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Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Bush installs Bolton as U.N. ambassador with recess appointment

Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON — President Bush's decision yesterday to bypass the Senate and appoint John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations placed a blistering critic of the U.N. in charge of the American mission there as the United States faces huge challenges that could require the help of the international body.

In naming Bolton to the high-profile post, Bush made an end run around congressional critics who said Bolton was ill-suited for the job, primarily because of allegations that he had a volatile temper and that he tried to manipulate intelligence that contradicted the administration's policies.

Bush used a constitutional provision that allows presidents to make temporary appointments without Senate approval during a congressional recess, after Senate Democrats had refused to vote on Bolton's candidacy unless they received additional internal documents related to his tenure at the State Department.

"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform," Bush said. He added that Bolton would go to the United Nations with his full confidence.

Bolton's supporters say the administration needs a blunt, tough advocate to press for change at the United Nations at a time when scandal over corruption in the U.N.-administered oil-for-food program in Iraq has energized Republicans intent on revamping the institution.

Critics say Bolton's aggressive style will make it harder for the United States to nurture alliances on important issues that require broad international coalitions, such as combating Islamic terrorism and halting nuclear fuel production in North Korea and Iran. Relations with allies already have frayed over the war in Iraq and a Bush administration approach to foreign policy that many nations consider disdainful of their interests.

Democrats responded to Bolton's appointment with vociferous criticism. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., denounced the appointment as "the latest abuse of power by the Bush administration," adding that Bolton would arrive at the United Nations "with a cloud hanging over his head" because he could not win confirmation.

John Bolton


Age: 56; born Nov. 20, 1948, in Baltimore

Education: B.A., Yale University, 1970; J.D., Yale Law School, 1974

Experience: Undersecretary of state for arms control and international security since May 11, 2001; senior vice president, American Enterprise Institute, 1997-2001; adjunct professor, George Mason University Law School, 1994-2001; partner in the law firm of Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus, Washington, 1993-99; assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, 1989-93; assistant attorney general, Justice Department, 1985-89; partner at the law firm of Covington & Burling, Washington, 1983-85; assistant administrator for program and policy coordination, U.S. Agency for International Development, 1982-83; general counsel, AID, 1981-82; associate at Covington & Burling, 1974-81.

Family: Married to the former Gretchen Brainerd; one daughter.

The Associated Press

Under the rules for recess appointments, Bolton's tenure will lapse with the seating of the next Congress in January 2007 if he is not confirmed before then.

The annual session of the U.N. General Assembly begins in mid-September, shortly after the Senate returns to work from its August recess. After a morning announcement ceremony at the White House, Bolton flew to the United Nations in New York to begin work.

"I am prepared to work tirelessly to carry out the agenda and initiatives" of the president, Bolton said. He succeeds former Sen. John Danforth, R-Missouri, who left the post in January.

Bolton arrived as major crises are unfolding in Iran, which threatened this weekend to restart its uranium-reprocessing program, and Sudan, where the death of former rebel leader John Garang could throw the peace process into disarray. And the war in Iraq seems to cast a shadow over every U.N. debate.

U.N. diplomats said Bolton's failure to secure Senate confirmation would have only limited impact on his ability to do his job. More important to his influence, they say, is the recognition that Bolton enjoys the backing of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been a powerful patron of Bolton's cause within the administration. "What matters in our eyes is that he's the president's choice and that he's close to the president," said Abdallah Baali of Algeria, the lone Arab ambassador on the Security Council. "That gives him certainly the authority to deal with us in New York."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it's important that Bolton work with his diplomatic counterparts in "a spirit of give and take."

"I think it's all right for one ambassador to come and push," Annan said. "But an ambassador always has to remember that there are 190 others who will have to be convinced, or a vast majority of them, for action to take place."

Bolton, who was undersecretary of state for arms control during Bush's first term, has gained a reputation as a determined and influential conservative advocate in the administration's foreign-policy apparatus. He has been a harsh critic of the U.N., once telling an audience that the world body would lose nothing if 10 stories were lopped off its New York headquarters.

Bush praised Bolton as an ambassador who "would provide clear American leadership for reform at the United Nations."

His confirmation was complicated by accusations by intelligence officials that he pressured them to distort espionage reports to suit his views and then tried to retaliate against them when they would not comply. He also faced accusations that he harassed subordinates.

Carl Ford Jr., a former Bush administration assistant secretary of state, testified to Congress that Bolton was "a serial abuser" and "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy," an extraordinary public statement for a Republican political appointee to make about an official of his own party.

For the past several months, the Bush administration has been locked in a stand-off with Democrats in the Senate who were demanding more information on unusual requests Bolton made for the identities of U.S. officials whose communications were monitored by the National Security Agency's eavesdropping network.

Normally, the NSA blacks out the names of U.S. citizens in its reports, but government officials can request the names if they certify that they need the names to evaluate the intelligence. Bolton sent the agency 10 such requests, asking for the identities of 19 American citizens. Democrats have demanded those names and details on the requests, but the Bush administration has refused to provide them.

Although a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate appears to favor Bolton's confirmation, the administration has not been able to muster the 60 votes necessary to force a vote, which Democrats said they would allow only after they received information on Bolton's requests to the NSA.

Presidents occasionally use their recess-appointment authority to fill lower-level positions. But such an appointment to a prominent position generally stirs opposition from senators, who consider the tactic an encroachment on their constitutional power to confirm or reject high-level officials.

Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, who opposed Bolton's confirmation, said, "I am truly concerned that a recess appointment will only add to John Bolton's baggage and his lack of credibility with the United Nations."

"To some degree, he's damaged goods," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I think that means we'll have less credibility and, ironically, be less equipped to reform the United Nations in the way that it needs to be reformed."

Still, Republican leaders generally expressed support for the president's action.

"The president did the right thing by sending Mr. Bolton to the U.N.," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "He is a smart, principled and straightforward candidate, and will represent the president and America well on the world stage."

Material from The Washington Post is included in this report.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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