The new and improved John Bolton

Bush's nominee to serve as U.N. ambassador tempers his criticisms to win confirmation.

Published April 11, 2005 5:24PM (EDT)

It's not exactly a confirmation conversion, but the John Bolton on display today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is just a little different than the version we've seen before.

We're used to the John Bolton who says things like "there is no United Nations," and "The mindless creation of the United Nations as something different than what is in the United States' interest to do isn't gonna sell here or anywhere else," and "The United States makes the U.N. work when it wants it to work, and that is exactly the way it should be because the only question -- the only question to the United States -- is what's in our national interest. And if you don't like that, I'm sorry, but that is the fact."

A different John Bolton turned up for his confirmation hearing today. The new and improved -- dare we say, "kinder and gentler"? -- John Bolton still had some critical words for the United Nations, but the bombastic oratory was replaced by what we're sure was heartfelt sympathy. Bolton said that, as George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, he would help provide the leadership necessary to make the United Nations all that it can be. "Such leadership in turn must rest on broad bipartisan support in Congress that must be earned by putting to rest skepticism that too many feel about the U.N. system," Bolton said.

Bolton must know that he's playing to an audience of one -- the only wavering Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee. And from that audience, Bolton is getting rave reviews -- at least so far. "You said all the right things in your opening statement," Chafee told Bolton after he finished speaking this morning.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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