[From the diaries by susanhu.]
[Cross-posted at The Next Hurrah]
Not so long ago, I found it hard to imagine that we could wind up with a worse U.N. Ambassador than Jeane Kirkpatrick, a neoconservative at a time when few on the left even knew what a neocon was. Although she was a Democrat when Ronald Reagan appointed her to that post in 1981, she was from that branch of the party – the hawkish Henry “Scoop” Jackson wing – that failed to learn much from the Vietnam War.
A member of the rejuvenated Committee on the Present Danger, which argued against arms control measures with the Soviet Union, she took the position that the U.S. could not deal with the Kremlin because it was populated solely by hard-liners. This at a time when the antiques of the post-Stalinist era were doddering old men and the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev had ascended to the Politburo. Egged on by her friends at the CPD, the Pentagon in the early years of the Reagan Administration began producing an annual document called “Soviet Military Power,” a document riddled with factual errors, exaggerations and lies, making it barely more than raw propaganda to bolster the neocon idea that the Soviets had embarked on a huge armed forces build-up that could only be countered by a larger U.S. build-up.
Kirkpatrick practically invented the notion of “no moral equivalency,” an our-shit-don’t-stink argument saying, in essence, that when the CIA overthrew a government or supported a murderous dictator, it wasn’t immoral, but when the KGB did the same, it was. Though little remembered nowadays, Kirkpatrick showed exactly how this theory worked in practice when she publicly toasted General Jorge Videla’s pre-Falklands killer regime in Argentina while privately asking him to help the contras in their own murderous campaign in Nicaragua.
Kirkpatrick left the ambassadorship in 1985 and went on to other jobs, including a widely distributed column for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, which I was, ironically, assigned to edit in 1990.
As I said, hard to imagine someone worse than her as U.S. spokesperson at the U.N. But now we have one thanks to George Bush’s recess appointment of John Bolton.
“The abuse of power and the cloak of secrecy from the White House continues,” Kennedy said. “It’s bad enough that the administration stonewalled the Senate by refusing to disclose documents highly relevant to the Bolton nomination. It’s even worse for the administration to abuse the recess appointment power by making the appointment while Congress is in this five-week recess. It’s a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton’s credibility at the U.N.”
Of course, recess appointments are nothing new; they are specifically accounted for in Article II of the Constitution. George Washington made the first one. Ronald Reagan made 243 of them, Bill Clinton, 140. Nor are they always to minor, uncontroversial posts. Thurgood Marshall found his way to a federal appeals court via a recess appointment. Fifteen justices have wound up on the Supreme Court thanks to recess appointments. And in United States v. Allocco, the Supreme Court ruled that the President has broad authority to make such appointments.
So, while Dubyanocchio is certainly “abusing” the process, it doesn’t mean squat, practically speaking.
Bolton qualifies as worse than fellow neocon Kirkpatrick for the U.N. post, but not because he’s a hard-ass with his staff or has a nasty personality. Those can be useful traits, after all, in a rough-and-tumble world. And not because he has tough things to say about North Korea’s dictator or the willingness of too many Americans to believe that a signature on a treaty automatically makes us all safer. It’s rather because Bolton, like the other neocons, sees most forms of internationalism as appeasement, disparages treaties and international law in general, communicates like an autocrat when diplomacy is demanded and has a deserved reputation for undermining efforts that can lead, and have led, to reduced tensions and menaces, such as Libya’s attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.
That the President has taken the backdoor approach to put someone with so many negatives into the U.N. post marks another step in America’s loss of standing worldwide. While there will be plenty of pundits and rightist politicians who think ideological gunslingers like Bolton will enhance U.S. clout, the opposite is true. He’s probably only got 17 months in job, but a lot of damage can be done in so short a time.