Will Bolton Stay at the UN?


By: Greg C. Reeson

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton recently said that he believed a vote by the full Senate would confirm him in the position he has filled for nearly a year. The problem, though, is that such a vote likely will never occur.

Bolton, who is a career U.S. diplomat, was first nominated for the U.N. Ambassadorship by President Bush on March 7, 2005. His confirmation vote was blocked in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Democrats opposed to the nomination and by Republican Senator George Voinovich. In response, President Bush used a recess appointment while Congress was not in session to get Bolton in the job while the fight for confirmation continued in the Senate.

Bolton’s recess appointment expires January 6, 2007 and President Bush has once again submitted his name to the Senate for confirmation as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. And, as in 2005, there is much opposition to John Bolton’s nomination, and the swing vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, has already said he will not support the President’s choice.

So what’s the problem with Bolton?

Well, he is seen by many as the wrong person to represent U.S. interests at the United Nations, primarily because of his abrasive approach and personality type. He is a staunch critic of the world body and doesn’t mind voicing that opinion. He is particularly critical of the ineffectiveness of the Security Council and the fraud and corruption that frequently plague the organization. He has been openly harsh in his criticism of the U.N.’s inclusion of known human rights violators on the Human Rights Council and frequently antagonizes the foreign ministers of other nations for their lack of cooperation and for putting economic interests ahead of security interests. In short, it seems he doesn’t play well with others at the U.N. Headquarters in New York.

Personality aside, though, is he qualified to be there?

Despite his antagonistic and uncompromising approach to diplomatic issues, Bolton is known at the U.N. as a tough negotiator with tremendously persuasive ambassadorial skills. He is considered to be an expert on Iran’s nuclear program, and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in February 2006 for his documentation of Iran’s secret nuclear build-up and false reporting to the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has served at the U.N. since early this year, and has been a driving force in the call for reform and transparency. He has won praise from foreign dignitaries, including the Foreign Minister of China, and is generally considered a capable Ambassador.

So why won’t he get confirmed by the Senate? Bolton’s nomination will never go through because he will never receive a full vote. As long as his nomination is bogged down in committee, the rest of the Senate will never get the opportunity to voice their opinion of Bolton through the ballot. Is that fair to Bolton? Is it fair to the President? Is it fair to the Senate?

Of course not, but what’s fair about Washington politics? John Bolton has been nominated by the President. He deserves at least a vote on that nomination from the entire body of the Senate. The President deserves a fair vote on his choice for the position. And, the remaining members of the Senate deserve the opportunity to fulfill their “advice and consent” role for Presidential nominees. Why should a few Senators on one committee possess the power to deny a vote by the entire chamber?

What can the President do? Well, he has a couple of options. He could give Bolton another recess appointment, although this time around his nominee could not be paid for filling the position at the United Nations. He could withdraw Bolton’s nomination and submit a new name to the Senate, but that is unlikely given Bush’s personality, leadership style, and steadfast loyalty to those in his administration. Or, he could create a new post at the State Department (one that does not require confirmation) with duty at the United Nations.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the last option. Bush would get his choice of nominees, the Senate would effectively get bypassed, and Bolton would stay at the U.N. in what could only be called classic Washington power politics at play.

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