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Catching the Worm

Why the tireless John Bolton is the perfect man for the U.N. -- from the May issue.

By 5.12.05

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This article appears in the May issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe, click here.

I WAS AN EARLY BIRD when I worked at the American Enterprise Institute. So was John Bolton. It seemed that no matter how early I arrived -- I could be at my desk as early as 5:00 a.m. -- John's office, which was at the end of the corridor from mine, was already open, ready for business. This reminds me of a conversation between two young AEI staffers. One said she wondered whether John Bolton ever slept. The other claimed no one had ever seen him eat. I did see him order an English muffin once at a breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel, but I can't say he ate it. I think John Bolton is a little like coach Joe Gibbs was during the Redskins' glory years -- a maniacal worker, a student of every detail of his game, a cot-in-the-office kind of guy. This is apparently what worries his fiercest critics.

When the President announced that John Bolton would go to the United Nations, there were cries of horror from the usual circles. John Kerry, who wanted to become president to make the United States more like France, decried the nomination. So did the French press. The critics have generally all said the same thing. Bolton is an "ideologue." This is nonsense. Bolton is actually pretty easy to read. He is an American conservative, and most certainly not a neoconservative. He is an internationalist, not an isolationist. He believes in multilateralism, but the effective kind, not the woolly-headed, feel good silliness so many liberal-left apparatchicks adore. Sidney Blumenthal asserts in the Guardian, that Bolton, as the official in charge of arms control at the State Department, "has wrecked all the non-proliferation diplomacy within his reach." This is manifestly untrue. It was Bolton, in fact, who helped introduce the "Proliferation Security Initiative" (PSI) aimed at interdicting weapons trafficking on the high seas. PSI has the support of at least 60 nations. Sorry, Sid. Bolton is a pragmatist.

I visited Bolton at his State Department office a few weeks before his Senate confirmation hearing. On his desk was a stack of political cartoons attacking him for his blunt style. My favorite: Bolton atop a tank, busting through a wall at the U.N. in New York, with the caption: "The new American Ambassador arrives to present his credentials." Without a doubt, Bolton speaks his mind...

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About the Author

Jeffrey Gedmin is director of the Aspen Institute Berlin.