June 08, 2005

What the John Bolton Affair Tells Us about Bush as a Leader

Earlier this year George W Bush nominated John R Bolton as his pick for the Ambassador to the United Nations. Although most Americans didn’t know who Bolton was, many people throughout the world were aghast at this nomination, because Bolton, like his early mentor, Jesse Helms, hates the idea of the U.N. In fact, Bolton has stated, “[T]here is no such thing as the United Nations,” and he has declared, “If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” Indeed, John Bolton doesn’t believe that International Treaties that the United States signed and ratified should be considered legally binding, even though our Constitution clearly states that treaties are part of the supreme law of the land.

ARTICLE VI of the Constitution says:

  1. All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this constitution, as under the confederation.
  2. This constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
  3. The senators and representatives before-mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

John Bolton doesn’t believe that the constitution is right and has stated, “Treaties are law only for U.S. domestic purposes. In their international operation, treaties are simply political obligations.” Or as one critic clarified, “In other words, international treaties signed by the United States should not be considered as a body of law that the United States should respect in its international engagements but rather just political considerations that can be ignored at will.”

All of this was known when George Bush nominated John Bolton. Still, the common consensus was that Bolton would be confirmed anyway because it is rare for Presidents not to get their way in these matters.

Recently, the nomination has run into some major roadblocks as some prominent Republicans have expressed grave concerns that John Bolton would not only be a bad candidate for this role because of his bullying style which is counter to what is needed in a diplomat and his hostility to the U.N. as an institution and towards its charter, but also because it would likely endanger the nation’s interests if Bush has his way on this nomination.

Witnesses have come forward with evidence that Bolton is an abusive, bullying man who has seriously compromised our national security because he believes that he can arbitrarily set his own foreign policy while actively undermining other diplomatic and intelligence operations within the U.S. government. People have testified that Bolton has tried to derail sensitive negotiations in a number of situations concerning North Korea, China, Iran, Syria and Cuba. However, none of this has deferred the President from his insistence that John Bolton be confirmed.

The Bolton nomination has never been just about John Bolton’s fitness for the job. It has also been about the President’s personal predilections and achieving the goals of the radical right wing. The President believes that he has the right to any nominee he wants even if that nominee is bad for the country. Despite the grave doubts raised about Bolton, the President has indicated he will fight for Bolton’s nomination until the bitter end. The fact that the President is so insistent on Bolton in face of these concerns should make reasonable people question the President’s judgment and his motives.

What is it about Bolton that has made the President so ardent in his support? I suspect part of it is because Bush likes people who “break eggs” while being deferential and loyal to him. As Carl Ford testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bolton is a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.” The President believes that loyalty to himself and to the radical right wing agenda is the most important criteria in his determinations of who should represent the U.S. and that John Bolton had earned any role he wanted (according to Cheney) when he went to Florida to “stop the vote” during the critical days after the 2000 Presidential election. But perhaps the main reason is the not so well-hidden agenda of the radical right to blow up the United Nations so as to make sure the United States can operate without having to consider international sensitivities.

Bush has made the Bolton nomination a classic power struggle and if he loses this battle, he will be seen as severely weakened. This is something he cannot and will not allow. During his previous term, the President displayed this same willingness to go to the mat over taking the country to war even though now we know that the evidence he used to justify the war was seriously flawed. He has stated that he would still take the country to war despite knowing that his original reasons have all proven false. But Americans are not quite so sanguine in the face of the evidence and today a majority of Americans question whether Bush’s war on Iraq was worth the price.

This nomination exposes serious character flaws in Bush: his belief that his interests (loyalty to himself and the right wing agenda) trump the country’s interests, his poor judgment in choosing someone who has more than once undermined negotiations affecting national security, his disrespect for our constitution and the rule of law embodied in that document, and his own inability to compromise when it is obvious that there are legitimate reasons to oppose this nomination. Senator Reid recently remarked that for Bush, there is no moderation. He always goes for the home run which means he often strikes out. By backing Bolton, Bush is gambling that he can make the United Nations a tool of the U.S or destroy it completely. When one gambles with his own money, the results of blowing the wad is a personal tragedy. When one is the President of the United States, hubris of this sort constitutes a serious danger to the country.

[Ed: This piece was first published in Vox Populi Nebraska on May 1, 2005.]

Posted by Mary at June 8, 2005 12:10 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |
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