When the U.S. Capitol was evacuated on May 11, I encountered Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.-R.I.), considered one of three Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who was uncertain about the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. Asked how Bolton’s chances of approval in the committee looked, Chafee said, “Good, for now.” When I pressed him further as to whether he would vote for the embattled nominee, Chafee said, “Yes, unless something new comes up.”
As it turned out, Chafee chose not to cause mischief with Bolton’s nomination. But his Republican colleague, Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio), continued to confound observers when he disregarded his President and his party by announcing he would not vote to confirm Bolton but only to send his nomination to the Senate floor without recommendation.
Rather than call for a yes-or-no vote from the committee that would have meant defeat for the embattled nominee, Chairman Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.) asked only for a vote to send Bolton’s nomination to the Senate floor. The motion carried on a party line vote of 10 to 8.
Now, the full Senate will decide the fate of Bolton’s nomination, as Democrats continue to fling flimsy charges that Bolton mistreated subordinates and made mean-spirited comments about the organization in which he hopes to represent the United States.
Prior to the vote, Bolton’s Democratic enemies on the committee rehashed the allegations about his demeanor and suggested he was not qualified to be UN ambassador because he had likened North Korea to Hell and made statements such as “there should be only one permanent member of the UN Security Council—the U.S.”
In a statement that left many observers rolling their eyes, Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D.-Md.) recited the names of every UN ambassador since the position was created and concluded it would be a “disservice” to all of them to confirm Bolton, who, he said, “Doesn’t have diplomatic skills” and has created “unnecessary conflict and confrontation.” (Sarbanes did not mention that Jimmy Carter’s man at the UN, Andrew Young, was forced to resign in 1979 after meeting with a member of the terrorist Palestinian Liberation Organization, which was forbidden by U.S. policy at the time).
Meanwhile, Voinovich, who refused to divulge to reporters his plan until announcing it before the committee, decided to buck the Bush Administration in spite of a strong lobbying effort. Two weeks ago, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan confirmed to me that Vice President Dick Cheney and the President’s congressional liaison team had been in touch with Voinovich, Chafee, and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.)—all thought to be uncertain or wavering on Bolton. Moreover, Human Events learned that on the day before the vote, President Bush himself had telephoned Voinovich urging support for Bolton.
It is rare for the Foreign Relations Committee to report a nomination to the floor “without recommendation.” The last time it happened was in 1983 with President Reagan’s nomination of Kenneth Adelman to be head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The full Senate confirmed Adelman by a vote of 57 to 42.