Mr. Bolton began his tenure with an argument over the preparations for a gathering of heads of state. He demanded that the summit document omit, among other things, references to the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals, on the ground that these had been interpreted by U.N. officials to include a commitment to more foreign aid. Mr. Bolton's action alienated other U.N. ambassadors with no obvious gain; such commitments, even if accepted, are non-binding.
Mr. Bolton's handling of the new U.N. Human Rights Council was equally clumsy. He failed to show up at nearly all of the 30 or so negotiating sessions leading up to the council's creation, then waded in at the eleventh hour with a bizarre proposal that the State Department quickly repudiated. Mr. Bolton's spokesman says that the ambassador engaged in good faith throughout the process. But U.S. allies felt that Mr. Bolton did not do so.
Mr. Bolton has embarrassed himself most recently by his mishandling of U.N. management reform, a cause supported by U.N. officials and the richer member states. Mr. Bolton came up with the idea of threatening to cut U.N. funding unless the management reforms were adopted, and his spokesman insists that this brinkmanship was helpful. But South Africa's U.N. envoy called it "poison"; Germany's ambassador called it "wrong"; his British counterpart said it was a mistake to hold the budget hostage. After six months the budget threat was dropped.
WP also published a story in today's news section ("The Bolton Nomination, Act II" by Colum Lynch) detailing some of the controvery around Bolton's role in the United Nations. Notably, it quotes the distinguished international civil servant, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown who said in a public speech on June 6:
There is currently a perception among many otherwise quite moderate countries that anything the U.S. supports must have a secret agenda aimed at either subordinating multilateral processes to Washington's ends or weakening the institutions, and therefore, put crudely, should be opposed without any real discussion of whether they make sense or not.