JIM LEHRER: Now, to two members of the Foreign Relations Committee: Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, and Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut. I spoke with them a short time ago.
Senators, welcome. Sen. Dodd, what's the meaning of today's vote from your perspective?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Well, it's a setback. Clearly to have a vote come out without recommendation here, a ten-day vote, is certainly not what you would expect to have for the president's choice here. But I think the expressions that were made by Sen. Voinovich and Sen. Biden and others on the committee, even those who voted for Mr. Bolton on the Republican side, if you listen carefully to the statements by Sen. Chaffee, Sen. Murkowski, there was deep concern echoing the comments of Sen. Voinovich with this nomination.
And it's not just about style. We all understand the U. N. needs a lot of work. We respect the work that Sen. Coleman has done on that issue, in fact. And I support what he's trying to do. But the issue is who do we send to the United Nations to be the face of the United States before the world community, and Mr. Bolton's record is -- particularly the concern I have, and that is his efforts to fire two defense -- excuse me, intelligence analysts -- who were providing intelligence conclusions that he did not want to use in speeches in which he would announce the position of the United States, I think disqualifies him from these positions.
You cannot, in this day and age, cook the books, when it comes to intelligence, or try to do that, and then, in my view, then be promoted for doing that by giving the job as the ambassador to the United Nations.
JIM LEHRER: But your views aside, this vote does not support your position, does it?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Well, it's going to the floor. I mean, had there been a vote, up or down, on the nomination, given Sen. Voinovich's position, it would have been nine to nine and it would have failed. The chairman worked out a deal with Mr. Voinovich, Sen. Voinovich to have the matter go to the floor without recommendation. That's a setback.
You can color it any way you want, but the fact of the matter is normally we -- there have only been a handful of cases in my 24 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where we have sent a nomination to the floor either with a negative recommendation or without recommendation. If you're defeated in committee, normally that ends it. He would have been defeated in committee on a tie vote, and that would have normally ended a nomination like this, but they've decided to take it further.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: Jim, the record clearly doesn't substantiate my friend and colleague's position that John Bolton tried to fire anybody. In fact, really what we had here was, my friends on the other side of the aisle, in the very beginning when the nomination was put in place, said they were going to vote against it. It was all about policy. There are strong policy differences here. That didn't work. And then we had discussions about process, and we had discussions about procedure. In the end, what this means is that there's a chance to have an up-or-down vote on the floor, and I anticipate that John Bolton will be confirmed. This is about the president's choice of a person who has been confirmed by the Senate I believe on either three or four occasions.
There's no question about his credibility. There's no question about his capability. So the president has said that we need to reform the U.N. He's chosen someone who is blunt, who is tough; that's needed in these times, at a time that, you know, Zimbabwe gets put on the Human Rights Commission. Just today, I issued a report that has a British member of parliament, the former French interior minister, on the tape from Saddam Hussein, through the oil-for-food program -- the U.N. is in need of reform; none of us are arguing about that. The president has chosen somebody for a very specific task, with a history of being confirmed, with a record, and there was nothing that came up in this record that I think disqualified him. And so in the end, I believe John Bolton will be confirmed.
JIM LEHRER: But back to the same question I asked Sen. Dodd: What should the American people read from a vote, a vote from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to go to the floor of the Senate, but without recommendation that he be confirmed?
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: Oh, I think the American public can read that there's certainly division between Democrats and Republicans on this. Even within our own caucus, there were questions that were raised. Listen, one of the concerns -- was John Bolton too harsh on his employees? George Voinovich is kind of the champion of the employee. You know, that's what he focuses on. That concerned him, and I respect Sen. Voinovich. But in the end, that's not a disqualifier. The rest of my colleagues clearly understood that. I believe more than a majority of senators in the United States Senate -- including, I would anticipate, some Democrats -- will say that in the end, the president has the right to pick someone who has the ability, who has the capability to do the job.
John Bolton has been confirmed a number of times before. He was the guy in 1991 that got the U.N. to overturn its odious "Zionism is racism" resolution. And if I may, just one quote from my friend Chris Dodd, March 1, I think it was 1997, he says we're making it harder and harder for folks to get confirmed. This should not be a -- it should be -- confirmation shouldn't be about abuse. I really do believe John Bolton went through abuse or allegations of things that happened 22 years ago, ultimately dropped; allegations about chasing a woman down in a hotel in Moscow 11 years ago, ultimately dropped. He went through a lot. In the end, there is some division, but I do believe the president will be able to pick the person he believes is most suited to the difficult task of U.N. reform.
JIM LEHRER: Sen. Dodd, what do you think is going to happen on the floor?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Well, I don't know. But I'd just remind my colleague here that that's true, the president has a right to make his choices, but the Constitution is rather clear, the Senate has an advice-and-consent role here, and clearly the job of senators is to make an evaluation to determine whether or not nominees should go forward. There is a presumption that many of us have in favor of presidents in naming their cabinets or people to serve in their official capacities. But that's not an automatic. It's not a pass-through. This is not just a temporary stop along the way to a confirmation. We have a constitutional responsibility to determine whether or not these nominees are qualified for the jobs.
Fascinatingly, in all my years here -- and I think Sen. Biden has been here longer than I have; made the same point: Jim, I have never seen a nominee come up for confirmation where as many people of that person's party, who have served either presently or formerly in the Bush administration -- almost 20 of them -- have come out and said this man is not qualified to be the ambassador, to serve at the United Nations, including the chief of staff under Colin Powell, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. These are not liberal democrats expressing their opposition to this individual. These are card-carrying, deeply committed Republicans. Carl Ford, 35 years, defense intelligence, CIA, said this man should not be serving at the United Nations.
JIM LEHRER: Sen. Coleman, what about that? This wasn't just Democrats who were after John Bolton?
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: No, but two other things. You know, there was an interesting editorial in the Washington Post today. I don't always agree with the Washington Post, but they said that what this nomination revealed is even within the Bush administration, some differences between folks within varying perspectives, whether it was the Powell perspective or whether it was a Bolton perspective, which in the end is a president's perspective. But the bottom line, the Washington Post concludes, as I do, that he's qualified; the president has the right to make this choice.
And that's really what we're dealing with here. All my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were against John Bolton from the moment the nomination was put in play, and it was based on policy differences. And then what we had was that didn't work, and so there were a series of other allegations and charges thrown out, and in the end -- in the end, we ended up with a divided Foreign Relations Committee with the nomination getting to the floor. But this is about policy. And the president won an election. He dictates the policy. He then has a right to choose someone who is qualified. I don't think there is much argument that John Bolton is qualified to be the United States permanent representative to the United Nations.
JIM LEHRER: Sen. Coleman, do you have any word from your side, which is the majority side, when the vote on the floor will actually be held or be scheduled?
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: Well, at this point, no, because we just got out of committee. We would like to have this vote soon. As you're well aware, there are a number of matters that are hanging out, whether it's what we're going to do with judges, whether we can an energy bill through; so we would like to get this done soon. We need an ambassador at the United Nations. There's a lot going on there. Right now we need to move forward, and again, John Bolton, by getting on the floor, I believe will be in a very good position to be confirmed as ambassador.
JIM LEHRER: Sen. Dodd, just as a practical matter, what do you Democrats do -- not just you Democrats, because there are, as you pointed out, there are some Republicans, including Sen. Voinovich, who's publicly opposed this nomination. What happens now? Are you all going to go all out to defeat this on the floor, even if it involves a filibuster, or what? How serious a matter is this to you?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Well, it's a serious matter, and a very serious matter, as I think evidenced by the fact that we took five hours today. The staffs of both the majority and minorities interviewed some 30 different witnesses. There was a -- as I mention again, there's a significant number of people who come forward who corroborate exactly what John Bolton tried to do to these intelligence analysts. It's going to be an extended debate. Now, whether or not it's a filibuster, I wouldn't -- I couldn't predict that for you.
But this is going to take time. We're going to want to lay out this case -- the American public be aware of it -- the vote, senators have to make decisions on their own. We have an obligation under the Constitution to do that. The president has his obligations to nominate people. We have an obligation to give our advice and consent, if that's what we decide to do. But we're going to have an extended debate about this nominee and the problems that he poses for us, not only on his record, but what it means as well.
The very issue that Sen. Coleman has raised-- reform of the United Nations-- I think is going to be severely disadvantaged by having someone whose position has been compromised because of his past performance. So if you're interested in U.N. reform, this is not the guy to do it. There are many conservative, wonderfully bold, blunt Republicans who could do the job at the United Nations. John Bolton is not the man.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: But Jim, the reality is that George W. Bush gets to make that decision. And we have some say when it comes to qualifications, but there's no question John Bolton has been qualified. He's been confirmed four times. There's nothing in the record that substantiates or corroborates allegations that he tried to unduly influence intelligence policy, or in fact that he even tried to fire anyone. What is in the record is that John Bolton can be blunt, John Bolton can be strong, John Bolton, when he has disagreements with analysts, he lets them know. That's not a bad thing. And again, the record is clear, you have a qualified candidate here, and as such, he should be confirmed.
JIM LEHRER: Did you hear anything from -- Sen. Coleman, did you hear anything in what Sen. Dodd just said about extended debate that makes you believe this is going to go on and on for a while; this thing is a long way from being over?
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: My friends again on the other side are going to have to make a choice. Do they want to continue the debate on this? Do they want to continue to obstruct on this issue, to obstruct on judges, to be seen as obstructing a lot of things? Or can we get beyond this? I do have to say that the good news out of this hearing was that at the end, I think all of us on both sides of the aisle said "we've got to move forward." We have some big issues to deal with: What's happening in North Korea, what's happening in Iran, what's happening in Iraq.
So I do hope that we simply get an up-or-down vote on this. Let's not get into any delaying process. This has been a good bipartisan committee, and I hope that that flavor continues. I certainly have been here a short period of time. Sen. Dodd's been here forever. That has been the history of this committee --
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: I think that was a dig. (Laughter)
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: -- and I hope we get to work together when we get done with this nomination. (Laughter)
JIM LEHRER: We do have that agreement, that Sen. Dodd has been there forever? (Laughter)
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: My colleague arrived a week ago, so --
JIM LEHRER: All right, gentlemen, thank you both. We'll see what happens.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: Thank you.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Thank you very much, Jim.