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Bush's sense of humour - 1

Posted by Helen Thursday, April 21, 2005

People who know Dubya and even those who have met him once or twice or been present when he was giving presentations and answering questions, all say the same thing: he has a wicked sense of humour. (He is also supposed to be quite a good mimic who does hilarious imitations of frère Jacques, President Chirac.) And he is certainly demonstrating it in some of his decisions and appointments on the international scene.

First he proposed John Bolton for the post of the new American ambassador to the UN. We have already written about that and about Mr Bolton’s attitude to transnational organizations.

John Bolton would be just the man to take that corrupt and unaccountable organization by the collective scruff of its neck and give it a good shake.

Some of our readers may have noticed that we on this blog are not great fans of the UN or other unaccountable transnational organizations. But surely, even people who think that the UN should have more power in international affairs (in fact, especially people who think in that misguided fashion) agree that a root-and-branch reform is long overdue.

So Bolton may seem to be the obvious person to take on the job but I doubt whether the high panjandrums of transnationalism perceive it that way. As far as they are concerned this is President Bush, leader of the strongest and richest country in the world taking a potshot at them and all they stand for. Well, they may be right, but they will have to co-operate or lose even more credibility.

It appears that the supporters of the UN are even less logical than one had expected them to be. Bolton’s nomination has run into difficulties with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that has been torn apart by the usual Democrat shenanigans when there is a Republican administration.

They have tried to drag the nomination hearings out as long as possible, perhaps hoping that Bolton and President Bush will give up. For the moment they have been successful, largely because Ohio Republican Senator John Voinovich has agreed to a postponement of the vote, that was going to be called for certain this week.

During the next three weeks the Democrats hope to produce more evidence to show that Bolton is the wrong man for the job.

Briefly, there are two aspects to the complaints. One has to do with his managerial style, which seems to involve periodic outbursts of anger, a great sin in the eyes of these people, unless it is righteous anger expressed by the likes of John Kerry.

Bolton is accused of harrassing his staff, something that one would have thought is an absolute must in the UN. However, this is not sexual harrassment. He would have got the job with no difficulty if it had been. This is something to do with maternity leaves and one of the complaints goes back to something that happened ten years ago.

As with Clarence Thomas, so with John Bolton, one worries about convenient complaints that surface years later, particularly if there is only one at a time. The complaints about Clinton’s behaviour, waved away airily, though they were far more serious, were consistent and repetitive.

Another aspect of this is an accusation that Bolton has shifted or moved away intelligence analysts he did not agree with. Possibly so, though Otto Reich, formerly President Bush’s special envoy for the Western Hemisphere, explained it all slightly differently. The analyst in question, he wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 14, had been producing consistently erroneous analysis, probably coloured by his own political attitudes.

As this was analysis about Central America and Cuba, you can bet that the political attitudes were not precisely anti-Communist.

The point is that there is nothing sacred about intelligence analysts. Their advice might be right or wrong; they are, as Otto Reich says, human, therefore they err. Nothing says that politicians must accept everything they say with awe, particularly as different analysts come to different conclusions.

If it becomes obvious that one errs more often than is good for the health of political decision making and if, furthermore, these consistent errors may well be put down to political opinions, then it is perfectly acceptable for a politician not to want that analyst’s opinions any more.

Whichever way you look at it, these are managerial decisions that are of little significance, particularly when one bears in mind the far worse scandals that have emerged and continue to emerge from the UN.

John Bolton’s greatest sin is his disdainful attitude to the UN. The International Herald Tribune wrote in its editorial on April 14 that it was outrageous to send a man like Bolton to the UN, given his negative attitude to the organization. But then the same issue carried an article by SecGen Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) on the need for rich countries to cough up the promised aid for Sudan. It did not quite explain why the UN is doing nothing in Darfur (not a genocide, honest, guv) or where the money already paid over has gone.

The following day the Trib did have another article that explained a little more clearly Bolton’s attitude. Yes, he was disdainful of the UN but that was the UN as world government not the UN as an organization that could exercise peacekeeping powers.

Indeed, Bolton has written on the subject extensively and his views are no secret. The UN, an unaccountable, self-absorbed organization has proclaimed itself to be a world government in bud and, at the very least, the fountain of international legality.

Given that it has not been given either of those powers; does not account to anyone; is full of bloodthirsty, kleptocratic governments that alternate between attacking the United States and demanding more money from that country, this is not an unreasonable attitude.

Nevertheless, the attitude of the tranzis and the UN groupies has been odd. If they really want the organization to flourish they would want someone like Bolton to go there. After all, Pat Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick were rather good for it.

Surely, it is people like me who should be against it, on the grounds that the worse it is the better it is in the long run. Why try to give that organization an extra lease when it is due for demolition?

(My excuse for not taking that line is that I like Bush’s sense of humour and want to see it working its way out in the world.)

Are we to understand that the people who are so shocked by Bolton’s opinions of the UN and his appointment do not actually want to see that body reformed, despite the many scandals that have been made public recently?

Do they seriously believe that SecGen Annan who has presided over these scandals will somehow, miraculously carry out those reforms, when he is incapable of explaining his son’s role in the biggest and baddest of them all?

Or do they simply not care and cannot see a way out (just as, frankly, neither can we on this blog)? Do they, perchance, just want to get their heads down, get the last few benefits for themselves out of the system before it collapses? Surely not.