By Robert Kuttner
June 29, 2005
THE BITTERLY contentious nomination of John Bolton to be UN ambassador comes to a showdown this holiday weekend.
With the Senate having twice refused to break a filibuster over Bolton, President Bush may use his power to make a recess appointment during Congress's Fourth of July break. Bolton would then serve without Senate confirmation until the next Congress ends, in late 2006.
Or Bush could withdraw Bolton's name.
Bolton's views on the UN are hostile. He is known as a short-tempered martinet. He got poor reviews for his last job as undersecretary of state for arms control. For instance, Bolton was a skeptic of a US joint program to keep Russian nuclear fuel from reaching terrorists. The effort was tied up in legal minutiae during Bolton's tenure, but soon after Bolton's departure early in 2005, the logjam was broken and agreement with Russia reached.
The Washington Post reported that our allies so distrust Bolton on the sensitive negotiations over Iran's nuclear program that they made sure to exclude him from high-level meetings in Washington last January.
More ominously, Bolton is suspected of using ultra-secret National Security Agency wiretaps to snoop on rivals in the intelligence and defense community. Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Senator Joe Biden of Delaware demanded to know the names of people on whom Bolton requested wiretapped information. For anything but legitimate national security purposes, this use would violate US law. But the White House has stonewalled this request, intensifying Democrats' opposition.
As the Senate debated Bolton, Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, declared that a recess appointment ''would weaken not only Mr. Bolton but also the United States," but he soon recanted, very likely after some prodding. His first impulse was right. This recess appointment would insult both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, and the institution itself....