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Senators Divided on Keeping Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

July 27, 2006 at 6:30 PM EDT

TRANSCRIPT

KWAME HOLMAN: It was a warmer welcome this time around for
John Bolton when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
today. The committee agreed to re-hear his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations, now 11 months after the president gave him the job through a recess
appointment.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: For
close to a year now, I’ve had the privilege and honor to serve as the U.S.
permanent representative to the United Nations.

KWAME HOLMAN: Even one of his most vocal detractors last
year today embraced the idea of the Senate giving Bolton
its blessing.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), Ohio: I would also be happy to
speak to any of my colleagues about the time I have spent talking to John
Bolton in person and on the phone and also about the telephone conversations
that I’ve had with John Bolton’s colleagues on his performance at the United
Nations.

KWAME HOLMAN: A year ago, Ohio Republican George Voinovich
had called Bolton the wrong choice for the job.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH: John Bolton is the poster child of what
someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.

KWAME HOLMAN: Voinovich’s criticisms were a major factor in
the failure of Bolton’s nomination last year. But Voinovich may be the only
committee member newly won over by the ambassador.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), Connecticut: Mr. Chairman, I remain
opposed to this nominee. I’d like to explain why.

KWAME HOLMAN: In his opening statement, Connecticut Democrat
Chris Dodd set the tone of the opposition.

SEN. CHRIS DODD: Mr. Bolton clearly has an aversion, in my
view, to being diplomatic or to building consensus for a U.S. position,
and that is deeply troubling to me…

Dissenting voices

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats tried to suggest that in his tenurethe ambassador has been ineffective in his leadership regarding several globaltrouble spots. Barack Obama of Illinois askedabout the humanitarian crisis in Sudan'sDarfur region.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: So I'm wondering specifically whatis your office doing at this stage to move us off the status quo?

JOHN BOLTON: I agree that the Darfurpeace agreement is in jeopardy. Despite commitments made by the government of Sudan previously, they continue to say they willnot accept a U.N. force in Darfur.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: We know Sudan is going to be recalcitrantand intransigent. And so, precisely for that reason, I think it's important weuse some of our diplomatic skills and apply them to pressure some of the otherswho are supporting Sudan.And I'm not sure we've used all our diplomatic cards on this one.

KWAME HOLMAN: And John Kerry of Massachusettspressed the ambassador on how to rein in North Korea.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), Massachusetts:Well, how are you going to achieve this if you're not going to have sanctions,if you don't have the other countries prepared to have the sanctions? Thereason you don't have sanctions is they weren't prepared to do it, isn't thatcorrect?

JOHN BOLTON: No, becausethat was not part of our original resolution. The first step here was to passthis resolution...

SEN. JOHN KERRY: You're telling me they would be prepared toimpose sanctions?

JOHN BOLTON: It was ourjudgment that the best way to proceed was along the lines that are now embodiedin Resolution 1695. That is certainly not to say that the council might nottake other steps in the future. But the steps we sought to take, we have nowtaken unanimously.

KWAME HOLMAN: And overarching today's hearing, the fightingbetween Israeland Hezbollah militants. Joseph Biden, the committee's top Democrat, asked ifthe U.S. should have donemore to help Lebanonmeet the conditions of U.N. Resolution 1559, which called for the disarming ofHezbollah.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), Delaware:What we're doing right now is what 1559 was supposed to do. My question is: Wasthere any action taken to generate the same kind of consensus and support forbringing in what we're trying to do right now? We're trying to get a consensusto bring in an international force that can shoot straight, that can sit alongthe Israeli border.

And I assume part of what we're doing -- I hope to heckwe're doing -- is coming up with initiatives as to how we're going to help,either through the French, through NATO, or through other means, to train up aLebanese army that can actually ultimately supplant that force.

JOHN BOLTON: Well, I think much of the work that has to bedone to strengthen Lebanese institutions is being done on a bilateral basis,directly between the United States and Lebanon, but there are a variety ofthings that were done in New York, specifically at the suggestion of theLebanese government, that were communicated to us and France and others that wefollowed through on that I do think have had a significant impact.

Words of praise

KWAME HOLMAN: Committee Republicans argued that AmbassadorBolton has been successful at the U.N. and is capably guiding U.S. foreign policy. Mel Martinezof Florida.

SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R), Florida: You have been a resolute and clearspokesperson to advance the president's foreign policy. And at the time, wehave only one president. We have only one foreign policy. It is thispresident's foreign policy, and you've been an astute and strong advocate forthat.

KWAME HOLMAN: And when two protestors tried to disrupt theproceedings, Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman said their anger, like manycriticisms of Bolton, was misdirected.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), Minnesota: I would bet that, if you askedthe two protestors that we had, to cite a single statement of John Bolton or asingle action of John Bolton that they object to, I doubt that they could doit. Their opposition is to U.S.policy.

Even amongst us on this side of the table, I think it's fairto say we don't always agree. We don't always agree with this administration. ButI think what we do fundamentally agree with is a belief that the president hasa right to have his voice and his representation, somebody he trustsrepresenting us at the United Nations.

KWAME HOLMAN: The committee will vote on thenomination and send it to the full Senate, where Democrats have not yet saidwhether they again will try to block an up-or-down vote. Bolton'srecess appointment as U.N. ambassador expires in January.