Right the first time

July 28, 2006

As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton has proved himself to be the perfect envoy of this remarkable administration: He is difficult, boastful, disdainful, infuriating, alienating and unpersuasive. He got to the U.N. a year ago without the Senate's imprimatur, which admittedly was a clear limit on his ability to be effective - though by his words and actions, he does not seem to have considered that a humbling liability. Yesterday he was back before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering whether to reverse course and confirm his nomination.

His record is hardly stellar. One example: He failed to get what he wanted when the new U.N. Human Rights Council was being drawn up, and managed to annoy U.S. allies. Of course, if he'd gotten his way that would have been worse, because he essentially wanted to undermine the council. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said yesterday he's more worried about Mr. Bolton being ineffective than being a bully, but an effective Mr. Bolton would be scarier. And he'd still be a bully.

This administration has nearly 30 months left in office, and that's time that could be spent on useful and enduring diplomatic efforts. The world being the way it is, this is no time for failure. The Senate would be doing the nation a service if it forced President Bush to find a diplomat of stature and grace to send to the U.N. as Mr. Bolton's successor.

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