Trashing the UN on the way to the Ballot Box

The United Nations often suffers in election years. Last year, for example, the pollster Frank Luntz advised office seakers that the UN could be made into a “wedge issue” prior to the congressional elections.

This election cycle is no different–so far. Prior to the UN Summit last month, a primary candidate demanded the US withhold funding from the United Nations unless the UN prevent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from addressing the General Assembly. Now, as Matt Yglesias and Paul Kiel have noted, the same candidate has called for the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council — never mind that the United States is not a member of the council.

Fortunately, some candidates in the race have first hand experience at the UN. And from that knowledge stems statements like this:

“[The] United Nations…is a necessary and important framework for building the international cooperation that will be necessary to confront problems like environmental degradation and poverty.”

In a speech addressing 21st century global threats, [Governor Richardson] said the U.N. is vital to peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and solutions to global climate change.

“As a former U.N. ambassador there — your ambassador there — I, more than anyone in this race, understand the shortcomings of that institution,” the New Mexico governor admitted. “But I also know the incredible power in the legitimacy of international cooperation.”

What’s interesting here is that politicians typically do not step out of their way to defend the United Nations while running for office. But perhaps this is a sign of the times. With American foriegn policy burdened by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, politicians recognize that voters understand the United States needs the kind of international support that the United Nations can provide.