It's getting buried by the al-Zarqawi news, but yesterday mustachioed American ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton had the ambassadorial version of a hissyfit over the words of U.N. Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown.
On Tuesday, Brown berated the United States for not sufficiently supporting the U.N. and encouraging the international body's critics. "The prevailing practice of seeking to use the U.N. almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable," he said.
Brown also played media critic: "Much of the public discourse that reaches the U.S. heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News," he said.
Shockingly, the criticisms did not play well with Bolton.
"I've known you since 1989, and I'm telling you this is the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official that I have seen in that entire time," he told Secretary General Kofi Annan. He called Brown's a "condescending, patronizing tone about the American people. Fundamentally, very sadly, this was a criticism of the American people, by an international civil servant, and it's just illegitimate," adding: "Even though the target of the speech was the United States, the victim, I feel, will be the United Nations."
Oh, it's on.
Howard Kurtz tracked down Limbaugh's response:
"So Mark Malloch Brown is saying the reason that the United Nations is unrecognized for its greatness and its value, the reason that it's not recognized for its true benefit to world peace and blah, blah, blah, blah, is because of me and Fox News poisoning your minds. What's new? This is just another pointy-headed, elitest liberal say you're a bunch of mind numbed robots and you can't make up your own minds about things. The United Nations has not changed. It's still the bar scene in the first Star Wars movie."Let's break down all this ridiculous posturing, shall we? First off, Brown is being condescending. Can you imagine Dick Cheney saying that Tony Blair wasn't doing enough to make those Welsh sheep-shaggers understand the wonders of American foreign policy? Wouldn't go over that well. There may be some truth in Brown's critique, but he's a diplomat, for heavens sake. Maybe there was a way to make the point without gratuitously attacking Middle America?
And then there's Bolton, who spoke as if he had no control over the long-term impact of Brown's "mistake." Instead of taking up the substance of Brown's critique of the U.S. administration, he responded as if the argument was a criticism of the American people and nothing more. And he resorted to veiled threats (and a ridiculous passive voice) in his response concerning the ultimate "victim" of Brown's outburst.
And, finally, we have Rush, who uttered this sentence: "This is just another pointy-headed, elitist liberal say you're a bunch of mind numbed robots and you can't make up your own minds about things." And followed it with this: "The United Nations has not changed."
In other words, "Don't believe the effete liberal! You can make up your own mind! Now…Here's What To Think."
Ah, the delicate dance of diplomacy, together with the fair-mindedness and restraint of radio punditry. And they say there are no heroes left.