Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks of Sen. Alexander - John Bolton Nomination

Posted on May 26, 2005

I would like to say a few words about the nomination of John Bolton. The presiding officer is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and we spent a good deal of time listening to testimony on the President's nomination of Mr. Bolton to be permanent representative at the United Nations. On the face of it, he is as well qualified for this position as any person who has ever been nominated for the position. He has a distinguished background, confirmed by this body, I believe, four times, 4 years ago as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. He was Assistant Secretary for International Organizations under the first President Bush, for whom I served. He was assistant to Attorney General of the Department of Justice in the late 1980s. That would be during the Reagan administration. That is a big job. I believe he was the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He was Assistant Administrator for Program Policy Coordination for USAID in 1982 and 1983. He was general counsel for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He has the kind of academic record all of us would like to have: summa cum laude from Yale, a JD from Yale Law School. He comes from an enormously distinguished background. As has often been pointed out on this floor and in committee hearings, he has some solid accomplishments, including leading the American efforts to repeal the resolution at the United Nations which equated Zionism with racism and his work with the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 through the U.N. Security Council. When former U.S. Secretary of State Jim Baker was asked to help the United Nations in its work in Western Sahara, Secretary Baker, who is known for choosing exceptionally talented people to work with him, asked John Bolton to work with him in the Western Sahara in the 1990s pro bono. He designed the current administration's proliferation security initiative under which more than 60 nations now share intelligence and take action to stop the transfer of dangerous weapons. So I was not one bit surprised when Mr. Bolton made an impressive appearance before the Foreign Relations Committee on the first day of our testimony. He demonstrated command of the issues facing the United Nations. He got a lot of intense questioning, as he should from Senators, for such an important position. The questioning lasted for more than 7 hours. He was calm and collected. He answered the questions with great skill and accuracy, I thought, and he focused on the need for reform of the United Nations. He brought with him for that testimony strong support of former Secretaries of State Jim Baker, Larry Eagleberger, Al Hague, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and endorsements from more than 50 former ambassadors. I was with one of those ambassadors a few weeks ago, a man very well known in this body, a former Senator and majority leader, Howard Baker. Howard Baker has just returned from 4 years as Ambassador to Japan. He did a tremendous job there, as everyone expected him to, but he remarked to me privately and said I was free to say it publicly -- in fact, he volunteered the information -- about how he had dealt with Secretary Bolton during those 4 years in Tokyo, these last 4 years, from time to time, and how impressed he was with him and how much he enjoyed working with him. He liked him. He said he spoke frankly, and Senator Baker said he thought John Bolton would make a good ambassador to the United Nations. The second day of hearings that the presiding officer and I were privileged to be a part of was a little different. I was, frankly, disappointed by what I heard. One of the witnesses was called forward, the former Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, and he presented evidence about how John Bolton had, in his words, chewed out intelligence analysts in the State Department. Mr. Ford was mad about that. He didn't like the fact that Mr. Bolton had chewed out people on down the line, and he came to us and told us so. He was a convincing witness. He was believable because he didn't overstate his case and the information he gave us was information I would rather not have known about the next ambassador to the United Nations. I am sure Mr. Bolton was disappointed, perhaps even embarrassed to hear it. But Mr. Ford did not say, in the case that we were talking about, that Mr. Bolton was misusing or compromising intelligence. In fact, Mr. Ford himself said, "In this particular case" -- the one Mr. Ford was led to complain about -- "there wasn't politicization of the intelligence." Mr. Ford was very clear on that point in his testimony to the committee. In other interviews conducted by our Foreign Relations Committee staff since that time, another issue was raised about a disagreement about intelligence. One of Mr. Bolton's subordinates who was on detail from the CIA sent a report to the Deputy Secretary of State for review and was unhappy that another bureau had put a memo on top of that report that said the report was incorrect. That certainly sounds like a lot of inside baseball to people outside of Washington, and it sounds like a simple disagreement to me, a disagreement over intelligence that is quite common, from what even Mr. Ford said. In this case, there is no evidence Mr. Bolton was even aware of the dispute. So, again, no evidence of politicization of intelligence. Rather, it appeared that different staff members were arguing for their own point of view, which should not surprise anyone around here. There have been a variety of other charges and suggestions. Mr. Bolton has had the pleasure that many presidential nominees had. I was once a presidential nominee and went through a confirmation process when the Senate was in the hands of the Democrats. So they made sure that everything about me was pretty well known and explained. They took time to do it. I was as polite and happy as I could be. No one enjoys all of that, but it serves its purpose, and it served its purpose with Mr. Bolton as well. In the end, it is my judgment, after attending the hearings, reading the testimony, conferring with others who have known Mr. Bolton over time that only one charge against John Bolton appears to have any substance. John Bolton has been rude to staff members who are below him in the bureaucracy. As I said, I imagine he is embarrassed by that. I didn't like to hear it. Perhaps he deserves to be embarrassed by those charges and perhaps he has even learned a lesson. But what I heard hasn't changed my vote, even though it might change Mr. Bolton's ways of dealing with people with whom he works. How significant is such a charge that he was rude to people in the bureaucracy? As has been mentioned by many others in this body, if that were the standard for remaining in the Senate, we would all have a hard time getting a quorum. There are regularly occasions when busy Senators eager to make their own point are brusque -- with staff members, even shout at colleagues. In fact, the shouting was so loud in one business meeting of our Foreign Relations Committee by some of the Senators I could barely hear the charges against Mr. Bolton. That is not attractive. I do not endorse it. It has even caused me to think back about times that I may have become angry or brusque or impatient or startled in dealing with a staff member or another person, and I have always regretted it when I have and it has made me redouble my efforts to make sure I swallow my pride more quickly and think about what I say and not do that anymore. It is not good conduct. It is not good business. But just how significant is this? Here is what former Secretary of State Larry Eagleberger had to say about it a couple of weeks ago in the Washington Post. This deserves special attention. Larry Eagleberger was Secretary of State for the first President Bush. But, in a way, he was more than that. Larry Eagleberger had 27 years in the Foreign Service. We hear a lot of times that a football player is a football player's player, or a man is a man's man, or a woman is a woman's woman. Larry Eagleberger is a Foreign Service Officer's Secretary of State. He had and has enormous respect from those men and women who put their lives on the line daily around the world and in the United States in support of our diplomacy, our foreign policy, and our country. Here is what Larry Eagleberger had to say about John Bolton in an op-ed in the Washington Post: "As to the charge that Bolton has been tough on subordinates," Secretary Eagleberger said, "I can say that only in more than a decade of association with him in the State Department I never saw or heard anything to support such a charge, nor do I see anything wrong with challenging intelligence analysts on their findings. They can, as recent history demonstrates, make mistakes. And they must be prepared to defend their findings under intense questioning. If John pushed too hard or dressed down subordinates, he deserves criticism but it hardly merits a vote against confirmation when balanced against his many accomplishments." That is Larry Eagleberger, the Foreign Service officer's Secretary of State. Where Larry Eagleberger comes down is where I come down. I believe the benefit of hearing Mr. Ford's testimony may prove to be a little bit of a lesson to Mr. Bolton, and a reminder to the rest of us, us Senators, of how unattractive it is to shout at an associate or unnecessarily dress down a staff member. I agree with Secretary Eagleberger. John Bolton has a distinguished background and record. He has dedicated himself to improving our country's foreign policy. His action toward subordinates might have been inappropriate. Perhaps he has learned a lesson. But it doesn't cause me to change my vote. I am glad to support him. This is a critical time for the United Nations. Even the Secretary General acknowledges it is in need of reform. Billions of dollars filtered from the U.N. coffers to Saddam Hussein's pockets in the oil-for-food scandal. Top human rights abusers such as Sudan and Zimbabwe sit on the Human Rights Commission. United Nations peacekeepers in Africa have been found to rape and pillage. The United Nations has many important roles in the world. I am glad we have them. I want it to work. The president is right in his thinking that we need to take action to help the United Nations reform itself and that a frank-talking, experienced diplomat named John Bolton is an excellent candidate for that commission. I am pleased to support this nomination. I hope my colleagues will do the same.