There's an old saying — something about letting a fox in a henhouse — that explicates the dangers of allowing a predator free access to that upon which it preys. Apparently the masterminds of the Bush administration have a pretty good grasp on just how they can use this formula for disaster to their benefit.
A couple days ago, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton announced his resignation. Never mind that Bolton's ambassadorship hadn't even received the necessary U.S. Senate confirmation in the first place (President Bush had cleverly given him a temporary appointment, sneaking him into the post while the Senate was in recess), or that he would essentially have been forced to step down in a matter of weeks when faced with the impossible task of gaining Senate approval for reappointment. The significance of Bolton's demise is its symbolization of the impending demise of something larger.
When George Bush initially nominated Bolton for the U.N. Ambassadorship in early 2005, there was a bit of incomprehension as to why the candidate would even want the position. Documented as saying that "there is no such thing as the United Nations," and that "the [U.N. headquarters] in New York has 38 stories; if it lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," Bolton not only seemed to doubt the usefulness of the United Nations, but also seemed to harbor a good deal of contempt toward it. However, as far as the Bush administration — itself hostile to the United Nations — was concerned, this attitude was the ideal disposition for U.S. representation to the United Nations. By appointing an anti-U.N. activist to its U.N. Ambassadorship, the Bush administration theorized that the United States would be able to greatly erode the international governing body's credibility.
This strategy has been prevalent in Bush administration's appointments to other bodies and agencies it disdains. In appointing people to lead governmental bureaus who openly disagree with the missions of said bureaus, the Bush administration has been able to chip away at much of the bureacracy it opposes without having to take publicly unpopular stances against popular government agencies.
Take, for instance, the Bush appointment of Elaine Chao as secretary of labor. Chao, whose duty it is to ensure the well-being of the U.S. workforce, is considered by many to be anti-labor, having put forth proposals such as calling for the permission of states to opt out of the minimum wage. Bush's originally appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Todd Whitman, oversaw the replacement of Clinton-era global-warming data with a new theory that called into question the idea of global warming and was thought to have been crafted at the behest of several corporate interests. Michael Powell, a Bush appointee entrusted with protecting the public interest as head of the Federal Communications Commission, has enacted new federal media policies that appear as if they could have come from a wish list of the major media conglomerates. And Gale Norton, appointed by Bush as secretary of the interior — an agency in charge of protecting national lands — originally gained fame as a lawyer, arguing for a right to pollute.
These are but a few examples of the Bush administration's active efforts to eliminate agencies it opposes under the guise of continuing their operations. But the recent resignation of Bolton is a sign of hope.
Come January, Bush will face a level of scrutiny he has never known as president, having to explain irresponsible decisions and appointments that may as well have been transparent over the last few years. Bush will no longer be able to employ the underhanded approach that has come to epitomize his administration in its attempts to shirk the established responsibilities of the presidency.
And, for now, the United Nations is safe from the predatory danger that is John Bolton.
Rob Rossmeissl ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and political science.