Bush Appoints Bolton
As U.N. Ambassador
August 1, 2005 2:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- President Bush sidestepped the Senate and installed embattled nominee John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations on Monday, ending a five-month impasse with Democrats who accused Mr. Bolton of abusing subordinates and twisting intelligence to fit his conservative ideology.
"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform," Mr. Bush said. He said Mr. Bolton had his complete confidence.
The president has the power to fill vacancies without Senate approval while Congress is in recess. Under the Constitution, a recess appointment during the lawmakers' August break would last until a newly elected Congress takes office in January 2007.
In advance of Mr. Bush's announcement, Democrats said Mr. Bolton would start his new job on the wrong foot in a recess appointment.
"He's damaged goods. This is a person who lacks credibility," Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday." Mr. Bush, he said, should think again before using a recess appointment to place Mr. Bolton at the U.N. while the Senate is on its traditional August break.
But Republicans appearing on Sunday's news shows said Mr. Bolton is the man the White House wants and he's the right person to represent the U.S. at the world body.
Mr. Bush made his announcement Monday morning at a news conference. The appointment ends a five-month impasse between the administration and Senate Democrats. The battle grabbed headlines last spring amid accusations that Mr. Bolton abused subordinates and twisted intelligence to shape his conservative ideology, and as White House and GOP leadership efforts to ram the nomination through the Senate fell short.
In recent weeks, it faded into the background as the Senate prepared to begin a nomination battle over John Roberts, the federal appeals judge that Mr. Bush chose to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Supreme Court.
At Mr. Bolton's April confirmation hearing, Democrats raised additional questions about his demeanor and attitude toward lower-level government officials. Those questions came to dominate Mr. Bolton's confirmation battle, growing into numerous allegations that he had abused underlings or tried to browbeat intelligence analysts whose views differed from his own.
Despite lengthy investigations, it was never clear that Mr. Bolton did anything improper. Witnesses told the committee that Mr. Bolton lost his temper, tried to engineer the ouster of at least two intelligence analysts and otherwise threw his weight around. But Democrats were never able to establish that his actions crossed the line to out-and-out harassment or improper intimidation.
Democrats and the White House deadlocked over Mr. Bolton's acknowledged request for names of U.S officials whose communications were secretly picked up by the National Security Agency. Democrats said the material might show that Mr. Bolton conducted a witch hunt for analysts or others who disagreed with him.
The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee received a limited briefing on the contents of the messages Mr. Bolton saw, but weren't told the names. Democrats said that was not good enough, but later offered a compromise. After much back and forth, with the White House claiming Democrats had moved the goal posts, no other senator saw any of the material.
Last week, the administration telegraphed Mr. Bush's intention to put Mr. Bolton on the job. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the vacancy needed to be filled before the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting in mid-September. Former Sen. John Danforth left the post in January.
In the face of objections from most Democrats and at least one Republican, Mr. Bush has steadfastly refused to withdraw Mr. Bolton's nomination -- even after the Foreign Relations Committee sent it to the full Senate without the customary recommendation to approve it.
Though the debate over Mr. Bolton had largely faded from the headlines, critics raised fresh concerns this week when it surfaced that Mr. Bolton had neglected to tell Congress that he had been interviewed in 2003 in a government investigation into faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq. In a letter released Friday, 35 Democratic senators and one independent, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, urged Mr. Bush not to give Mr. Bolton a recess appointment.
"There's just too much unanswered about Bolton, and I think the president would make a truly serious mistake if he makes a recess appointment," Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview.
Framing the Issue: Bolton Appointment
Monday, Aug. 1, 2005
THE NEWS: President Bush skirted congressional opposition, appointing John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations while the Senate was in recess.
THE BATTLE: Bolton's appointment ended a five-month impasse that has embroiled the Bush administration and Senate Democrats since his initial nomination to the job in early March. The White House and many GOP lawmakers have touted Bolton as a blunt-speaking diplomat and an ideal choice to reform the U.N. after a wave of scandals. Democrats, however, have accused him of exaggerating intelligence, abusing subordinates who disagreed with him and inappropriately seeking out names of some U.S. officials, suggesting he may have been conducting a witch hunt for those who crossed him. In May, the Foreign Relations Committee took the rare step of passing the nomination to the full Senate without its endorsement, but it wasn't brought to a full Senate vote before the recess.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Constitution lets a president install one of his appointees during a Senate break without the body's approval. Bolton's appointment will be valid until the next congressional term begins, in 2007. This is Bush's 106th recess appointment; President Clinton made 140 such appointments.