Ambassador Rice Battles Rep. Ros-Lehtinen
Clash at United Nations Pits Ambassador Rice Against Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Amid Plan To Seize Park for UN Staffers
Editorial of The New York Sun
The next drama at the United Nations is going to involve a clash between two women. One is the American permanent representative at the world body, Ambassador Susan Rice, who is known around Turtle Bay as the ambassador of the United Nations to the United States. The other is the Florida Republican recently elevated to the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been pushing to reform — and, in effect, to reduce — American payments to the institution, whose efforts in recent years have largely focused on isolating the state of Israel.
This is being brought to a head by the refusal of the United Nations budget writers to accede to any significant job cuts and to propose instead huge raises for its staff of international civil servants. The United Nations has been pushing such a budget in the face of the spending cuts the Republicans in Congress are trying to enforce in our own budget at home. So offensive has the U.N.’s lunge for more money been that it is being attacked even by the Obama administration, whose ambassador to the United Nations for management and reform, Joseph Torsella, let loose in remarks today to the United Nations’ budgetary committee.
Mr. Torsella’s remarks were circulated in a press release put out by the United States mission at the United Nations. Bloomberg News quotes Mr. Torsella as saying, that the United Nations’ proposed $5.2 billion budget for the next two years would, as the newswire paraphrased his remarks, “scrap only 44 jobs, a 0.4 percent reduction” and that after “an ‘onslaught’ of add-ons, the 2012-13 budget would rise more than 2 percent to $5.5 billion.” Warned Mr. Torsella: “That is not a break from ‘business as usual’ but a continuation of it.” The Obama administration, the friendliest administration to the United Nations in years, “calls for a comprehensive, department-by-department, line-by-line review of this budget,” Bloomberg News reported.
The context for all this is the rise of Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen to the chairmanship of the House committee on foreign affairs. She introduced legislation in August designed to shift America’s financial contributions to a largely voluntary basis, and until that reform is made in the way funding for the United Nations is decided, her legislation would enable — even require — the United States to withhold a portion of its contribution. While the Obama administration is supposedly pressing for budget cuts at the United Nations, Ambassador Rice is agitating against Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen’s reform, calling it, according to Bloomberg News, it “fundamentally flawed in concept and practice” and “self-defeating.”
If all this weren’t enough of a scandal, a new definition of chutzpah is being written in the effort of the United Nations and its friends in the real estate industry to clear the way for a fancy new tower to for the over-paid United Nations bureaucrats to work. The drama was covered last week in an important dispatch in the New York Post by Meghan Clyne, whose piece ran under the headline “Paying the UN To Steal a NY Park.” Ms. Clyne covered the story for The New York Sun when she was one of our reporters based in New York, and she is warning that unless local politicians stand up by an October 10 deadline, the deal — for which the United Nations has been plotting for years — could start to move forward.
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Our own long-standing view of all this is that it’s all of a piece — a piece that centers on a failed institution that would best be moved out of New York City and from which America would best withdraw. We don’t say that with any glee. There was a time in our long newspaper life when we shared the hopes that the United Nations could be a vessel of idealism. In the event the world body has emerged not only as a cockpit of antisemitism and anti-Americanism but as a corrupt and arrogant institution that sees itself as impervious to the interests of the taxpayers who are underwriting its operations. The expanded budget, the scheming to take a New York City park to build a fancy new headquarters for its overpaid staff, these are symbols of an institution that is out of touch and out of good will. All eyes will be on Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen as she tries to win a battle that so many others have lost.