John Bolton’s nomination to the post of US Ambassador to the UN was scheduled to be on the agenda for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning. The hearing was to begin at 9:30 am ET. It did not start until well after that — closer to 10:00 am ET — and the Bolton portion of the hearing has been pulled from the agenda today.
I have a call in to Sen. Chris Dodd’s office to see why that is, and will report back here as soon as I have spoken to someone there — or heard from any number of the e-mails I have out to several other Senate offices on this. Sen. Dodd has been doing a fine job of leading the charge against the Bolton nomination, and I wanted to take a moment this morning to say my thanks to him — and also to Sen. Russ Feingold — for doing some fantastic work to keep the Democratic caucus together on this issue.
I watched the hearing live once it got underway, and I have to say that Sen. Lincoln Chafee looked like he was feeling rather queasy. He has a tough primary coming up, and I’ve been hearing that he was lobbying the committee chairman, Richard Lugar, to postpone the hearing on Bolton until after the primary. If I can get some answers on this and many other questions on Bolton, you’ll be the first to know today. We do live in interesting times…
UPDATE: Reuters picks up the story.
UPDATE #2: Just spoke with Sen. Dodd’s press secretary about the change in the schedule on the Bolton nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Thus far, there is no rescheduling of the Bolton nomination hearing at all at this point. Sen. Lugar, the chair of the Committee, said today that it was concerns that he heard from a Republican on the committee that caused the delay — in other words, likely Chaffee had issues and his vote is key as to whether Bolton gets out of committee or not. (If you live in Rhode Island, call Sen. Chaffee’s office and voice your opposition to Bolton. It’s also possible that late objections surfaced from Chuck Hagel, but I think Chaffee is the likely pivot point. In fact, just call your Senators and voice your opposition to Bolton, period. You can do so via the Capitol switchboard at 888-355-3588.)
If you are stuck on talking points on why Bolton is so odious, take a page from Sen. Dodd’s floor speech earlier in the week against the Bolton nomination:
Mr. President, at this moment in history our nation faces enormous challenges – from terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Sudan’s Darfur region, Iran, North Korea, Syria, HIV/AIDs, Climate Change, Energy Security. These are all important issues that call out for serious action and leadership from the United States.
America’s capacity to respond to this global clarion call has been seriously circumscribed by the Bush Administration’s preemptive war of choice in Iraq – circumscribed militarily, politically, economically. The options have become fewer since March 19, 2003 as the world has become more dangerous and the reputation and global standing of the United States weaker.
Our friends know this.
More importantly so do our adversaries.
That is why it is imperative that we make the most of the options still available to respond to these challenges. Diplomacy is one of the few options that remain available with a reasonable political and monetary price tag. And it is going to take effective and pragmatic diplomacy to build the kinds of international partnerships and coalitions to address the challenges that confront us so that American can feel and be safer and more secure.
While the United Nations isn’t the only forum for the conduct of that diplomacy, it is very clear that President Bush has placed much more reliance on the United Nations Security Council in his second term in office than he did in the first. Be it Iran, North Korea, Darfur, or Lebanon – the Administration has turned to the Security Council to respond to humanitarian crises and other threats to international peace and stability.
That’s why, more than at any other time since the founding of the United Nations, that it matters who sits in the United States Chair on the Council. And Mr. Bolton doesn’t fit the bill.
Based upon information developed by the Foreign Relations Committee last year from unprecedented Committee testimony by former Assistant Secretary of State Carl Ford, and more that 30 staff interviews of then current and former colleagues of Mr. Bolton, the Senate made the decision not to act on his nomination. Mr. Ford and twelve of those interviewed, were extremely critical of Mr. Bolton, including retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to Secretary Powell; Thomas Fingar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research; Thomas Hubbard, former Ambassador to South Korea, John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of the CIA, Stuart Cohen and Robert Hutchings, former acting head and head of the National Intelligence Council respectively; and Jamie Miscik, former Deputy Director for Intelligence at the CIA….
Mr. President, there have been some excellent US representatives to the United Nations over the years – Henry Cabot Lodge, Adlai Stevenson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Richard Holbrooke – to mention a few by name.
And each and every one of these individuals possessed a certain skill set – an ability to work with others, our adversaries as well as our friends—in order to stretch the UN as an institution in ways that supported United States interests. None of them were shrinking violets.
It is very clear that Mr. Bolton does not possess that skill set. Over the years, Mr. Bolton evidenced great skepticism and disdain for the United Nations and multilateral diplomacy generally.
Nothing he has said or done since assuming his current position in New York suggests he has altered his views on the United Nations or on multilateral diplomacy generally.
Once again it’s those who have worked most closely with him who are his biggest critics. More than thirty Ambassadors with whom Bolton serves at the United Nations – all supportive of UN reform – questioned his leadership abilities.
In a July 21, 2006 New York Times article one UN colleague characterized Mr. Bolton as “intransigent and maximalist”. Another suggested that Mr. Bolton’s, “high ambitions are cover-ups for less noble aims, and oriented not at improving the United Nations, but at belittling and weakening it.” A third has essentially written off working with Mr. Bolton, “He’s lost me as an ally now, and that’s what many other ambassadors who consider themselves friends of the US are saying.”…
Mr. Bolton clearly has an aversion to being diplomatic. He has even been called a bully by some of his harshest critics. Mr. Bolton’s personality isn’t really the issue as far as I am concerned. There are lots of bullies in this town and I suspect in New York as well. My objection isn’t that he is a bully, but that he’s been a very ineffective bully – he can’t win the day when it really counts.
He isolates the United States rather then builds a consensus around the US position.
Mr. Bolton showed his colors as soon as he arrived in New York after receiving his recess appointment last August 2005. After the US Mission had worked for months to negotiate a two year reform effort that was to be endorsed by President Bush and other heads of state two weeks later, Mr. Bolton almost destroyed the consensus around the document by tabling 705 separate amendments to the text. It took the involvement of the President and the Secretary of State to cobble the agreement back together at the last minute at a price of losing some of the provisions that the US had sought included with respect to management reforms.
The Bush administration has made the ongoing crisis in Darfur a key concern. Yet when in June of this year, members of the Security Council visited Sudan to send a signal to the Government of Khartoum, Mr. Bolton thought it more important to travel to London to deliver a UN bashing speech to a private think tank rather than join his colleagues on the visit.
On another occasion, prior to a vote last July on a UN Security Council Resolution intended to sanction North Korea for its provocative 4th July missile launches, Mr. Bolton publicly assured anyone who would listen that he could get support for a resolution with teeth – with so called Chapter 7 obligations. Turns out he couldn’t. The resolution adopted by the U.N Security Council fell short of that.
Last September, Mr. Bolton told the House International Relations Committee that the negotiation of an effective Human Rights Council was a key objective of the United States and that it was a “very high priority, and a personal priority of mine.”
There were thirty negotiating sessions held to hammer out the framework of this new Human Rights Council and Ambassador Bolton managed to attend one or two.
In the end the United States was one of four countries to vote against approval of the new UN Human Rights Council.
When the tally is taken on how effective Mr. Bolton has been at the UN, he gets a failing grade in my opinion.
All of these reasons are ample justification for voting against this nomination.
But there’s more.
There’s Mr. Bolton’s well documented attempts to manipulate intelligence to suit his world view and to seek the removal of at least two intelligence analysts who wouldn’t play ball. When these analysts refused to support intelligence conclusions not supported by available intelligence Mr. Bolton mounted a concerted effort to have them fired. The fact he didn’t success is irrelevant.
His behavior endangered our national security because it goes to the very heart of what we depend on to protect that security – unbiased and professional intelligence collection and analysis. Mr. Bolton stepped way over the line and committed an offense so grievous in my view that it warrants that this Senate deny him an up or down vote on the nomination.
In concluding, Mr. President, I would return to a point that I made earlier, namely that Mr. Bolton has largely burned his bridges with his colleagues in New York and isn’t likely to be an effective diplomat when diplomacy is increasingly becoming the coin of the realm in protecting and advancing US interests at this very unstable moment in history.
Fifty nine former US ambassadors and diplomats who have served in five administrations agree – yesterday they sent a letter to the Foreign Relations Committee in opposition to the nomination.
They recognized as I do that at this critical moment in our nation’s future, the President should put the nation’s interest first and nominate an individual with strong diplomatic skills who believes in diplomacy, rather than placating his conservative base by continuing to push for confirmation of an unsuitable nominee. I believe that it is time for the Senate to send that message loudly and clearly to the President by rejecting efforts to ramrod this nomination through in the closing days of the session.
I urge my colleagues to join me in stopping this nomination.
Strong words — much needed, in my opinion, because John Bolton is the wrong man for the job. Period.