Lincoln Chafee has hardened his position in support of John Bolton — and he will have to consider the consequences.
As reported in the Providence Journal today:
While the U.N. ambassadorship may be a high-profile position, the person who occupies the post does not forge U.S. foreign policy, Chafee said. “Ultimately, policy is going to be made at the White House and the State Department,” Chafee said in a telephone interview.
Chafee said he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over Bolton’s nomination and Rice assured him that Bolton would be representing administration policy, not deciding it.
“Doctor Rice made it very clear that he will be working for her,” Chafee said. “And she made it clear that we [U.S.] are going to be more respectful of these international institutions than maybe we were in the past.”
I want to be very respectful of Senator Chafee and his position but encourage him to take another look.
When he is running for re-election, he is going to have to look his voters in the eye and say:
~ I knew that John Bolton’s staff lied to Congress about his role in promoting the Niger-Uranium Story in the State Department, but voted to confirm him anyway. . .
~ I knew that John Bolton was a loose cannon and threatened the Russians with abrogation of the ABM treaty in the fall of 2001 — without authorization from either the President of the United States or the Secretary of State, but voted to confirm him anyway. . .
~ I knew that John Bolton harrassed State Department and CIA intelligence officers, to the point of having them removed from his office and attempting to have them fired, when they did not agree with his political positions — thus undermining American national security, but voted to confirm him anyway. . .
~ I knew that he used his office to push hard-line assessments of Syria, Libyan, Iranian, Cuban and North Korean weapons capacities that were far beyond what intelligence estimates stated, and used all powers in his control to undermine the Secretary of State and other players in the Bush administration’s national security staff to push his line, often without authority, but voted to confirm him anyway. . .
~ I knew that he ran a non-profit called the National Policy Forum, founded by then-Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, while the organization acted like an appendage of the RNC, took foreign money for political activities, and ultimately had its non-profit status stripped away. I knew this and knew that he would be America’s moral voice on the U.N. Oil-for-Food Scandal, but voted to confirm him anyway. . .
~ I knew that when he was in private legal practice, John Bolton had an inappropriate relationship with Jesse Helms’ Political Action Committee and provided free and low-cost legal services to a PAC, resulting in fines for the PAC, and then when at the Justice Department, viciously pursued the Member of Congress who had raised concerns about the legality of the Bolton-Helms relationship, but voted to confirm him anyway. . .
~ I knew that Mr. Bolton has nearly never brought a balanced and constructive presence to his previous government positions and was very well aware of his tenaciousness, vindictiveness, and his disdain for those who questioned his positions or objectives. but I voted to confirm him as our nation’s leading light and emissary to the United Nations anyway. . .
~ I knew that Mr. Bolton’s largest group of supporters are those who want to evict the United Nations from American territory, and that his chief political patron over the last several decades was the anti-U.N. Senatorial icon Jesse Helms — but yes, I voted to confirm him anyway. . .
~ I knew that John Bolton rejected the very concept of the United Nations, that he believed America was the only power in the world that mattered and thus the Security Council should have just one member — the United States; that he said that the U.N. would do just as well with ten less stories in its Secretariat building; and yet I voted to confirm him.
Mr. Chafee — I like you a lot — but if you stay on this course, you will be asked the question of why in the world you believed Secretary Rice about Bolton behaving well when she herself has started to sandbag herself away from the potential destructiveness of John Bolton?
Do you really think if he engages in outrageous behavior in this role that your voters will settle for “She told me he would behave. . .she really did” — even though you have mountains of material that illustrate that this person has not demonstrated the kind of principled behavior in most of his career that you have been assured he will.
Voting for Bolton is not a throw-away vote. Yes, judges are important — but today, foreign policy activities are of vital national consequence — and Bolton’s appointment harms our vital interests.
Ask Senator Domenici for his views and ask why Senators Domenici and Fitzgerald actually testified in your Foreign Relations Committee in the past about Bolton’s job delinquency.
Ask Colin Powell why he won’t endorse his former underling. Call Richard Armitage, and talk to him off the record.
Condi Rice’s mentor, General Brent Scowcroft, implied in a SAIS lecture on Wednesday that the big question about Bolton is whether he has the ability to follow the instructions given him by his two bosses, the President and the Secretary of State. Obviously, Scowcroft has doubts. Call him. Ask Scowcroft if your confidence is well-placed.
I have no idea whether consulting with Powell, Armitage, and Scowcroft will confirm your views, Senator Chafee, or encourage you to think again — but don’t rest on your laurels with vapid and disengenuous commitments from Secretary Rice when she herself did not want him on her immediate team.
You are allowing the American public and our evolving international order to pay the price for someone being assigned to this key foreign policy position because Condi Rice compromised that Bolton should get the U.N. job instead of the Deputy Secretary position.
It’s cynical — and it harms an important institution that you feel is important to our nation. And yet, you will have to look in the eyes of your voters and say — I empowered this person and harmed American interests. I knew this, and I voted to confirm anyway.
Think about this, read the materials your staff has gathered, and consider that you are just falling into line with those in your party not thinking about essential “fitness” of this person you are about to make our next Ambassador to the U.N.
This clearly will not be your “profile in courage” moment. You demonstrate an enlightened approach in so many policy areas — but so far, on the Senate Foreign Relations Commitee, in a vote on the “single worst diplomatic nominee” that the Bush administration has sent down — you have precommitted yourself to support him.
And you haven’t even heard from the Republican heavyweight in this town, Carl Ford, another Republican appointee, who constantly bumped into Bolton’s irresponsible behavior at the State Department.
You need to rethink this — and know that this vote in Committee will become part of your very high-visibility legacy. There are many people who simply can’t believe that you would use vapid assurances and promises about the behavior of a man who has been a constant “loose cannon” in government.
TWN hopes you rethink your position after hearing Senate testimony, but you have the right to vote for or against. Either way, many players in this battle will record and remember because you knew the evidence, you knew the problems, and you voted to confirm this guy anyway. . .
— Steve Clemons