The Magazine

"I Don't Do Carrots"

From the March 21, 2005 issue: The big-stick diplomacy of Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador.

Mar 21, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 25 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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For its part, the Bush administration anticipated a battle. "He's going to be ready to answer pointed questions," says a senior State Depart-ment official. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Joe Biden, his Democratic counterpart, to give them a heads-up on the nomination. Bob Zoellick, Rice's deputy, called other members of the Senate panel.

Bolton was confirmed in his current post in May 2001 by a vote of 57 to 43. Democrats who voted for Bolton included Evan Bayh, John Breaux, Russ Feingold, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Zell Miller, and Ben Nelson. The entire Senate Republican caucus supported Bolton.

This time, though, there are signs that a few Republicans--including three on the Foreign Relations Committee--have doubts about the nomination. Lincoln Chafee, the liberal Rhode Island Republican regarded by many as the most vulnerable senator running for reelection in 2006, has said he will not commit to supporting Bolton. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has also expressed some hesitation. And Lugar has privately expressed displeasure with the nomination but says he will "probably" support Bolton. Despite this, few observers on either side expect Democrats to derail the nomination.

Fighting for Bolton has a strong political upside for the Bush administration, particularly if Democrats position themselves as defenders of the U.N. against U.S. efforts to reform it. According to a Rasmussen poll released on February 17, only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the U.N.

Thus, the White House has not run away from Bolton's criticisms of the U.N. Rice pointed out that "through our history some of our best ambassadors have been those with strong voices." A State Department source says to expect Bolton to emphasize his reform agenda during the hearings--noting that alongside promoting American interests in New York, U.N. reform will be one of his top priorities should he be confirmed.

When Joe Biden pushed U.N. reform in 2001, he did so with the help of another prominent U.N. critic--Senator Jesse Helms. After Helms held up U.S. payment of U.N. dues to ensure serious steps toward reform, Biden praised the tough-love diplomacy. "Just as only Nixon could go to China, only Helms could fix the U.N."

Except, despite his best efforts, Helms couldn't finish the job before he retired. Maybe John Bolton will.

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.