President Bush today named John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, as his nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Danforth, 67, an Episcopal minister who has served since September 2001 as the president's special envoy for peace in Sudan, would succeed John D. Negroponte, a career diplomat who has been tapped to become U.S. ambassador to Iraq once political power is transferred to a new Iraqi interim government at the end of the month.
The nomination of Danforth is subject to confirmation by the Senate. As a former senator himself, and with a reputation as a political moderate, he is expected to obtain approval without difficulty.
An aide to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the nomination would be taken up as quickly as possible.
Danforth "hasn't had any great experience in diplomacy, but knowing how to work the crowd in the U.S. Senate teaches you how to work the crowd anywhere," said his close friend Robert Oakley, a veteran former ambassador and counterterrorism coordinator. "He doesn't know much about the U.N., but he's a quick study and has a good staff. And he is looking forward to the challenge."
Pauline Baker, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer who now heads the Fund for Peace, called the choice of Danforth "a good appointment" that has bipartisan support in the Senate.
"He has a broad view of what needs to be done at the U.N.," she said. Although Danforth does not have the foreign service experience of other recent U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, "I'm not sure that is critical," Baker said. "His manner and style and personality are well suited for the job."
Danforth, an attorney with the firm Bryan Cave LLP in St. Louis, Mo., served in the Senate for 18 years before retiring in 1995. While in the Senate, he helped win confirmation for Clarence Thomas, a former Danforth staff aide whose nomination to the Supreme Court by former president George H.W. Bush became mired in controversy.
Before his election to the Senate, Danforth, a wealthy heir to the Ralston Purina fortune, served as attorney general of Missouri.
The Yale University graduate with degrees in law and divinity was reportedly considered as a vice presidential candidate by both President Bush, in 2000, and by his father, in 1988.
After leaving the Senate, Danforth was appointed by former attorney general Janet Reno in 1999 to head an investigation into the FBI's role in the deaths of Branch Davidian sect members in a 1993 confrontation in Waco, Texas.
He was appointed as President Bush's "envoy for peace in Sudan" on Sept. 6, 2001, and made two trips to the war-torn African country. His subsequent report recommended that the United States pursue peace in Sudan through an ongoing regional initiative led by Kenya, rather than launching its own peace initiative. But he said the United States should continue to make humanitarian assistance to Sudan a high foreign policy priority.