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The Ambassador Nobody Knows

Meet Rudy Boschwitz, America's new representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

12:00 AM, Apr 25, 2005 • By SCOTT W. JOHNSON
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MANY COMMENTATORS on President Bush's second-term appointments have linked the nominations of Secretary Rice to her position at State, Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank, and John Bolton to the United Nations as a troika making a particular statement. The Guardian, for example, published a column by Martin Jacques to this effect under the portentous heading "The neoconservative revolution."

Certain of the mainstream media have suggested that by appointing officials who support his administration's policies, President Bush has demonstrated a troubling audacity. The Los Angeles Times thought it appropriate in this context to ask, in mulling over Wolfowitz's nomination, whether Wolfowitz can "display sufficient independence from the Bush administration[.]" Perhaps this is a standard the Los Angeles Times would like to apply generally to Bush's cabinet officers, as well.

The nominations have become a kind of pons asinorum for the mainstream media. Bolton's nomination provoked the remarkable statement by Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank that Democrats have "assailed Bolton's knack for making enemies and disparaging the very organization he would serve." Jay Nordlinger noted:

That encapsulated perfectly the Democratic mindset. You see, we Neanderthals think that the purpose of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is to serve the United States, particularly its foreign policy, as made by the government's executive branch. It is the other view that the U.S. ambassador is to serve the United Nations--to be part of that clique, that bureaucracy. That is why Barbara Boxer and others shudder so at Bolton's "contempt" for the United Nations. They love that body, and value it as a check--or a brake--on U.S. foreign policy.

But few of Bush's second-term appointments fail "the Milbank test" more markedly than the president's appointment last month of the United States representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR).

The UNCHR is a cesspool of anti-Semitism--of which Israel is, of course, the primary focus. Anne Bayefsky's April 2004 National Review column provides a good summary of the UNCHR's business last year: "Business as usual." Business as usual at the 60th session of the UNCHR included the adoption of five resolutions condemning Israel and the carving of three hours out of the UNCHR schedule to mourn the death of Hamas terrorist leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Bayefsky has elsewhere observed that fully 30 percent of the UNCHR resolutions condemning specific states adopted over the past 40 years have been directed at Israel. So whom did President Bush nominate to represent the United States in this troubled body during its just-concluded 61st session? Funny you should ask. He happens to be a friend of mine.

On March 4, President Bush nominated Rudy Boschwitz; Boschwitz's appointment was confirmed by the Senate two weeks later, 99-0. Boschwitz's nomination and confirmation passed virtually unnoticed last month, but his story is nevertheless of interest, especially in the context of current controversies.

Boschwitz was born in Berlin in 1930. When Hitler was made chancellor of Germany in January 1933, Boschwitz's father immediately declared that the family would leave the country. They emigrated from Germany and made their way to the United States two-and-a-half years later. Relatives who stayed behind perished in the Holocaust.

Boschwitz graduated from college at age 19 (Johns Hopkins) and law school at 22 (NYU), but found the practice of law boring. He moved to the Midwest and went into business, ultimately founding his own retail company in Minnesota. After building the retail company into a business (that is still going strong), Boschwitz was elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 1978 as part of "the Minnesota massacre" in which Republicans won the state's two Senate seats as well as the governor's office. He served in the Senate for 12 years with verve and distinction, but was narrowly defeated for reelection in 1990. Unlike so many defeated congressional officeholders who never return to their ostensible homes after leaving office, Boschwitz went back to work in his business. (I served as the treasurer for Boschwitz's losing 1996 senate campaign against Senator Paul Wellstone, who had defeated Boschwitz in 1990.)