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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

New York’s special place in the case of John Bolton vs. the world

Don't you want a man like John Bolton,

Don't you want a man like John Bolton, who helped bring you the Iraq War and who has gone on the record contemplating a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, shaping American foreign policy? Photo Credit: Newsday / Ed Betz

John Bolton, the hawkish foreign policy lifer most recently appearing as a contributor on Fox News, will surely have a few challenges when he takes over as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser in April. But New York City residents know that the vagaries of war, peace and great power conflict pale in comparison to the great failed cause of Bolton’s career:

Registering a construction complaint about a noxious building on Manhattan’s East Side.

At least, that must have been what he was doing in 1994, when he said in a speech critical of the United Nations that if its headquarters “lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

Maybe Bolton, who held various jobs in federal government dating back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency, felt the tall building was blocking the sun, had added too much density to the neighborhood or was too much a monument to globalist world domination for his taste. One imagines that he went through all the possibilities in his head about the best way to lop some levels off humanity’s attempt at peaceful governments.

Though the building isn’t under city control, perhaps Bolton thought a rezoning of the United Nations complex might be possible. Maybe the job could be done by lobbying the New York City Council, similar to the kind of relentless campaign that Bolton helped wage to convince American decisionmakers to go to war in Iraq.

Maybe he considered appearing at rallies to voice his displeasure with the building, which is what he did to stop the post-9/11 construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, another contentious NYC land-use issue.

Or perhaps he was savvy enough in the ways of city government to know that the only way the Department of Buildings could require floors to be removed from a building would be if it was determined to be unstable. Certainly that was Bolton’s critique of the United Nations itself, even when he was U.S. ambassador to it starting in 2005.

Like others (including his soon-to-be boss), he has criticized the world body for dysfunction and taking away sovereignty from the United States. Indeed, rather than striving for multilateralism through UN bureaucratic bumbling, wouldn’t you rather a guy like Bolton, who has contemplated a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, calling the foreign policy shots?

“To be critical of an institution generally means you love it,” former Mayor Ed Koch claimed in support of Bolton at a fancy lunch celebrating the ambassador’s 2005 arrival to his UN post, according to an article at the time in the New York Sun.

Perhaps. During his attempt to get confirmed as UN ambassador by the U.S. Senate, Bolton explained his 10-story comment was meant to mean “there’s not a bureaucracy in the world that can’t be made leaner and more efficient.”

The explanation didn’t convince the Senate. Grievances were aired about Bolton’s management style and his allegedly having played a little fast and loose with some intelligence findings.

So Bush found another way to name Bolton as ambassador, through a “recess appointment” which last for a limited period of time. During the mustachioed foreign policy wonk’s time in Turtle Bay, he did not succeed in shrinking the building.

Maybe he’ll have another chance during this upcoming tour in government service. Otherwise, he’s just another neighbor grumbling about the view.


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