Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - John Bolton Nomination

Posted on April 28, 2005

I am here to talk about President Bush's nominee to be our next permanent representative to the United Nations, John Bolton. I am privileged to be a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. A few weeks ago at Mr. Bolton's first day of his hearing, I heard what I expected to hear. In fact, I was unusually impressed by what I heard. I listened to a man who has been confirmed four times by the Senate, who in the last 4 years has been Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Assistant Secretary for International Organizations under the first President Bush, under whom I served, a person who graduated summa cum laude from Yale, received his JD from Yale, a person who helped repeal resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism. I listened very carefully. And while we have had a number of distinguished U.N. ambassadors, I rarely have seen anyone who had such a good grasp of diplomacy, of the United Nations, its resolutions, and its history. And during a period of about 7 hours, he handled himself well, and there were tough questions asked. I was impressed with the fact that he had been endorsed by five former Secretaries of State and by more than 50 former ambassadors. I was with one of those former ambassadors over the weekend, the former majority leader of this body, Howard Baker, with whom I and other members had lunch Sunday. He remarked about how he had dealt with Secretary Bolton over the last 4 years in Tokyo. He liked him. He was impressed with him. He said he spoke frankly, that he would be a good ambassador. The second day of hearings was a little different. I was surprised and disappointed by what I heard. There was a man named Carl Ford, who was well respected by members of the committee, who presented evidence that John Bolton had "chewed out," to use colloquial words, intelligence analysts in the State Department. Mr. Ford, to his credit, didn't like that because those persons were down the line. Mr. Ford was a pretty good witness because he didn't overstate his case. He acknowledged that it wasn't unusual for policy people and intelligence analysts to argue, for policy people to hope for intelligence that supported their positions. He just didn't like the fact that in this case he had heard about - he wasn't there, he had heard about - that Mr. Bolton in effect chewed out one of Mr. Ford's employees, and Mr. Ford didn't like it. He told Mr. Bolton so, and they exchanged words. That is what he said. There have been some other things said about Mr. Bolton. I have had the privilege of being confirmed by the Senate and going through a hearing. I am surprised by the number of things they can find to say about you when you go through a thing like that. I see the Senator from Massachusetts over there. He was chairman of the committee when I went through the nomination process, and the Democrats were in the majority at that time. So it is a good airing of about anything you can do and anything people can say about you. It serves a purpose. There were some other things said. It was suggested that Mr. Bolton was misusing intelligence, compromising intelligence. But Mr. Ford himself said: "In this particular case" - the one he was led there to complain about - "there wasn't politicization [of the intelligence]." So that wasn't the case. A little later, someone called up to say that Mr. Bolton had chased a USAID contractor around a Moscow hotel to stop her from damaging his client. This was when he was in the private sector. But then others, including the employer of that complaining person, disputed the complainer's account, and others did as well. So it boils down to the fact that the credible charge of Mr. Ford was that Mr. Bolton was rude to staff members below him in the bureaucracy. I imagine Mr. Bolton is embarrassed by those charges. I didn't like to hear them. And perhaps he deserves to be embarrassed by the charges and perhaps he has learned a lesson. But what I heard doesn't change my vote, even though I hope it might change some of Mr. Bolton's ways of dealing with people with whom he works. How significant is this charge that he was rude to people in the bureaucracy? As has been mentioned by others, if that were the standard for remaining in the Senate, we would have a hard time getting a quorum. There are regularly occasions when busy Senators, eager to make their own point, are rude to their staff and even shout at one another. In fact, the shouting was so loud in the Foreign Relations Committee room by some of the Senators that I could barely hear the charges about Mr. Bolton. That is not attractive, and I don't endorse it. It even caused me to think back about times that I may have become angry or impatient or startled in dealing with a staff member or another person, and made me redouble my efforts to make sure I swallow my pride and think about what I say and not do that anymore. It is not good business. As I heard Senator Voinovich, who has a long reputation of caring for civil servants and caring about those things, my guess is that was on his mind as well. How significant is this? Here is what former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger had to say about it Sunday in the Washington Post. This deserves special attention. Larry Eagleburger was Secretary of State for the first President Bush, but in a way he was more than that. He had 27 years in the Foreign Service. We hear about 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 Eagleburger is a Foreign Service officer's Secretary of State. He had and has enormous respect from all those men and women who put their lives on the line around the world and in the United States in support of our diplomacy and foreign policy. Here is what he said: "As to the charge that Bolton has been tough on subordinates, I can say only that 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 where I am. I think the benefit of hearing Mr. Ford's testimony might be a little bit of a lesson to Mr. Bolton and a reminder to the rest of us of how unattractive it is to shout at an associate or unnecessarily dress down a staff member. I agree with Secretary Eagleburger. 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 sit on the Human Rights Commission. United Nations peacekeepers in Africa have been found to rape and pillage. Just today, the United Nations appointed Zimbabwe to the Human Rights Commission. Now the United Nations has many important roles in the world. I am glad we have it. I want it to work, but I believe the President is right in his thinking, that we need to take action to help the U.N. reform itself, and that a frank-talking, experienced diplomat named John Bolton is an excellent candidate for that commission. I intend to vote for him in committee and on the floor. It is my hope that when we come back after the recess, we will have the long hearing as we usually do, and all the Senators will have a chance to say what they have to say - hopefully without shouting at one another - and that we will report it to the floor and the Senate will approve Mr. Bolton's nomination and give him a chance to go to work in reforming the U.N.