Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee talk prior to a meeting to vote on John Bolton to be U. S. ambassador to the United Nations. Left to right are Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. (AP/Dennis Cook)
President Bush said it again this week. He wants John Bolton to be his ambassador to the United Nations. The nomination became a major test for the Bush second term after a surprise Republican defection on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Senator George Voinovich, who said he did not feel comfortable voting for Mr. Bolton. The vote on Bolton is now delayed until after the May recess.
Bolton's detractors cite three basic issues. First, his stated dislike for the United Nations and oft-quoted remark, "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories; if you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
Second, his alleged efforts to tailor intelligence data he was given to fit his agenda. And lastly, his alleged abuse of subordinates.
Secretary Rice announced Bolton's nomination in March, but as an indication of the current level of White House concern, they have been rolling out the big guns to rescue him. President Bush defended his nomination in a recent press conference:
"John Bolton can get the job done at the United Nations. It made sense to put somebody who's capable, smart, served our country for 20 years, been confirmed by the United States Senate four times and who isn't afraid to speak his mind in the post of the ambassador to the U.N."
"As the president said, John Bolton has been confirmed four times before by the U.S. Senate. Why is his nomination so contentious this time?"
"What needs to be emphasized here, is that what this is really about is not whether Bolton has a short fuse. This is about Democrats' inability to get over the fact that they lost the election to a president who ran on his foreign policy and Bolton represents that foreign policy."
"Here's the real issue: Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton. This is about foreign policy, and foreign policy is doctrinal, it's theological. After September 11th, George Bush proposed a doctrine of preemption. Bush, and Bolton, and the rest of them are proposing a shift in American foreign policy, the basis for its ideas, and indeed the people running it. Those who have got a stake in the old ideas are simply going to fight and oppose that shift."
"It's an entire world view clashing against another. These are people who never believed that democracy in the Arab world was possible; they didn't even think it was desirable. These are the same people who thought that you had to talk to Yasser Arafat if you wanted peace in the Middle East. These are pro-stability guys, don't-rock-the-boat guys. Bolton offends those sensibilities profoundly."