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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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U.N. ambassador John R. Bolton to speak at Alumni Center

The Jepson School of Leadership Studies will host John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Jepson Alumni Center.

Bolton, a controversial figure since his appointment by President George W. Bush to the United Nations in 2005, will speak on "The U.S. and the U.N. -- The Year Ahead."

Bush nominated Bolton as ambassador in March 2005, but Bolton was never confirmed by the Senate; Bush, instead, appointed him to the position in August 2005 while Congress was in recess. The appointment surprised many, as Bolton is well known for his harsh criticism of and opposition to the United Nations.

"If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," he said in 1994.

Melissa Labonte, an associate professor of political science, said that although presidents routinely use Congressional recesses to make appointments to certain positions, Bolton's appointment has cast a dark cloud over him as a diplomat because it suggests that democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were dissatisfied with Bolton and may not have confirmed him.

"Some of the information that [the committee] received that called into question his previous conduct -- bullying subordinates, misusing authority to obstruct other parts of the policy making process," Labonte said.

His blunt, sometimes harshly worded statements have earned Bolton a number of enemies. According to a BBC News article, in July 2003, Bolton publicly called North Korean leader Kim Jong Il a "tyrannical dictator" who made the lives of North Koreans a "hellish nightmare." These remarks infuriated many North Koreans. The article said a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry called Bolton "human scum" and said he could not participate in the talks between the United States, North Korea and four other nations regarding nuclear weapons.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said in an article in the April 11, 2005, edition of The Washington Post, "John Bolton fails to recognize the value of setting clear standards through international agreements and would rather be righteous and lose a battle than engage, compromise and contain a proliferation problem."

In a 2005 article on the Web site for the Center for American Progress, Kimball said, "Bolton has confused having a name-calling strategy with having an effecting non-proliferation strategy."

But his willingness to vocalize his opinions has garnered Bolton just as many proponents as opponents, and many appreciate his candor.

"Ambassador Bolton is in my experience unfailingly polite and considerate of the views of others, and a good listener," Christopher DeMuth, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit public policy center, said of Bolton in an e-mail interview. "But when he states the U.S. position on subjects of debate at the U.N. or in international politics generally, he does so with a straightforwardness and precision that is rare among diplomats."

Former Sen. Jesse Helms, a friend of Bolton, is quoted as having said in 2001, "John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, or what the Bible describes as the final battle between good and evil."

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Bolton acknowledged the fact that many people, world leaders in particular, disagree with his opinions in the Dec. 26, 2005, issue of Newsweek. He considers the personal criticisms against him a badge of honor, he said.

"Yeah, I've got a long list," he said in the interview. "I've been the subject of long portions of several speeches by Fidel Castro. The Syrian ambassador attacked me the other day."

Regardless of the controversy surrounding Bolton, many people think that he is a good person for the job.

"While he does run around like a bull in a china shop to some degree," Labonte said, "he is committed to U.N. reform and he is competent."

Labonte also said that because Bush has confidence in Bolton, as is suggested by his appointment, he has a freer hand to take the measures he sees necessary to help reform the United Nations. This freedom could translate into great things, she said, because Bolton feels like he can pursue his projects and goals without having to constantly seek permission from the president.

Bolton has served as the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security since May 2001, and before joining the Bush administration he was senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute.

The talk is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Tickets can be reserved by calling 804-289-8980.

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