The following is Senator Lincoln Chafee’s letter to Condoleezza Rice, implying in the first paragraph that if a vote had been held on September 7th, Bolton would have received a “no” vote from the Senator.
The pdf of the letter is here.
September 7, 2006
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
US Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
I write to you with regard to the nomination of John Bolton to be US Representative to the United Nations. Today, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations was scheduled to have a vote on Mr. Bolton’s nomination. The decision on whether to hold that vote is in the Chairman of the Committee’s hands. Chairman Lugar decided to hold the vote over to a later date, and I support that decision.
It is no secret that I have serious questions about this Administration’s policies in the Middle East. As we tackle enormous problems in the region, most notably with Iran and Iraq, I believe we need to be successful in forging alliances. A critical part of that work is accomplished by our Ambassador to the UN.
One of the key issues with many of our allies is the situation with the Palestinians. I support the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with its neighbor Israel. I believe progress on this front would be beneficial for the Palestinians, and futher America’s, and Israel’s security. The President, and you, frequently have spoken in favor of establishing a Palestinian state. On February 26, 2003, President Bush said “Success in Iraq could also begin a new state for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic state.” On February 22, 2005, the President said “Israel must freeze settlement activity.” And on April 14, 2004, the President wrote to then-Prime Minister Sharon, “The United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state this is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent, so that the Palestinian people can build their own future in accordance with the vision I set forth in June 2002 and with the path set forth in the roadmap.”
Phase one of that Road Map states clearly that Israel will freeze all settlement activity. Yet, just this week, it is reported that 690 homes will be built in the West Bank settlements of Maale Adumim and Betar Illit. While the official US policy hs been against settlement activity, no credible observer could think that the US could not do more to stop these new actions.
While I am a strong supporter of Israel, and believer her security is non-negotiable, we should have a more balanced approach — so that both sides can see that we are an honest broker for peace. I have been a long-time critic of the disparity between the rhetoric and the actions of the Administration on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. However, now I fear that even the rhetoric is going to stop. Is this expansion of settlement activity a signal that holding both sides to their commitments under the Road Map is no longer official US policy?
It is my hope that answers will be forthcoming about our policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Committee can reconvene to debate Ambassador Bolton’s confirmation.
This letter’s contents are completely consistent with the questions and tough encounter between Senator Chafee and Bolton during Bolton’s re-nomination hearing.
TWN saw this clearly and highlighted the fact that Chafee’s concern about US-Middle East policy was undermining his previous support of Bolton.
Besides focusing like an eagle on his every word and move, Chafee gave withering, laser-like glares at two others during that first Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting in July.
The first was his “I’m really irritated at you” body language directed towards Senator Barbara Boxer when she somewhat obnoxiously said that it seemed that among the Senators there, “only Senator Voinovich was changing his vote.” Chafee looked really ticked — and one could easily tell that he was trying to empathically tell her that she should stop trying to presume his vote.
Chafee also seemed to say “enough is enough” in his body language when Senator Norm Coleman asked a gratuitious question of Bolton:
Sen. Norm Coleman:
Ambassador Bolton, Now that you have been up at the UN for a while, gotten inside and seen how it works up close, have you come to think that some of your earlier views of the UN were misplaced, or think that some parts of the institution are better and other parts worse? What do you think now of the UN after being up there? Have your views changed at all?
Ambassador John Bolton:
Nope, not a bit (laughter)
That is the point in the hearing that Senator Voinovich SHOULD HAVE BEEN SQUIRMING in his chair because John Bolton had in four short words repudiated everything positive that Voinovich had written and said about Bolton in the preceding days. Voinovich had said that Bolton had improved, was good on the job, and had convinced Voinovich that he not only respected his work and the United Nations but believed that the kind of diplomatic work he was doing had great value for the nation. None of these perspectives are consistent with Bolton’s view of the UN or of American diplomacy before he showed up his first day.
But the one who moved uncomfortably in his seat, turned a bit red, and just — again — looked ticked was Lincoln Chafee.
The bottom line is that the administration didn’t tend Chafee well and has been giving him treatment not much different from that given Jeffords before his defection. I believe that we need sensible moderate Republicans — and on Middle East policy, it is hard to find people more sensible in the Senate that Senators Chuck Hagel and Lincoln Chafee.
I just need to say here as well that the kind of letter that Chafee sent to Rice exhibits great staff work — and that foreign policy advisor Mark Silverman and legislative director Debra Brayton deserve credit for impressive staffing. Chafee clearly knows the Middle East mess well — and this view is not gratuitously offered but is just obvious from watching the tape of his encounter with Bolton — but he’s got people arming him with quality material to make his case.
It will be interesting to see how Rice responds.
As I reported earlier, the first “deputies meeting” in more than a year will shortly be assembled to discuss the Israel-Palestine problem, and Rice might offer that to Chafee as evidence of movement by the administration and aa a benchmark of seriousness. He should not be too easily convinced that there is anything fundamentally new in the administration’s game plan for Israel — but this could be part of a response to Chafee.
Secondly, several U.S. Senators have separately told me that they have received calls from various Jewish organizations and Israel-affiliated interest groups stating “A Vote Against Bolton is a vote against Israel.”
Senator Schumer himself has helped to propogate this idiocy inside the Democratic Senate caucus, and a number of other Foreign Relations Committee Democrats went to him and urged him “strongly” to stuff it and keep the Bolton prosletyzing to himself — at least until the Committee had done its work.
Two things here. First, Shumer and Senators from both political persuasions should remind AIPAC that REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS HAVE BOTH BEEN VITAL STEWARDS OF THE US-ISRAEL RELATIONSHIP AND OF ISRAEL’S INTERESTS IN THE UN. To conflate John Bolton’s confirmation with the question of Israel’s ultimate interests and of America’s concern for Israel is reckless over-personalization of this matter and could seriously backfire.
Bolton’s renomination effort started when Israel had been attacked and when Israel had the moral highground. Things are blurrier now and did not go well. The enthusiasm for making Bolton the annointed and legitimated spear-carrier to help broker an Israeli-Arab-Persian future has been muted by the fact that politically, tilting only towards Israel at the expense of all other players in the region isn’t constructive diplomacy. For its own sake, Israel must get out of the zero sum game approach in the Middle East to secure its own future and interests — and John Bolton is a total zero sum agitator.
The State Department’s 7th Floor considers the confirmation process still alive — though on life support. Senior Republican and Democratic staffers — and I’ve talked to a lot of them — consider the confirmation dead.
But this recess appointment and confirmation has had many, many twists and turns — and has had a Lazarus like quality from time to time.
So, I’m sticking with my prognosis that this effort is done for all real purposes. Some optics may emerge to make it look like it’s still somewhere in the hopper — but it won’t come up, not unless “something” changes again to compel Lugar to throw his weight once more behind this troubled confirmation — and Lugar is at the point of telling the administration that it has simply failed to do the things that needed to be done to confirm Bolton.
Lugar may have already made such a statement — cryptically — to other Senators on the Committee.
And the problem is not just with Democrats — in fact, the concerns about Bolton have always been more profound with key “national interest” Republicans.
— Steve Clemons