Background: John Bolton's Nomination to the U.N. The Senate considers the controversial nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Read what supporters and detractors have said about the nominee.

Background: John Bolton's Nomination to the U.N.

John Bolton during an April confirmation hearing. Uuri Gripas/Reuters/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption
Uuri Gripas/Reuters/Corbis

Related NPR Stories

John Bolton on the U.N.:

John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, is President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations. In the latest setback to his confirmation, Democrats on May 26 forced a delay in a Senate vote on Bolton's nomination after nearly two days of floor debate. Supporters of the nomination failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to stop debate.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain urged the Senate to proceed with a vote on Bolton's nomination. "Let's go ahead and let him get to work rather than wait a week or 10 days or more," McCain said. "We've been at this for weeks. Let's move on to other things."

But Democrats say they won't act until the Bush administration provides additional documents on Bolton's background. They include the secret transcripts of 10 intelligence intercepts Bolton had requested from the National Security Agency, and documents that would show whether Bolton sought to exaggerate intelligence on Syria's weapons programs.

Action on Bolton now is note expected before June 7, when the Senate returns from a Memorial Day recess.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent Bolton's nomination to the full Senate on May 12, but, in an unusual move, refused to endorse him for the job. The panel looked into allegations concerning Bolton's past anti-U.N. statements, his alleged intimidation of subordinates at the State Department and his attempts to ignore or suppress intelligence information with which he disagreed.

The Senate began a heated debate Wednesday in which Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio reiterated his reservations about Bolton.

"I believe we can do better," Voinovich said. "The overwhelming opinion of the colleagues I talked to about John Bolton is that he is not an ideal nominee, that they're less enthusiastic about him, and many were surprised at the decision. Many of my colleagues have said that the only reason they're going to vote for him is because he's the president's nominee."

Defending Bolton was Republican Richard Lugar, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar acknowledged that some sharp accusations have been leveled against Bolton. But he said they've all been thoroughly investigated by his committee.

"The end result is that many of the accusations have proven to be groundless or at worst overstated…," Lugar said. "There's no doubt that Secretary Bolton has been blunt and combative in defense of his perspectives. Indeed, this is one of the qualities that President Bush and Secretary Rice have cited as a reason for their selection of this nominee."

Bolton has in the past stated that there is no such thing as the U.N. He also declared that the United States, in accordance with its national interest, is the one that decided how the U.N. works.

One of the main allegations the committee investigated is whether Bolton tried to get two intelligence analysts fired because they disagreed with him about the possibility that Cuba had the potential to develop chemical and biological weapons. Witnesses before the committee testified that such was the case with Christian Westermann, an intelligence analyst with the State Department. Westermann had an argument with Bolton in 2002, when Bolton was preparing for a speech in which he alleged Cuba had a biological weapons program.

Witnesses said Bolton jeopardized the six-party talks on North Korea by giving an inflammatory speech, in which he denounced North Korea's Kim Jong Il. In his testimony, Bolton said that the speech was cleared and that the U.S. ambassador to South Korea thanked him for it. But that former ambassador, Thomas Hubbard, has denied this before the senators.

The committee also received a letter from Melody Townsel, who claims she had a clash with Bolton while working in private enterprise on a development project in Kyrgyzstan. She wrote the committee that he chased her down the hall of a Russian hotel, throwing things at her.

The committee also looked into why Bolton asked the National Security Agency to identify Americans whose telephone conversations had been intercepted, when his field is arms control policy.

The committee, which has 10 Republicans and eight Democrats, was supposed to vote on April 19, but the Democrats resisted a vote, saying they had not received enough information. Voinovich also asked for an extension, and the vote was delayed until May 12.

Statements in Support of Bolton's Nomination:

President Bush: "John Bolton's a blunt guy. Sometimes people say I'm a little too blunt. John Bolton can get the job done at the United Nations."

"John's distinguished career and service to our nation demonstrates that he is the right man at the right time for this important assignment. I urge the Senate to put aside politics and confirm John Bolton to the United Nations."

Vice President Dick Cheney: "I'm an enthusiastic backer of John. I've known him for many years, both personally and in a professional capacity. I think he's done a superb job throughout a distinguished career in public service, and I think he'd make a great ambassador to the UN."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "The president and I have asked John to do this work because he knows how to get things done. He is a tough-minded diplomat. He has a strong record of success, and he has a proven track record of effective multilateralism."

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick: "I mean, John Bolton, you know, should be selected on the basis of his record. He's been a strong official for the United States; people have seen that in action. You know, he's a tough guy, but the U.N. needs a tough guy. I mean, look at the problems we've had with the oil-for-food scandals and some of the other issues. But I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that John will follow the secretary's direction and mine and others along the way, if that's the question. And he'll be tough, but sometimes you have to be tough. But he also knows how to be effective."

Senator John McCain (R-AZ): "If a temper and unorthodox management style were disqualifiers from government service, I would bet that a large number of people in Washington would be out of a job."

Todd Domke, a Republican strategist: "It matters less what you think about John Bolton than what you think about the United Nations. Since the Republican base feels the United Nations is so scandal-plagued, hypocritical, anti-American, then they want somebody who can be blunt, as Bush put it, sometimes angry and sometimes saying things to upset them, to try to get them to change. And so it really doesn't hurt the White House to back him all the way."

Frank Gaffney, a Reagan-era Defense Department official, who wrote a letter endorsing Bolton:"The place is in desperate need of overhaul -- I would argue even regime change -- in order to effect the kinds of course corrections that might -- and I emphasize the word 'might' -- bring it closer to its founding principles. I think John Bolton understands that."

Frank Gaffney Jr., president of the Center for Security Policy and former assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during the Reagan administration: "John Bolton is a guy who is a seasoned serious diplomat, a man who both understands American policy and understands how useful the United Nations can be if it is adhering to its fundamental founding principles... "

Adam Ereli, a spokesman for the State Department: "The United States has long been a proponent of U.N. reform. We're committed to building a more effective and efficient U.N. That's really one reason why President Bush selected Undersecretary John Bolton to be our representative there."

Statements In Opposition to Bolton:

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT): [Regarding allegations that Bolton tried to get two intelligence analysts who disagreed with him fired] "If that is true, then I don't think you have a right to serve in a high post. I think it would be unfortunate to set the example in this day and age, when we're trying to get the best intelligence we can, you try to remove some of it. Whether or not you're successful or not is not the issue, trying to rob a bank and failing to do so is a crime, in my view. Trying to remove someone as an analyst from their job because you disagree with what they're saying, I think is dreadfully wrong." (committee)

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE): "I'm surprised that the nominee wants the job that he's been nominated for given the many negative things he had to say about the U.N., international institutions, international law."

"We need a strong voice in New York who knows the U.N. and who can advance our reform agenda. But we don't need a voice which people may not be inclined to listen to. And I fear that knowing your reputation, and your reputation known well at the U.N., people will be inclined to tune you out. Some have said that sending you to New York would be like sending Nixon to China. I'm concerned it'll be more like sending a bull into a china shop."

Carl Ford, former assistant to the Secretary of State: "I think that any time a senior official pulls out someone from another organization, five or six levels below, and reams them a new one, that just doesn't happen. And if it does, somebody ought to say that's not acceptable. That's simply not good government. It's not excellence in government. It's a serial abuser."

"Unfortunately, in my judgment, my opinion, he's a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy… But the fact is that he stands out, that he's got a bigger kick by kicking people further down the bureaucracy he's kicking. And he stands out."

"I've never seen anybody quite like Bolton, doesn't even come close. I don't have a second and third or fourth in terms of the way that he abuses his power and authority with little people…There are a lot of screamers that work in government, but you don't pull somebody so low down in the bureaucracy that they're completely defenseless. It's an 800-pound gorilla devouring a banana. The analyst was required simply to stand there and take it."

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH):"I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton. I think one's interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellow man -- it's a very important ingredient in anyone that works for me.I call it the kitchen test. Do we feel comfortable about the kitchen test? "[The "kitchen test" refers to whether one would want to have Bolton hang out in one's kitchen.]

Jack Pritchard, a former envoy to North Korea: "[Between Powell and Bolton, there was] a relationship in which I did not see any degree of trust in Mr. Bolton. On this issue, I saw absolutely no indication that his advice was being sought. I saw every indication that Mr. Bolton was being excluded from consideration of key issues."

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE): "I will vote for moving Bolton out, but I would also say that doesn't mean that I will support his nomination on the floor. I think these charges are serious enough to demand they cry out for further examination. "

Harvard Professor Graham Allison, a non-proliferation expert who's been involved in advising the U.N. on reform: "Whatever everyone else says about Bolton, one of the words never applied to him that ever I've heard is 'diplomatic.' In the arenas that he operated in as undersecretary of state, he managed to be very polarizing and was generally not very successful at building coalitions and consensus."

Retired Ambassador Jonathan Dean, the author of the anti-Bolton letter; he worked on arms-control issues in the Carter administration: "Over the past 30 years, John Bolton has advertised himself as an unadulterated nationalist and opponent of multilateralism. He's not a healthy skeptic about the United Nations, but widely known as a committed, destructive opponent and ideological lone ranger."

Robert Hutchings, a former chairman to the National Intelligence Council: "Let's say that he took isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted. It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest-possible case."

Princeton Lyman, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria: [Mr. Lyman, along with 58 other former diplomats, recently signed a letter to the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging the Senate to reject Bolton's nomination] "John was also very instrumental in having the U.S. withdraw from strengthening the biological weapons convention, the idea being that the U.S. doesn't need to have these multilateral instruments. I think that's fundamentally against the interests of the United States."

Compiled from NPR reports and transcripts of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings.