Bush Sends Bolton Directly to U.N. Post

President Bush installs John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, avoiding further struggles with Congress over the disputed nomination. Bolton is now entitled to serve until the next session of Congress begins in January 2007.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. Alex Chadwick is on vacation. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, the deadline looms for Iraq to come up with a new constitution. But first, in Washington, President Bush this morning appointed John Bolton as the US ambassador to the United Nations. At a brief ceremony at the White House, the president had this to say.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about UN reform.

BRAND: After months of confrontation with the Senate, the president appointed Bolton as soon as Congress began its August break. That means Bolton will begin his new job immediately, but as a recess appointee, he will be able to hold the job for only a year and a half. Bolton made a brief statement at the White House this morning.

Ambassador JOHN BOLTON (United Nations): We seek a stronger, more effective organization, true to the ideals of its founders and agile enough to act in the 21st century. It will be a distinct privilege to be an advocate for America's values and interests at the UN.

BRAND: And with us to talk about the Bolton nomination is NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

And, Don, well, the president wasted no time taking advantage of this recess, did he?

DON GONYEA reporting:

Right. And there was not a lot of fanfare in the announcement today. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes. It was in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing. As you said, the president's remarks were brief; Mr. Bolton's remarks were brief. He called himself `humbled,' which I can tell you is not a term that people generally use to describe him. There were no questions taken. They were out of the room.

BRAND: Well, the controversy still lingers. Yesterday, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut--he's a Democrat--said Bolton should be withdrawn because he was damaged goods. What did he mean by that?

GONYEA: This nomination has been controversial right from the beginning. And Democrats called him the wrong man for the job. Early on, they pointed to his own--Bolton's own withering critiques of the United Nations over the years. They asked: `How can such a critic of the UN go up there and be taken as credible?' There were also accusations that he manipulated intelligence to fit his own views at the State Department and that, in the process, he bullied subordinates at the State Department. There were fights over documents that the White House refused to release. At one point, a very dramatic moment in the hearing process, Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich broke with the White House and said based on what he'd heard, he couldn't support this nomination.

BRAND: But the nomination went to the floor anyway. There were several votes, I understand.

GONYEA: Right. The votes were, though, on cloture, which failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required in order to cut off the debate. There was never an up-or-down vote on Bolton himself. That's what the White House had been pushing for; that's what it never got. The president insisted an up-or-down vote would have meant victory for Bolton, but again, it never happened.

BRAND: And just last week, we learned that Bolton did not answer an important question in his written responses to the committee and that had to do with WMD intelligence and an investigation at the State Department.

GONYEA: Right. It came up at the last moment. He was asked if he'd been interviewed as part of an investigation and said he had not. Then it came out that he had. The investigation was into claims of Iraq trying to uranium from Niger. It's the same basic topic as that separate CIA leak investigation involving the special prosecutor. Again, Bolton was not questioned as it relates to that but on a similar topic and said he hadn't been questioned when he had.

BRAND: All right. NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea, thank you.

GONYEA: All right. Thank you.

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