Why I'll Vote for Bolton

By George V. Voinovich
Thursday, July 20, 2006

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have had the rare opportunity to witness firsthand how the diplomatic process works and, in some cases, how it fails. Recently, despite our nation's best efforts, the world -- and particularly the Middle East -- has become a more dangerous and volatile place.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, and our nation's initial response in Afghanistan, the global war on terrorism has taken many twists and turns.

First, Iraq became the primary focus of our troops and our public attention. Then, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea reached critical mass, followed by the quickly changing and deteriorating situation with Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Meanwhile, the administration nominated John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

At the time, I opposed Bolton's nomination because I truly believed he was not the right person to represent America in the United Nations. And it's in the nomination process that we have the opportunity to find someone who is not just adequate but right for the job.

After countless conversations and hours of research into his professional record, I came to the conclusion that the country could do better, and I announced that I would not support the Bolton nomination.

When Bolton was given a recess appointment to the U.N. post by President Bush in August 2005, I voiced my opposition but told him that I would work tirelessly to help him reform the United Nations. I also told him that his success in his new role would have an impact on our country, the world and the future of the United Nations.

My original concerns about Bolton involved his interpersonal skills. Also of concern was his reputation for straying off message and a tendency to "go it alone" instead of working to build consensus with his colleagues. I have met and spoken regularly with him since his appointment, discussing my hope that the United States would indeed build such a consensus at the United Nations and work with our allies.

My observations are that while Bolton is not perfect, he has demonstrated his ability, especially in recent months, to work with others and follow the president's lead by working multilaterally. In recent weeks I have watched him react to the challenges involving North Korea, Iran and now the Middle East, speaking on behalf of the United States.

I believe Bolton has been tempered and focused on speaking for the administration. He has referred regularly to "my instructions" from Washington, while also displaying his own clear and strong grasp of the issues and the way forward within the Security Council. He has stood many times side by side with his colleagues from Japan, Britain, Canada and other countries, showing a commitment to cooperation within the United Nations.

The deteriorating situation in the Middle East cannot be ignored. The terrorist organization Hezbollah has all but formally declared war on Israel, taking Israeli prisoners and launching more than 1,000 rockets into Israel over the past week.

The United States, along with the rest of the free world, must confront Iran and North Korea and defend Israel and its democracy while working to bring stability to the entire Middle East and Darfur.

Ambassador Bolton's appointment expires this fall when the Senate officially recesses. Should the president choose to renominate him, I cannot imagine a worse message to send to the terrorists -- and to other nations deciding whether to engage in this effort -- than to drag out a possible renomination process or even replace the person our president has entrusted to lead our nation at the United Nations at a time when we are working on these historic objectives.

For me or my colleagues in the Senate to now question a possible renomination would jeopardize our influence in the United Nations and encourage those who oppose the United States to make Bolton the issue, thereby undermining our policies and agenda.

Should the president send his renomination to the Senate, I will vote to confirm him, and I call on my Democratic colleagues to keep in mind the current situation in the Middle East and the rest of the world should the Senate have an opportunity to vote. I do not believe the United States, at this dangerous time, can afford to have a U.N. ambassador who does not have Congress's full support.

For the good of our country, the United Nations and the free world, we must end any ambiguity about whether John Bolton speaks for the United States so that he can work to support our interests at the United Nations during this critical time.

The writer is a Republican senator from Ohio.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company