AP: President Bush Stunned When He Didn’t Get His Way on John Bolton


This interesting summary, noting the “enormous stakes for the President” in the Bolton Battle, just in from AP:

President Bush, stunned when John R. Bolton’s nomination for United Nations ambassador hit a Republican road bump, is working hard to avoid a political setback at the outset of his second term when senators hold a showdown vote next week.
Since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unexpectedly delayed a vote on Bolton’s nomination last month, the White House has reiterated its support daily, worked to reassure wavering Republicans he’s the right choice and ensured that Senate GOP leaders are on board.
Bush himself delivered his second recent public defense of his nominee on Thursday. At a news conference, he called Bolton “a blunt guy” who “can get the job done at the United Nations” and “who isn’t afraid to speak his mind in the post of the ambassador to the U.N.”
The confirmation battle has enormous stakes for the president, potentially providing him with either a boost or a blow at a critical time. The panel vote on Bolton is set for May 12.
Bush’s poll numbers are sagging. His proposed Social Security overhaul — like much of his agenda — has been met with skepticism in Congress, his nominees for judicial posts are tied up in the Senate and ethics questions surround a prominent member of his party and fellow Texan, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Democrats working to derail Bolton’s confirmation paint the nominee as unfit for the job because of his tough-talking demeanor, hard-line foreign policy stances and past criticism of the United Nations. Allegations of professional misbehavior have trickled out, including claims — some unsubstantiated — that he:
~ Angrily chased Melody Townsel, a Dallas businesswoman, through hallways in a Moscow hotel 10 years ago in a dispute over a government contract.
~ Sought the removal of intelligence analyst Christian P. Westermann when he refused to endorse a speech Bolton was preparing on Cuba’s weapons capability.
~ Threatened to fire several underlings who crossed him.
~ Asked a U.S. spy agency for details of secretly recorded communications of 10 U.S. officials.
The administration is portraying Bolton’s style as exactly what’s needed to whip troubled world body into shape.

But the latter part of the CNN piece really bothers me. Read for yourself:

Republican officials familiar with the administration’s efforts say the White House is concentrating much of its attention on Voinovich, believing he could be the most likely to oppose Bolton.
The Ohio senator temporarily blocked President Clinton’s nomination of Richard Holbrooke to the United Nations in 1999 because, the senator says, he was told the nominee was “a kind of a nasty guy, arrogant.”
Said to value managerial competence and respect as both a governor and a senator, Voinovich said he was uneasy when he heard accusations that Bolton berated underlings. The senator said that in the workplace, “One’s interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellow man is a very important ingredient.”
The White House has quietly offered to provide Voinovich with whatever he needs as he reviews Bolton’s background, and administration officials are prepared to have Bolton meet with him if necessary.
Of the four on-the-fence Republicans, Voinovich and Murkowski were just re-elected and seem to have the least at stake politically. Chafee and Hagel have the most.
Chafee, a moderate Republican who frequently sides with Democrats, is heading toward a tough re-election race in 2006 in a state that went for Democrat John Kerry in last fall’s presidential election.
“Every issue that comes along could have ramifications for Senator Chafee’s re-election,” said Darrell West, a political scientist at Brown University in Rhode Island.
While voting against Bolton could endear Chafee to Democrats, a “no” vote also could alienate the White House just when Chafee needs its support.
Chafee almost never votes against Bush’s nominees, maintaining that a president has the right to choose his administration. That, analysts, say, makes his ultimate opposition to Bolton less likely.
Hagel, who at times parts company with the Bush administration, is toying with a presidential run in 2008.
Given his aspirations, analysts say, Hagel can’t alienate the Republican base, and GOP base voters support the nomination. Analysts say the Nebraskan likely will cross the White House — and those voters — only if something egregious surfaces in Bolton’s background.
But University of Nebraska political scientist John Hibbing said the base may forgive a Hagel vote against Bolton because “on domestic and social issues, he’s solidly conservative.”

I don’t mind handicapping of political races and positions — given the fact that Hagel does seek hire office, and folks like Voinovich and Murkowski are in less vulnerable political circumstances, than say, Lincoln Chafee.
However, to not also mention that if these Senators make a cynical choice on Bolton — made on the basis of triangulating between costs and opportunities — then they run the risk of signing off on someone with disturbingly inappropriate credentials for this position. That offends lots of people — Republicans and Democrats.
That is why the nomination is in trouble. If Bolton had an impeccable dossier or was someone for whom most of the country could trust and feel pride, then we would not be having this debate.
The White House turned this into a battle over its own power — and its arrogance and high-handedness is irresponsible. This should be about American engagement in the world, genuine reform efforts of the United Nations, and getting America back into sync with its key allies in the world.
That’s what it is about. If it became more than that, then the President should consider doing what Bolton is so good at — “remove from the portfolio” those who have done so much to threaten the standing of the presidency over this dumb decision to support Bolton.
I’m not worried about Voinovich. The White House may be groveling to him, but I am fairly certain that he will read the dossier carefully and make a steady-hand decision.
I think Hagel is also not likely to be with the White House on the Bolton confirmation — though if asked will vote him out of Committee after a no vote.
I think Chafee is in play. If he votes in favor of Bolton without engaging in a vigorous investigation himself of Bolton’s strengths and weaknesses, I think his chances for re-election will probably suffer dramatically. He needs to look like a leader in this mess, and there are possibilities that he may craft that “leadership aura” in the May 12th hearings, take a principled stand against Bolton, and come out a hero. Yes, that could happen.
I also think that despite Lamar Alexander stating that he is with Bolton thus far, when he gets into this, he’ll have a hard time choking down the findings on Bolton.
Same with Lisa Murkowski.
This is a fragile situation for the White House — not because of the activities of Democrats — but because they sent a poor choice to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to consider.
Confirming Bolton undermines the status of the Committee. Blocking him maintains the power of the Committee but assures other battles with the White House.
Who is to blame for this? Joe Biden? I think not.
This is all Dick Cheney’s fault.
— Steve Clemons