TOPICS : Bush’s man at UN draws cheers, jeers

US President George W Bush poked a thumb in the eye of Senate Democrats on Monday

with his recess appointment of John Bolton as the United States’ ambassador to the UN — and triggered wholly predictable responses from legislators and the foreign policy community.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, called it a “devious maneuver” that

“further darkens the cloud over Bolton’s credibility.” Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “The president has done a real disservice to our nation by appointing an individual who lacks the credibility to further US interests at the United Nations.” And Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Bolton was a “seriously flawed and weakened candidate.” Reaction from Republicans was equally predictable. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, declared that, “The president did the right thing by sending Mr. Bolton to the UN. He is a smart, principled and straightforward candidate, and will represent the president and America well on the world stage.”

Democrats’ reaction to the president’s circumvention of the Senate confirmation process comes at a time when Bush needs all the support he can muster to confirm his nomination of John Roberts to serve on the Supreme Court. Critics say Bolton, who has been accused of mistreating subordinates and has been openly sceptical about the United Nations, would be ill-suited to the sensitive diplomatic task at the world body. The White House says the former undersecretary of state for arms control, who has long been one of Bush’s most conservative foreign policy advisers, is exactly the man to whip the United Nations into shape. John Gershman, director of the Global Affairs Programme at the International Relations Centre and co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus, told IPS, “Pres. Bush’s recess appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations places a Bush administration loyalist opposed to the United Nations and international law in a position that demands a skilled diplomat. His appointment is a travesty for those that support international law and a stronger UN.” And a spo-kesperson for Human Rights First, an advocacy group, noted that, “The recess appointment of John Bolton will add to the challenges faced by US Foreign Service officers who work to promote human rights.” A “contrarian” view came from Joshua Fouts, director of the Centre for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California. The appointment ended a stormy five-month impasse with Senate Democrats who had accused the conservative Bolton of twisting intelligence to suit a hawkish ideology and of abusing subordinates. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Bolton’s appointment and did not address the question of whether Bolton would be weakened by the recess appointment. He said the manner of Bolton’s appointment was Bush’s prerogative. —IPS