been rallying around President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, the man much noted for his admonition in 1994, "There is no such thing as the United Nations." Since Monday, beneath trademark glasses and bushy mustache, John Bolton has flashed a softer, more diplomatic face during contentious Senate confirmation hearings. But his pundit supporters know better.
"It's not a moment too soon for strong, effective — bold — American leadership at the United Nations," wrote Heritage Foundation fellow Peter Brookes in Monday's New York Post. "The world's largest international institution is in serious need of some 'tough love' — and the smart money says John Bolton is the right man to give it ... We need an ambassador in New York who can tangle with the increasingly powerful (and confident) Chinese, the ornery Russians and the (always) cranky French on the Security Council."
While opponents argue Bolton is about as anti-U.N. as they come, Brookes thinks otherwise. Bolton's criticisms of the institution, he says, "have always been inspired by the U.N.'s ideals — and therefore scathing about its corrupt reality."
Brookes doesn't go into what those "ideals" are, but his column is a primer on the double standard by which Bolton supporters measure the U.N. They maintain that its member nations should fall in line under American leadership — but when it comes to the institution's failures, they see the U.N. as an entity separate from the U.S.
"The 191-member organization is reeling from revelations of rampant corruption in the Iraq Oil-for-Food program, and sexual abuses by its 'peacekeepers' in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Standing in the dark shadow of deadly inaction in Rwanda and Bosnia, the international body is also under fire for its failure to halt ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan, and the ongoing Congo massacres. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan admits the organization stands in desperate need of reform. He has suggested some reform initiatives — but he's on the verge of being tossed into the East River himself. The United Nations won't achieve the reform it needs without strong, engaged American leadership. That's where a rock-solid guy like John Bolton comes in."
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who calls Bolton a friend from their days working together for the right-wing Project for the New American Century, agrees that Bolton is "an exceptional choice" for the post. He also has some intriguing thoughts about who is at the helm of the party opposing the nominee. "[Bolton] supports President Bush's policies," says Kristol, "and as undersecretary of state worked hard to advance them in the first term. So the Democratic party, led by George Soros and the New York Times, thinks he shouldn't be permitted to continue to serve President Bush."
Like Brookes, Kristol makes no mention of a U.S. role in past U.N. debacles, including the failure to act to stop genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s and in Darfur today. "Despite Soros's millions and the Times's resources," Kristol continues, "the assault on Bolton has been pathetic. What does it amount to? He's a longtime U.N. skeptic — appropriate, one would think, given the U.N.'s 'Zionism is Racism' history during the Cold War, and its ineffectiveness (to be kind) in Rwanda in the '90s and in Sudan in this decade. But he's worse than a skeptic, the critics say: He has been disrespectful of the august body in which he will represent us. Why, he once joked, 'The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.' Well, truer words were never spoken."
Steve Bowers, a blogger over at "Pardon My English," takes issue with the Democrats' "Borking" of Bolton (as in, Robert, the thwarted Supreme Court nominee). He laments their "systematic attempts to torpedo" the ideal strongman for the job.
"Personally, I think the best thing we could possibly do to the UN is take our land back (international territory, my ass) and throw the corrupt thugs the hell into the bay. But since that's not going to happen, the UN at the very least needs major reform and who better to help bring about that reform than a known critic of this vaunted body of corrupt third-world despots? And Bolton's suggestion that we eliminate the building (at least ten floors of it) is a good place to begin. We might end up with thousands of homeless diplomats and staffers roaming the streets of New York, but at least they wouldn't be engaging in their usual conspiratorial U.S. bashing. And if we threw them out on the streets, their living conditions would be roughly similar to the living conditions of the citizens in 90% of their home countries. Actually better because they could at least beg for subsistence instead of scrabbling in the hard earth for beans."
Bowers hits another talking point of Bolton supporters, a cost-benefit analysis that calls for a better return on investment, though is free of charge when things don't go so smoothly. (And Bowers seems a bit confused about who in the game wields the "big stick.")
"But seriously, as the supplier of 20 percent of the operating budget of the U.N., we aren't getting our money's worth," he says. "If you gave your kid an allowance and your kid went out and badmouthed you in public, came home and lectured you about how to run your family, then beat you with a big stick and, despite it all, you still kept giving him money, you'd be pretty damn stupid. Well, aside from the beating with a big stick, that's pretty much the situation the U.S. finds itself in with the U.N."
Rove's bootleg DVD collection?
In an excerpt from his new book, "The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy," Byron York, a White House correspondent for National Review Online, makes a shocking accusation about filmmaker Michael Moore: that he's a masterful hype artist. York digs deep into the box office numbers for "Fahrenheit 9/11" and argues that Moore's movie may not have had quite as big an impact on the voting populace as Moore claimed last fall.
What's more intriguing, though, is the film's apparent lack of impact on Karl Rove. York recounts lunching with Bush's top political advisor last August, when he asked Rove if he thought "Fahrenheit 9/11" would have an effect on the presidential race.
"'It's an artful piece of propaganda,' Rove said.
"Was that all? Had he seen the picture?
"'I plead guilty to violating the copyright laws of the United States by watching a bootleg DVD,' Rove answered with a grin. 'I refuse to enrich [Moore],' he added, giving the clear impression that he had a rather low opinion of the filmmaker."
Time for a bench burning
When he's not busy crusading against spritely yellow cartoon characters, Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson devotes his spare time to going after Supreme Court judges. On his April 11 radio show, he chatted with fellow talk-show host Mark Levin, and pumped up Levin's new book, "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America."
At one point, the discussion turned to the justices' apparel, which Dobson deemed indicative of their true colors. Let's go to the transcript:
DOBSON: Justice Scalia referred to his colleagues on the court as "black-robed masters." Isn't that incredible?
LEVIN: You know, it is incredible. I'm starting to think, just so we can knock them down a notch, Dr. Dobson, that they should be required again to wear those white-powdered wigs.
DOBSON: Well, I heard a minister talking the other day about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality, and now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.
In closing Dobson noted that the introduction to Levin's book was written by fellow on-air journeyman Rush Limbaugh. As Dobson himself also said, "That ought to tell you something."
Mark Follman is an associate news editor at Salon.