Sunday, May 8

Bolton still on the boiler

Democrats, Seeking Files, Threaten to Stall Bolton Vote

Published: May 6, 2005 by The New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 5 - Senate Democrats are threatening to abandon an agreement to move toward a swift vote on the nomination of John R. Bolton unless the State Department provides documents related to a clash between Mr. Bolton and intelligence officials over assessments of Syria.

The threat reflects growing tensions between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over the handling of an inquiry into Mr. Bolton's qualifications to serve as ambassador to the United Nations.

The inquiry is scheduled to conclude on Friday, but the Republican chairman of the committee has refused to endorse a Democratic request for the Syria documents, and the State Department has not turned them over to the panel.

The documents sought by the Democrats include e-mail messages, memorandums, correspondence and draft testimony related to a long-running dispute between Mr. Bolton and American intelligence agencies about Syria. In 2002 and 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency rejected as inflated several attempts by Mr. Bolton to portray Syria and its illicit weapons programs as a threat to the stability of the Middle East.

On Wednesday the committee chairman, Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, suggested in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the documents on Syria might be of "marginal relevance" to the inquiry.

But on Thursday the panel's top Democrat, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, issued a sharp retort in his own letter to Ms. Rice. "The documents in question go directly to an issue the committee has been pursuing, namely whether in speeches and testimony, Mr. Bolton sought to exaggerate the conclusions that could reasonably be drawn from available intelligence," Mr. Biden wrote.

He warned that he and other Democrats would "consider the failure to produce the requested documents in a timely manner a lack of cooperation" on the part of the State Department, and suggested that such a move would prompt them to seek a further delay in the committee's vote on whether to send Mr. Bolton's nomination to the full Senate, which is now scheduled for May 12.

The nomination could be blocked if the committee's eight Democrats succeeded in persuading at least one of the panel's 10 Republicans to join them in opposing his confirmation. But under committee rules for what constitutes a quorum, Democrats could prevent a vote from taking place if they all refused to attend the May 12 meeting.

A copy of Mr. Biden's letter was made public by his office.

Of nine separate requests for documents submitted last week by Mr. Biden, Mr. Lugar endorsed only five in his letter to Ms. Rice on Wednesday, declining to endorse requests for material related to Sudan and Syria.

But Andy Fisher, a spokesman for Mr. Lugar, said he was not asking the State Department to deny the Democratic request. "If they can and want to provide the information, that's O.K. too," Mr. Fisher said.

A State Department spokesman, Thomas H. Casey, would say only, "We'll respond to all agreed-upon requests."

At the White House, Scott McClellan, the chief spokesman, said the State Department "has been working to make sure that the questions are responded to, and they've been very responsive to the committee."

But Mr. McClellan added, "There's a difference between responding to legitimate concerns and just people trying to go down the road of a fishing expedition."

Another area still being explored by the committee involves Mr. Bolton's use of his authority as an under secretary of state to obtain from the National Security Agency, on 10 occasions, information identifying American officials mentioned in communications intercepted by the agency.

Leaders of the Senate's Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees have asked the State Department and the security agency for more information about the circumstances of each request, as part of an effort to determine whether Mr. Bolton used his authority properly.

A government official familiar with the discussions said Thursday that the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, was "in discussions" with Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who is chairman of the Intelligence Committee, "to determine the best way to meet the committee's needs."

Ms. Rice and the White House have vigorously defended Mr. Bolton's nomination against criticisms focused on his treatment of subordinates and his conduct in disputes over policy and intelligence matters. On Thursday, Mr. Bolton's office made available a letter from another defender, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain, a longtime friend of the nominee.

"A capacity for straight talking rather than peddling half-truths is a strength and not a disadvantage in diplomacy," she wrote. "Particularly in the case of a great power like America, it is essential that people know where you stand and assume that you mean what you say."

1 comment:

Vyan said...

Voinovich Slams Bolton but OKs Senate Vote

WASHINGTON - In a tense atmosphere, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated John Bolton's fitness to be
United Nations ambassador on Thursday. A critical Republican senator, George Voinovich of Ohio, agreed to let the nomination go to the full Senate but he called the diplomat "arrogant" and "bullying."

"This administration can do better than that," Voinovich said in the first big battle of
President Bush's second term

Voinovich said he could not vote for the nomination, but would agree to send it to the floor without a recommendation of approval or disapproval.

"We owe it to the president to give Mr. Bolton an up-or-down vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate," Voinovich said.

Despite Voinovich's sharp criticism of Bolton, who now serves as the top arms-control diplomat at the State Department, the White House was clearly relieved that the Ohio senator had agreed to let the full Senate decide.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the White House is confident Bolton will be confirmed by the full Senate.

Voinovich called Bolton "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be."

He said Bolton would be fired if he was in the private sector.

"That being said, Mr. Chairman, I am not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective of the U.S. position in the world community on the rest of my colleagues," he added.

Voinovich later told reporters he planned to vote against Bolton in the full Senate. Will Bolton win eventual confirmation? "I have every faith in my colleagues. No one really is excited about him. We'll see what happens," he said.

Republicans hold an 10-8 edge on the panel. All eight Democrats have said they would vote against Bolton. Thus, a single "no" GOP vote would deadlock the panel and keep the nomination from going to the floor.

"After hours of deliberation, telephone calls, personal conversations, reading hundreds of pages of transcripts, and asking for guidance from Above, I have come to the determination that the United States can do better than John Bolton," Voinovich said

Voinovich had been the only holdout of four GOP committee members who expressed misgivings about the Bolton nomination.

He said he hoped the full Senate, where Republicans hold a 55-45 majority, would reject the nomination.

"What message are we sending to the world community?" Voinovich asked.

The Republican chairman of the panel, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, defended the nomination in opening remarks, while conceding that "Secretary Bolton's actions were not always exemplary."

Bolton misjudged the actions of subordinates and sometimes clashed with superiors in his current job as the State Department's arms control chief, Lugar said.

But weeks of intense Senate inquiry turned up no evidence that Bolton did anything that would disqualify him as President Bush's choice for the United Nations job, Lugar said.

"His blunt style alienated some colleagues. But there is no evidence that he has broken laws or engaged in serious ethical misconduct," Lugar said.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the committee, portrayed Bolton as the wrong choice for the post and opposed sending the nomination to the floor — even without a recommendation of approval.

"I think we have undermined our authority and shirked our constitutional responsibility," Biden said.

"We have already lost a lot of credibility at home and abroad after the fiasco over the intelligence on
Iraq, and Mr. Bolton is not the man to help us to rebuild it," Biden added. Later, Biden told reporters he did not know if Bolton's vote could be stopped in the full Senate. "Would I have liked it better to have a 'no' vote? Yes," he said.

An energetic diplomat who pioneered a program to curb the spread of dangerous weapons technology, Bolton has strong ties to political conservatives inside and outside the administration and shares their skepticism about some international treaties.

The spirited debate over the last month, however, has focused mostly on allegations that he berated several U.S. officials, especially intelligence analysts who did not agree with his assessments of Cuba and Syria's military strength.

The White House made a determined fight for the embattled nominee.

Bush, trying to turn the personality issue to Bolton's favor, has called Bolton "a blunt guy" who "can get the job done at the United Nations" and "who isn't afraid to speak his mind in the post of the ambassador to the U.N."

A 56-year-old lawyer, Bolton was senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute before he became Bush's undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs four years ago.