Friday, May 13, 2005

And We Care About John Bolton...Um...Tell Me Why We Care, Again?

I had an interesting conversation this morning...I was chatting with a friend down on the trade floor, and CNN started yet another John Bolton Brouhaha update. So I mentioned the fact that I can't imagine why anybody feels like the Ambassador to the United Nations is a post worth fighting over. (Yes, I know that the Democrats are really just trying to smack George Bush because anything Nasty Mean Ol' Georgie wants, the Democrats don't want him to have; and I know that Dubya is trying not to be smacked, and it doesn't have anything really to do with the U.N. at all. But I wasn't doing political analysis; I was just laughing at the very idea that such a useless post is worth all the sound and fury being spent on it.)

My friend, who I think takes politics a bit more seriously than I do and who is way less cynical than I about the value of most things done by career bureaucrats and politicians, immediately objected, "No, I think it's pretty important -- he's going to be the face of the United States to the world."

I don't usually challenge people on politics at work, but this is guy is Good People and I knew he wouldn't get mad if I pulled his chain a bit. So I simply asked, "Okay, so who's our ambassador to the U.N. right now?"

He looked confused. "Um...is it Negraponte?...no, wait, he's Iraq...maybe we don't even have one right now..." Finally he gave up. "I don't know, actually; who is it?"

Me: "Hell, I don't know. How about this: do you know the name of any current ambassador to the U.N., from any country in the world...France...Germany?"

He started to grin, "No, I don't guess I do. I know some former ambassadors."

Me: "Okay, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, of course, but who else?"

Him: "Madeleine Albright...yeah, I see your point."

Me [grinning]: "Look, I'd just as soon have somebody competent in the U.N. as not, and for all I know Bolton is clueless; but Bolton is not going to be the face of the U.S. to the world. The face of the U.S. is George W. Bush."

He starts laughing, "You know, I hadn't really thought of it, but you're right. I've been listening to pundits too much..."

Like I said, he's Good People -- smart enough to be able to catch me being silly now and then, but willing to admit his own silliness as well.

In the meantime, if you care about what John Bolton is going to do to our image in the rest of the world, then here's what it seems to me you're saying: You apparently think that the world is full of people who are sufficiently addicted to politics that they care about, and keep up with, the current roster of U.N. ambassadors -- but they don't have any particular opinion of George Bush. Oh, yeah, there are lots of those people around. Can't shake a stick without hitting a buxom young Fraulein who is as neutral as the Swiss on Dubya but whose bosoms heave passionately with fury over John Bolton's unworthiness to be our ambassador.

I mean, just try to imagine if Bush were to appoint John Kerry ambassador to the U.N. -- would the voters of France instantly say, "Ah, mon Dieu, it appears that we have been wrong in thinking that M. Bush is the derriere of the gelding and that the U.S. is the imperialistic naughty nation without the good taste to take orders from M. Chirac"? Or let's say Bolton does become the ambassador, and some Iraqi who four years ago watched Saddam's guys put a bullet between the eyes of his wife and then had to pay for the bullet, finds out about it -- is he going to say, "Oh, my goodness, here all this time I've thought the Americans were our liberators and now it turns out that they are rude persons with bad moustaches who have been known to raise their voices at underlings"? I know I'm taking extreme examples, but really, give me any halfway believable scenario in which John Bolton's confirmation or lack thereof will move some foreigner to a position on the U.S. noticeably different from that which he already holds.

But by God it matters to the Democrats...bless their little hearts. Ah, well, the more time Sen. Boxer spends worrying about the U.N., the less time she has to do any real mischief; so it's all good.

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