Bolton Resigns as U.N. Ambassador

U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will be leaving his post when his recess appointment ends in the next few weeks. The White House had sought to keep Bolton in the job, but could not rally enough support in Congress to have him confirmed.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

President Bush says he's deeply disappointed that some U.S. senators have blocked a vote on his choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Today the White House announced that John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment ends in the coming weeks. President Bush named Mr. Bolton to the U.N. post in August 2005, but he never did win Senate confirmation.

NPR's Don Gonyea is following the story, joins us now from the White House. Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA: Hi.

INSKEEP: Why would Mr. Bolton leave now?

GONYEA: Recognize that, as you said, Mr. Bolton was never officially confirmed by any members of the U.S. Senate. There was not a vote. He was a recess appointment, which meant he could serve until the current Congress expires which could happen, you know, any day now, certainly within a week. So his job technically expired. He had been reappointed by the president, but what we're seeing now from the White House is a simple recognition of reality: the votes were not there for John Bolton to get an honest-to-God, for-real-confirmation appointment as United Nations ambassador.

Democrats certainly didn't like him. Senator Charles Schumer of New York said that the Bolton re-nomination was dead in the water. But you also had Republicans like the moderate Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island who had also opposed him. So it's simply wasn't going to go anywhere.

INSKEEP: The president's statement here says I'm deeply disappointed that a handful of senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving an up or down vote. Sounds like it was more than a handful.

GONYEA: It was a majority on the Foreign Relations Committee. That's the reality. The White House insists, and they're probably accurate in saying this, that had it gone to the full Senate, he would have had the votes for narrow confirmation. But again, this is how the system works. And what the White House is saying today is that they are very disappointed in the process, even though they know about this process.

And this is just, you know, matter of fact, how it works. But they argue that Bolton was not judged on the merits, was not judged on his performance in the job in the past year, that it was politics that derailed him. They point to what they describe as his successfully building coalitions to work to address the potential nuclear threat posed by Iran and to push North Korea to back away from its nuclear weapons program.

They say Bolton did, quote, “an extraordinary job in these areas.”

INSKEEP: Don, what does it mean that the president then loses John Bolton as an adviser at the United Nations anyway, and it's just been a few weeks since he lost Donald Rumsfeld, or at least announced the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense?

GONYEA: I think we can call both of these things evidence of how the White House is recognizing, albeit very reluctantly, how the earth has shifted from, you know, beneath their feet since the November elections. Say the Republicans had held onto the U.S. Senate. All of the intense lobbying that this White House did in recent weeks since it re-nominated John Bolton to be the ambassador to the U.N., not just a recess appointment, might have resulted in some swayed votes in that Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But when we look at Bolton leaving, when we look at Rumsfeld leaving, these are two big, high-profile players in this administration, and it is a demonstration of how, whether they like it or not, things are going to be different in the last two years.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks for the update.

GONYEA: Always a pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea, speaking this morning after the White House announced that John Bolton will be leaving his job at the United Nations.

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