Sunday, May 8, 2005

On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on President Bush’s nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. But that is now in doubt, as Sen. Joseph Biden, the panel’s ranking Democrat, warns that Democrats might seek another delay in voting on this nomination that was originally scheduled for a vote three weeks ago.

The pretext for the Biden complaint is that the State Department hasn’t provided evidence of how Mr. Bolton used intelligence information in his speeches. The fact is that Democrats like Mr. Biden and Sen. Christopher Dodd — emboldened by the failure of coalition forces to find large quantities of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — are out to discredit President Bush’s foreign policy by suggesting that Mr. Bolton, one of the most stalwart of the president’s supporters at the State Department during his first term, exaggerated the threats to American interests posed by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Although Sen. John Kerry, another member of the Foreign Relations Committtee’s anti-Bolton bloc, could not win the presidency by attacking Mr. Bush’s work to depose Saddam Hussein, this line of attack has become part of the Democrats’ foreign-policy template. Whether the rogue regime in question is in Saddam’s Iraq or in North Korea, Iran, Syria or Cuba, the drill is to caricature the president, aided and abetted by people like Mr. Bolton, as a right-wing ideologue who constantly dismisses diplomatic opportunities to work with the likes of France, Germany, the International Atomic Energy Agency and Kofi Annan’s United Nations to persuade the bad guys to change their ways.

In Mr. Bolton’s case, their hope is that, given enough time, they can mount enough pressure to persuade at least one soft Republican member of the foreign relations panel, particularly Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island or Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, to vote against the president and his nominee. Advocacy groups on the left, such as George Soros’ Open Society Institute and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association) are running radio and television commercials in Rhode Island and Nebraska urging senators to oppose Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Bolton’s foes fall into two major categories. The first group is comprised of left-liberal politicians and disarmament advocates who have been on the wrong side of just about every major foreign-policy issue since the early 1970s. During the Vietnam War, Messrs. Biden, Dodd and Kerry, for example, were McGovernite peaceniks. During the 1980s, they opposed President Reagan’s efforts to halt the spread of communism in Central America and most of the Reagan defense build-up that brought down the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War in triumph for the Western democracies. They opposed the 1991 Gulf War that drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Since the terrorist insurgency began in Iraq nearly two years ago, Messrs. Kerry and Biden have attacked Mr. Bush’s war to depose Saddam Hussein — without offering a coherent alternative.

But for considerable assistance from certain others at the State Department during Mr. Bush’s first term, Mr. Biden and the other Bolton foes would have thrown in the towel long ago. To cite one prominent example, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, has denounced Mr. Bolton at every opportunity. We commend Mr. Powell’s former deputy, Richard Armitage, on the other hand, for endorsing the Bolton nomination, notwithstanding the fact that many of Mr. Bolton’s harshest State Department critics are Armitage proteges. It’s a shame that certain senior diplomats whom Mr. Bolton loyally supported in the past have let him down now in this struggle to confirm his nomination as U.N. ambassador.

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