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Put Bush at the Helm of the U.N.?

By Adelman, Ken | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 20, 1996 | Go to article overview

Put Bush at the Helm of the U.N.?


Adelman, Ken, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Nearly everyone agrees the current U.N. secretary general - mocked by Pat Buchanan as "Boootros Boootros Golly" - should not be re-elected. But nobody agrees on an ideal replacement.

Until now. That replacement -ideal for Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, the Republican Congress, and even the United Nations itself - would be George Bush. That may sound odd but makes imminent sense. No other statesman fits as nicely, would solve as many political problems, and would (I imagine) relish the opportunity.

The prospect of any other political campaign would cause Mr. Bush to groan. Yet the prospect of recommitting to public service would cause him to grin. For this is no grubby type election but a subtle election among the international elite. Just the type that fits George Bush.

Before telling how well he'd do in that post and how he could win it, I should explain why the issue matters. Those who have spent years at the United Nations - like Jeane Kirkpatrick and me, her deputy in the early Reagan years - may be skeptics. But Americans overwhelming support the United Nations. More as a concept than an organization, as the U.N.'s waste and administrative deficiencies have grown legendary. In his five-year term as secretary general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali has left those glaring faults grow.

Hence the bipartisan consensus to hand him a gold watch when his term expires next December. Indiana Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton - among the most intelligent and respectful of internationalists - is uncharacteristically blunt: "The United Nations needs new energy, new leadership, new direction." South Dakota Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, former Rhodes Scholar and U.N. delegate, heartily concurs: "The United Nations is under the wrong leadership."

President Clinton has signaled displeasure with Mr. Boutros-Ghali. Mr. Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, readily describes her problems with the secretary general. Finally, Bob Dole, though an internationalist at heart, criticizes the U.N. leadership and inefficiency in his stump speech.

So much for the argument that Mr. Boutros-Ghali should go. Now to why George Bush should run and could win: He'd enjoy it and do a marvelous job. As the ultimate public servant, he'd be happier as secretary general. Like both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole, Mr. Bush has done scant else in life except run and hold public office.

Initially, this may seem like a step down for him - which, of course, it would be. But it'd at least be a step somewhere doing something important. George Bush's quip about his getting "in the grandfather business in a big way" is fine for the weekends, but that doesn't fill the week. Grandchildren have their own playmates.

Moreover, the notion that a former president has no occupation besides making big-buck speeches and big-buck fund-raising for his presidential library is inane. This relegates former presidents to being a wasted national, or international, resource.

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