- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

When President Bush nominated John Bolton to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the German centrist daily, Tagesspiegel, argued that, once Europe got over its initial shock, Europeans would see that the choice was a good one. I hosted an event in Berlin recently where Germany’s ailing economy and political gridlock were the topics. One questioner asked whether Germany needed its own “John Bolton” to get things moving. The audience broke into laughter. I think the laughter was consent.

It’s ironic, to say the least. The United Nations urgently needs reform. Everyone knows that only a kick will get things moving. The president, in a stroke of genius, picks Mr. Bolton to push the process. Mr. Bolton’s expertise, of course, is beyond reproach. Among other things, he served as assistant secretary of state for international organizations in the first Bush administration. Even key Democrats have said during confirmation hearings that their own views about the United Nations track closely with the nominee’s. So what in the world is happening? Partisan Democrats have turned things personal, a couple of Republican senators have gone wobbly, and the Bolton nomination is in jeopardy. It’s bizarre.

Mr. Bolton is a sharp-tongued fellow, no doubt about that. By the way, how would anyone characterize Bill Clinton’s U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke? Europeans called him the “Bully of the Balkans” in the 1990s.

What about Madeleine Albright, who drove allies crazy with comments about America being the “indispensable nation,” the country that “stands taller and sees farther” than the rest? Ah, yes, those were the smooth, sweet multilateral Clinton days, of course, when the French coined the term “hyper power” in lament of American unilateralism. It is ludicrous to hear Mr. Bolton’s Democratic opponents charge that the president’s nominee lacks the right temperament for the United Nations job. Didn’t Daniel Patrick Moynihan once undiplomatically, and correctly of course, call the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution “a lie”? Mr. Bolton calls them like he sees them.

There are allegations that Mr. Bolton may have lost his temper or treated some subordinates unfairly over the last two decades. Hundreds of people have worked for him. I cannot judge the merits of individual cases. I have seen enough to believe, however, that Mr. Bolton is a decent and honorable human being.

We both worked at the American Enterprise Institute. I was a resident scholar. He was senior vice president. He was always known as a straight shooter at AEI and I remember him being well-liked and respected, including by his own staff.

I have hosted Mr. Bolton numerous times at conferences in Europe. Last fall, he came to France for a roundtable I had organized on Iran. The Europeans were distinctly impressed. You see, Mr. Bolton was not there for a quick drop-by, just to give his own speech. Rather, he stayed on for the whole day to listen, discuss and debate with other participants .

A couple of years ago I hosted Mr. Bolton for a major speech on the International Criminal Court at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin. I remember afterwards how a retired senior German diplomat approached me with a big smile to say, “I like the guy. He says exactly what he thinks. That’s so American.”

In fact, no one questions Mr. Bolton’s competence, dedication or willingness to engage allies and make the president’s case. The likes of Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have endorsed him. Mr. Bolton has been confirmed by the Senate before and has served in various posts with distinction. This time, though, a handful of disgruntled employees have joined forces with Mr. Bolton’s political foes in a bid to sink the president’s choice.

It is unsavory, to put it mildly.

If this is really about American interests, if America is a grown-up power, if we are serious about global security and U.N. reform, then Mr. Bolton is the right guy. Now will the Senate do the right thing?

Jeffrey Gedmin is director of the Aspen Institute Berlin.

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