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The List: Who Will Replace John Bolton?

John Bolton is the most controversial U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in history. But, to the delight of his critics, his temporary appointment is nearing expiration. With congressional Democrats in charge, President Bush won’t have the votes to send Bolton back to New York. Or will he? This week’s FP List considers the contenders for Bolton’s spot.

The Front-Runner

Jim Leach, Republican congressman from Iowa

Why hell get the post: The 30-year veteran of the House of Representatives will soon be unemployed, having narrowly lost a reelection bid. Known for his principled ethics and courtly style, Leach has bipartisan appeal. Last week, fellow Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and James Walsh (R-NY) circulated a letter around the House recommending Leach for the U.N. post. Leachs chief of staff has confirmed that the former congressman is interested. Plus, he has the foreign relations chops: He is a long-time member of the International Relations Committee, served as a foreign-service officer before going to congress, and was an aide to Bush 41 when the elder Bush was Richard Nixons ambassador to the United Nations.

Why he wont: Because Leach was one of only six House Republicans to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2002, Bush may question his loyalty to the administration. Leach was also among the first Republicans to call for a military withdrawal from Iraq, and hes on the record as saying that Iraq is the biggest foreign-policy mistake in U.S. history. Republican or not, naysayers dont often get the nod from the Bush administration.

The Bureaucrat

Paula Dobriansky, U.S. under secretary of state for global affairs and democracy

Why shell get the post: The woman in charge of spreading democracy on behalf of the United States is a devout neoconservative and a loyal Bush follower with a lifetime of international policy experience. Before joining the State Department, Dobriansky was the director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Council on Foreign Relations, and she has served on the National Security Council. Her language skills include Dutch, French, Italian, and Russiana big plus at the United Nations.

Why she wont: The scuttlebutt in Foggy Bottom is that Dobrianskya pleasant and efficient diplomat who works well with otherslacks the muscle for such a high-profile posting. Her expertise lies in soft areas, such as human rights, and she remains unproven in areas such as nuclear negotiations.

The Veteran Diplomat

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq

Why hell get the post: Khalilzad would be Americas first Muslim to hold the top job at the United Nations, a move that could help elicit goodwill from nations who dislike Bolton. Described as partisan yet pragmatic, the Afghan-born diplomat has sharp political instincts, particularly behind closed doors. He served as ambassador to Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion there and is now in Baghdad. Khalilzads reputation may be the only one who has survived the publics turn against Iraq.

Why he wont: Hes needed in Iraq. With Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on his way out, its not in Bushs interest to rock the boat when it comes to U.S. leadership in Iraq. So, even though Bush owes Khalilzad for his years of service, now may not be the time for payback.

The Moderate

Lincoln Chafee, Republican U.S. senator from Rhode Island

Why hell get the post: The consensus-building Republican was a victim of collateral damage in the Democrats midterm sweep earlier this month, losing the Senate seat he held since 1999. He played an influential role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he has long been considered the deciding swing vote on Boltons nomination, and he voted against the Iraq war in 2002. Chafee would likely pass muster with his Senate colleagues, especially since he sided with Democrats as often as he voted against them.

Why he wont: Its hard to imagine that President Bush, who rewards loyalty so highly, would nominate Chafee after his outspoken opposition to Bolton and to the administrations Iraq policy. And hinting that he may abandon the Republican party doesnt help his chances. Chafee also has limited foreign-policy experience, having spent most of his career in Rhode Island politics.

The Longshot

Dennis Hastert, Republican congressman from Illinois

Why hell get the post: The outgoing Speaker of the House is already rumored to be at the top of Bushs list to become the next ambassador to Japan. Hastert has said publicly that the 20072008 term will be his last, and theres a chance the president will encourage him to step down early in order to go to Turtle Bay instead of Tokyo. That way, Bush can stick it to the Democrats who scuttled the Bolton nomination by appointing someone who equally raises partisan hackles.

Why he wont: Hastert is politically polarizing. Critics call him a defender of congressional corruption. He was recently called out for his handling of the Mark Foley sex scandal and was a little too close for comfort to Jack Abramoff. Plus, his foreign-policy experience is thin. He briefly served on the House subcommittee tasked with national security, hardly a stand-out resume for the countrys top diplomat.

The Incumbent

John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
[Update: Bolton took himself out of the running Monday, December 4.]

Why hell get the post: In recent months, Bolton has made a few impressive strides within the U.N. Security Councilworking on a peacekeeping force for Lebanon and negotiating resolutions condemning the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. Plus, he still has Bushs full support. The president submitted Boltons nomination to the Senate just after the midterm elections, but its unlikely there will be a vote before the new congress starts in January. Bush also has the option of recess-appointing Bolton for a second time, but this time around Bolton would have to work without pay. A third possibility: Bush could appoint Bolton to a lesser State Department position that doesnt require Senate confirmation, then name him acting U.N. ambassador.

Why he wont: Bolton is wildly unpopular, not just among U.N. bureaucrats and U.S. Democrats, but among some Republicans, too. Confrontational, abrasive, and not afraid of using intimidating tactics, he hasnt made many friends during his tenure in New York. The incoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Delaware Democrat Joe Biden, says he sees no point in considering Boltons nomination again.

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