June 22, 2005

Martin Peretz on Bush and Bolton

Martin Peretz of The New Republic, who has always been one of my favorite writers (although our politics seem to diverge quite often), wrote an interesting article this past week. One of the topics he addressed was advancement of women and minorities in the Bush administration.

I want to say something favorable about Bush again. It is this: He seems to me to have completely transcended the biases of gender and race in his appointments. Oh, he has his prejudices: He wants his appointees to be a certain sort of conservative. But no one can deny that he has broken the glass ceiling for women and blacks and Latinos in the executive and judicial branches. This is an embarrassment for Democrats who, like their present chairman, still attribute bigotry wholesale to Republicans. Well, Bush is a Republican who isn't bigoted: He has put his foreign policy in the hands and head of a female African American. This is not without some risk. Imagine the inner challenge to Saudis and other Arabs who encounter Condoleezza Rice as the plenipotentiary of the most powerful country on earth. You get an inkling of what that might feel like from the Arab saying that "a black face begins a black day." And just look at the proliferation of minorities among generals. These aren't presidential appointees, of course. Many of these decencies are the work of the hated Donald Rumsfeld. Bill Clinton was the first black president, or so Toni Morrison ruled. He even put his post-presidential office in Harlem. But he did not appoint one African American to a truly significant office in the executive branch. Of course, Jesse Jackson did a lot of hustling around the Clinton administration, having been named "Special Envoy of the President and Secretary of State for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa." Clinton did appoint a woman to the big post of secretary of state, and Madeleine Albright did literally chase breathlessly after Yasir Arafat at Camp David, begging him to return to the conference table. Well, dignity she did not have. Let's call her excitability diligence.

One thought, however... In my mind, the most qualified candidate for a job should be the person given the job - regardless of that person's race. Race or ethnic background should be irrelevant. The fact that we have to compare the racial or ethnic make-up of two administrations is somewhat depressing to me. Notwithstanding, it is good to see that Bush has made a considerable effort to seek out qualified minority candidates for places within his administration.
Martin had some thoughts on John Bolton as well:
Which brings me to John Bolton. Whatever his would-be tormentors say, he is hardly being opposed because he's a nasty man or because he delivered a speech not vetted by the State Department or because he played rough with people lower on his totem pole or because he didn't believe some intelligence emanating from the CIA. (This last is actually a sign of his wisdom. The CIA has been peddling feeble and dangerous intelligence for decades.) Bolton's offense is to believe that American democracy has enemies; that words alone will not hinder their weapons; and that the United Nations is an alliance of those too weak-willed to stand up and fight for the good. Bolton believes in the sovereign power of democracies because they are responsive and responsible to their peoples. The United Nations cannot even pretend to embody such legitimacy. Please read on page 29 the immensely impressive essay by Thomas Nagel arguing (with some practical differences) this same principle.
I agree. I think a large amount of the opposition to Bolton is based upon political partisanship and reluctance to admit that the United Nations should be reformed.
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