Big Daddy Biden, &c.


One of the raps against George W. Bush was that he treated our allies badly: He was arrogant toward them, insensitive, cloddish. Of course, this was a bad rap: He handled our alliances — and our other relationships — well, as I argued at length.

I thought of the rap against Bush the other day when I read what the current vice president, Joe Biden, said about our Afghan allies: “Daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off in October — I mean in next July, so you’d better practice riding.”

Condescending and appalling. Whatever you think of Bush and his team — Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and the rest — they’d have sooner slit their wrists than said that.

I sometimes forget what a bore Bill Clinton is, or can be. He seems kind of flashy. But then he starts talking, and you realize, “Oh, yeah.” Some people had this reaction to his White House press conference the other day.

I remember what David Brinkley said, and got in trouble for saying: “. . . he’s a bore [meaning Clinton], and will always be a bore.”

I also think of something that was said about John Glenn, in the presidential primaries of 1984: He got more applause on entering the room than he did on leaving it. When he entered, he was the space hero. When he left, he was the boring Democratic politician.

I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that, on the campaign trail this year — he made trillions of stops — Clinton got more applause on entering those Democratic halls than he did on leaving them.

I think the United States should be beyond wanting the World Cup — the big soccer tournament (for those who need reminding). The United States is bigger than that. Let littler countries scramble for it, desire it — be disappointed when they don’t get it.

Apparently, the United States put in a bid to host the 2022 World Cup. And the relevant organization handed it to Qatar. Barack Obama said, “I think it was the wrong decision.” For heaven’s sake, the president of the United States should not be talking this way. He should be saying, “Good for Qatar! I hope they have a great Cup.”

Why should the United States give a rip where the World Cup is played? Are we so much reduced in the world that our president whines, or even expresses regret, when a dinky little Third World country gets to host a soccer tournament? How pathetic.

About ten days ago, I read a news story that began, “The U.S. Air Force’s secrecy-shrouded X-37B unmanned spaceplane returned to Earth early Friday after more than seven months in orbit on a classified mission, officials said.” Frankly, I was relieved. Why? Because it showed we were doing more than Muslim outreach.

Remember that NASA fiasco?

I hope you enjoy the next issue of National Review — for many reasons. One is this: I have a piece on John Bolton, who is always a treat. He’s thinking about running for president, and thinking about it hard. In fact, I believe he is running. If he’s not running, I’ll eat my hat. I’ll even give up hot-fudge sundaes — which, I’m here to tell you, would be hard.

One of the things Bolton and I discussed was the press. When he was at the U.N., the press kind of liked him, I’m pretty sure. Oh, they couldn’t stand his views and policies, of course. But they liked his candor, his accessibility, his quotability. The afternoon “gaggle” — or whenever Bolton held it — was one of the best shows in New York.

In our recent interview, I asked him, “How do you think the press would treat you, if you ran for president?” In answer, he went to fish that day’s Washington Post out of the garbage. It included a piece by Dana Milbank on retiring senator George Voinovich. And the piece said this: “Voinovich isn’t a violent man. To the contrary, one of his finest moments in Washington was when he broke with his party and tearfully announced his opposition to John Bolton, whom George W. Bush had nominated to be U.N. ambassador even though Bolton had once proposed blowing up U.N. headquarters.”

Bolton was steamed about this. I’ll tell you why he was steamed in a second. First, here are the facts.

In 1994, Bolton said, “The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” What he meant was — obviously — the Secretariat was ridiculously overbureaucratized, ridiculously overstaffed. He had in mind something Barry Goldwater once said about the State Department: You could go ahead and fire the first six floors. (The important people, the decision-makers, were on the seventh floor, as they are now.)

Bolton never said anything about blowing up the U.N. And what a nasty charge, in this day and age: after 9/11; after the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Iraq. That’s why Bolton was so steamed. And he said, “That’s the way it will be,” if he runs for president. That’s what his press will be like.

I told him that his proposal to lose ten stories was kind of low — we can do without more stories than that. Made him laugh.

Bush got a kick out of his ambassador’s performance at the U.N. — he also got a kick out of his ambassador’s reputation. Once, seeing Kofi Annan, Bush said, “How’s Bolton doin’? Has he blown the place up yet?” On a later occasion — I believe in Washington — Bush said to Annan, “Has Bolton been a demon up there?”

Oh, he was a righteous demon.