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Opinion

It could be that the joke’s on us



 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Molly Ivins Creators Syndicate

I must confess, I have sadly underestimated the Bush administration’s sense of humor. Appointing John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations: boffo! What a laff riot! Hilarious comedy, a delicious romp, great setup for a sit-com.

Bolton is known for being arrogant, humorless, self-righteous and confrontational, and he hates the United Nations. In other words, the perfect diplomat.

Speaking of setups, would the joke be half as good if President Bush hadn’t just returned from a tour of Europe during which he assured our allies he was anxious to improve international cooperation? There, he was promising Europeans old and new that we’d turned a new page, we want nothing more than consultation, cooperation, being buddy-buddy. And then he names Bolton ambassador (oh, ha ha) to the United Nations (ha, ha, ha). Bolton keeps a bronzed grenade in his office to show how proud he is of being called a bomb-thrower.

Bolton himself has said, “I don’t do carrots.” Meaning he’s strictly a stick guy. Intimidation, bullying, threats. The hawk’s hawk, the neo-con’s darling. This is a single-digit salute to the United Nations.

Bolton’s contempt for the United Nations is notorious and could not be clearer. Bolton said: “There is no United Nations. … When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interests to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests, we will not.” Let’s hear it for international consultation and consideration for everyone.

Conservative economist Jude Wanniski writes, “Does President Bush realize he is practically spitting in the faces of the global diplomatic community with his Bolton pick?” Poor Wanniski, just another guy who doesn’t get the Bush sense of humor. When W’s inner frat boy comes out, we get nothing but yuks. Why do you think Bolton was named undersecretary of state for arms control in the first place? Because he supports arms control? Don’t be silly. He opposed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and his version of trying to stop nuclear proliferation is truly arresting.

The Los Angles Times reports: “He confronts some countries with purported evidence of attempts to acquire nuclear and biological weapons, then he tries to persuade allies to support U.S. efforts to isolate them. ‘John Bolton has been totally unapologetic about his radical prescription for dealing with the proliferation threat,’ Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has said. ‘The main problem is that it hasn’t worked anywhere.’ “

Bolton has maddened both North Korea and Iran, not really stable places to begin with, but moderates were gaining ground in Iran. He’s the genius who claimed Fidel Castro was starting a germ weapons program, a claim promptly denied by the rest of the administration.

In 2003, Bolton was poised to testify to Congress that Syria was developing weapons of mass destruction and threatened the entire region.

This assertion provoked a widely reported “revolt” by U.S. intelligence analysts, who insisted there was no evidence for such a conclusion. Alas, all this earned Bolton a somewhat unfortunate reputation as to veracity.

(One of the cardinal rules of punditry is we never accuse anyone of being a liar – that would be so rude.)

Bolton advocates diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, “just the kind of demonstration of U.S. leadership that the region needs and that many of its people hope for.” This, despite the fact that China has repeatedly threatened to go to war on this very point. But, hey, who cares about China?

Bolton’s former employer, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, said he is “the kind of man I would want to stand with me at Armageddon.” With Bolton’s version of “diplomacy,” we can move up the date for Armageddon.

Bush sure can pick ‘em.

On this record, Bush is the kind of guy who would put a bunch of lobbyists for coal and timber companies in charge of the Department of the Interior. Oh, he’s already done that. Then, he would put people at the Department of Labor who are toadies for big business. Oh, well. That Bush, what a card.

This administration’s foreign policy reminds me of watching someone trying to play chess without being able to think more than one move ahead. Let’s go invade Iraq, a country that not only hasn’t done anything to us, but isn’t even a threat to us, and then we’ll be greeted with cheers and flowers, right? Insurgency? Civil war?

Lebanon getting ready to kick out Syria? Hurray – told you we were bringing democracy to the Middle East. Except, then who’s in charge? Hezbollah, you say? Never heard of them.

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