Top Senate Democrats on Sunday derided President Bush’s embattled nominee for U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, as “damaged goods” and warned that his expected appointment without Senate confirmation cast doubt on U.S. credibility.
Republican senators countered that Bolton, a favorite of conservatives known for his blunt and sometimes abrasive style, was the right choice to demand U.N. reforms.
Bush is expected to bypass the Senate and give Bolton a “recess appointment” as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as early as Monday. Asked about the timing of a Bolton announcement, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told reporters: “Stay tuned.”
Bolton would be able to serve until January 2007, when a new Congress is sworn in.
“He’s damaged goods. This is a person who lacks credibility,” Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News Sunday.
“This would be the first U.N. ambassador since 1948 we’ve ever sent there under a recess appointment. That’s not what you want to send up, a person that doesn’t have the confidence of the Congress,” Dodd added.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, told CNN’s “Late Edition” that a recess appointment would “send him (Bolton) there with a cloud over his head.”
But Lieberman added, “He’ll have the obvious authority of the president of the United States, and I think we’ve got to hope he does the best job he can.” Lieberman had been one Democrats the White House has been trying to enlist to vote for Bolton.
Had the administration provided Democrats with the documents they sought, “my guess is John Bolton would have been confirmed,” Lieberman told CNN.
A member of the Senate Republican leadership, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, defended Bolton as “exactly what the U.N. needs at this point.”
“We’ve finally got somebody who will go up there and challenge the establishment up there at the U.N., bring about the kind of reform that is needed,” he said on Fox.
“It would have been better had he been confirmed,” Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl told CNN. “But under the circumstances, everybody at the U.N. will know that he’s the president’s man.”
A vote on the nomination of the outspoken conservative has been held up for months over accusations he tried to manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence analysts to support his hawkish views in his post as the top U.S. diplomat for arms control.
Officials said Bush intended to proceed with a recess appointment despite the risk of angering Democrats and some Republicans at a time when the White House is pressing senators to support his nominee for the Supreme Court, John Roberts. His confirmation hearings begin on Sept. 6.
“John Bolton is a person who, in his personal relationship with government employees, has been abominable, mean, unreasonable and bizarre,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said.
“His not producing the papers we have requested only underscores the importance of why we need those papers. There must be something he’s trying to hide,” Reid told BuzzFlash.com, a news and commentary Web site.
Thirty-five Senate Democrats and one independent sent Bush a letter on Friday urging him to find a different U.N. envoy.
New questions about Bolton surfaced last week when the State Department reversed itself and acknowledged that Bolton had given Congress inaccurate information when he wrote that he had not been questioned or provided information to jury or government investigations in the past five years.
At first, the State Department had insisted Bolton’s answer was truthful. But it later acknowledged that Bolton had failed to tell lawmakers that he had been interviewed as part of a State Department-CIA joint investigation on intelligence lapses that led to the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger.