Democrats Criticize Bolton as Ineffective

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 28, 2006

Senate Democrats unleashed a sharp volley of criticism of President Bush's foreign policy yesterday, arguing that John R. Bolton has done more harm than good as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and does not deserve an extended term. If Bolton's style were less divisive, they said, he might have achieved more reforms at the United Nations and tougher sanctions against Hezbollah and North Korea.

But Republicans defended Bolton and the administration and said it would be unwise to change ambassadors when the Middle East is in crisis and Iran and North Korea are threatening nuclear advances. Democrats said it was unclear whether they would try to filibuster Bolton's nomination this fall, as they successfully did last year.

Bush angered Democrats last August by giving Bolton a "recess appointment" to the U.N. post after the Senate twice failed to muster the 60 votes needed to end debate on his nomination. The appointment will expire by December, and Bush is asking the Senate to confirm Bolton for the rest of his term, saying the outspoken ambassador has proved his effectiveness.

Several Democrats hotly disputed that claim at yesterday's hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee.

"My objection isn't that he's a bully, but that he's been an ineffective bully and can't win the day when it comes, when it really counts," said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who led last year's opposition.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), the panel's top Democrat, said, "At the moment of the greatest need for diplomacy in recent history, we are not particularly effective at it."

Most committee Republicans defended Bolton, including Sen. George V. Voinovich (Ohio), who opposed him last year. "I know that one of the concerns that everyone had was that you might go up there and do your own thing, that you didn't understand how important consensus was," Voinovich told Bolton. "And I think you have been very, very active in working on consensus to get things done at the United Nations."

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) said: "I've watched you work, I've visited with your colleagues. I want you to know you have my unequivocal, unhesitating support."

Committee members differed on Bolton's role in helping shape the U.N. Security Council's demand that North Korea suspend its recent missile tests. "Mr. Bolton publicly assured anyone who would listen that he could get support for a resolution with teeth, with so-called Chapter 7 obligations," Dodd said, referring to sanctions that could include military action. "Turns out, of course, he couldn't."

After China threatened a veto, the Security Council adopted a milder resolution.

Bolton defended the action, saying the resolution "in our judgment is fully binding on North Korea." He added: "It demands -- that's the word the council used, 'demands' -- that North Korea suspend all activity relating to its ballistic missile program."

Biden, turning to the fighting between Israel and the Syrian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, said Bolton did too little to demand enforcement of U.N. Resolution 1559, which calls for disbanding such militias and expanding the Lebanese army's control.

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