(HOST) As the nomination of John Bolton to be the next American Ambassador to the United Nations remains stalemated in a Sen- ate procedural battle, commentator Barrie Dunsmore tells us what may be the real reason behind this controversial appointment.
(DUNSMORE) It was something of a puzzlement as to why the Bush Administration wanted John Bolton to represent this country at the United Nations. Bolton had always been scornful of inter- national bodies in general – and the U. N. in particular. Initially, the conventional wisdom was that the appointment was another sop by the Bush White House to its right-wing political base.
As opposition to the nomination built throughout the spring, it then appeared that Bolton had become a symbol of a power struggle between the President and the Democrats in Congress that the White House was determined to win. While those are still plaus- ible reasons, there is an even more compelling explanation; name- ly, that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wanted Bolton in New York – not in Washington in her Department of State.
Bolton has a reputation as a nasty bureaucratic in-fighter. But his confirmation hearings brought troubling things to light that go far beyond that. In at least two separate incidents, one involving Cuba, another Syria, Bolton wanted intelligence analysts to skew their conclusions to conform to his political ideology. And, when they refused, he tried to have them fired.
Now we learn that, since Bolton’s departure from the State Department, there has actually been important progress on some diplomatic fronts that had been thwarted while he was one of the department’s top level policy-makers. The Washington Post reported on Monday that “a key U. S. program intended to keep Russian nuclear fuel out of terrorists’ hands” was being stymied because of Bolton, but that “…with Bolton no longer on the job,
U. S. negotiators report a breakthrough with the Russians…
clearing the way to eliminate enough plutonium to fuel 8,000 bombs.”
According to that same report, the Bush Administration has also dropped its campaign to oust the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has made common cause with its European Allies in dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat, has re-opened a one-
on-one negotiating channel in New York with the North Koreans, and has initiated a new strategic relationship with India. All of those policy shifts had been opposed by Bolton.
The sources for this story are unnamed U. S. officials, but you have to assume they’re in the State Deparment, where Bolton made a lot of enemies. In any case, these sources told the Post that, when she took over in January, Secretary Rice decided to sideline Bolton and reverse some of his approaches. And by proposing him for the United Nations, she effectively moved him out of the policy making center of her department. This makes the claim that Bolton is being sent to the United Nations because he would be a force for needed reform there nothing more than a cover story for his actual expulsion from real power in Washington.
The President may still decide to make the appointment while Congress is in recess for the Fourth of July holiday. But whatever happens to Bolton now, he is seriously damaged goods.
This is Barrie Dunsmore.
Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.