Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday defended the controversial nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has postponed action on Mr. Bolton amid Democratic criticism of his management style and performance as State Department arms control chief.
Committee hearings on the nomination have been marked by critical testimony about alleged bullying of subordinates by Mr. Bolton, and his outspoken past criticism of the United Nations.
But defending the nominee at a press appearance Wednesday, Secretary Rice said Mr. Bolton has been a good manager and leader as Under-Secretary of State for arms control, and that the image of him that has emerged from the hearings does not square with reality:
“Well, it's certainly not the John Bolton that I know or a lot of other people know. John Bolton has been a very effective manager, diplomat,” she said. “He has had numerous roles in the U.S. government and numerous roles in the private sector. I expect that John is going to be a strong advocate for the United States and our interests at the United Nations. He will be someone who is very good for this time when indeed we do need reform in the United Nations as the United Nations itself has recognized.”
At hearings Tuesday, the retired former chief of the State Department's intelligence bureau, Carl Ford, cast Mr. Bolton as a bully who misused authority and intimidated intelligence analysts who challenged his views.
Democratic Senators maintain that Mr. Bolton's outspoken criticism of the United Nations system makes him a poor choice for the key ambassadorship.
The nominee, a prominent conservative, has been defended by most of the Foreign Relations Committee's majority Republicans.
But with Democrats pushing for additional hearings, Chairman Richard Lugar deferred a vote on the nomination that had been expected Thursday until early next week.
The Washington Post said Wednesday the Senate panel has interviewed several current and former intelligence officials about charges Mr. Bolton tried to pressure analysts to change their findings in support of his policy goals.
At her press event with Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, Secretary Rice said the State Department, and she personally, encourage a free exchange of ideas.
“Of course we welcome, and I welcome, dissent and debate,” she added. “I welcome it privately. The United States government is of course a single entity and when decisions are made, I fully expect that people will support those decisions, because there is only one President of the United States and that's President Bush. The American people elected him to direct the course of the country. But prior to decision, and when we're trying to come to a conclusion and trying to come to policy, I think that debate is enormously important.”
Democrats pin their hopes on blocking the Bolton nomination on Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is said by aides to still be undecided though inclined to support Mr. Bolton.
If Senator Chafee voted with all the Democrats against Mr. Bolton, the committee would be tied 9-9 and unable to send the nomination to the full Senate.