Any Senator — any and all — who votes to confirm John Bolton on Tuesday this week (though there may be a further delay) not only has to sign off on the issue of Bolton’s pattern of abusive behavior, they must also sign off on the connection of such abuse to the mismanagement of intelligence and his habitual role as a “loose cannon” undermining delicate and high-stakes national security efforts of other diplomats.
In addition, they must sign off on the fact that he lied under oath. Bolton got very pointed with Senators Dodd, Obama, and Biden — as well as Boxer — that he never sought to have an intelligence official removed or fired and that issues of difference with staff were over “management questions,” not “substance.”
There is overwhelming evidence bubbling out in the national press that this is simply not true. Lincoln Chafee’s comments that he heard about a troubling anecdote during the hearings with Carl Ford but saw no pattern of behavior now can’t be seriously entertained. Chafee’s comment that the Democrats’ case against Bolton wasn’t stronger also doesn’t pass the laugh test — AS THERE SEEMS TO BE ENOUGH OUT THERE THAT THERE IS NEW MATERIAL ON BOLTON UNEARTHED EVERY DAY.
This weekend, we have further discussion of the Fulton Armstrong case in the New York Times:
A former national intelligence officer for Latin America has accused John R. Bolton and another Bush administration official of trying to remove him from his post to warn others against not cooperating on intelligence matters, according to Democratic staff aides of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The aides made public on Saturday their summary of an interview with the intelligence officer, Fulton T. Armstrong. They say Mr. Armstrong has charged that Mr. Bolton and Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Latin America, had sought to press the intelligence community to make its analysis conform with their hard-line policy views on Cuba. The committee is considering the nomination of Mr. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations.
Mr. Armstrong was not dismissed, but has since been reassigned. The New York Times reported Saturday that current and former intelligence officials say his job was saved at the Central Intelligence Agency in part by the intervention of John E. McLaughlin, then deputy director of central intelligence.
Mr. Bolton has acknowledged in his testimony before the committee that he had sought to have Mr. Armstrong reassigned in 2002, saying he had lost confidence in him on several matters. Mr. Bolton has not commented on allegations made against him while the confirmation process has been under way.
But Mr. Reich, in a telephone interview on Saturday, said he too sought to have Mr. Armstrong removed because of what he said was Mr. Armstrong’s tendency to give “the benefit of the doubt” on alleged human rights and security threats from left-wing figures like Fidel Castro of Cuba, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti.
“His political views colored his intelligence judgment, and many of my colleagues in the State Department, the Defense Department and National Security Council stopped reading his stuff,” said Mr. Reich, who is now a private business consultant.
According to Democrats’ staff notes, Mr. Armstrong made his accusation on April 8 to Democratic and Republican staff members of the Foreign Relations Committee as part of their inquiry into allegations of improper pressure on intelligence analysis by Mr. Bolton. Mr. Armstrong, they said, charged that there was pressure from Mr. Bolton and Mr. Reich to affect the intelligence judgment of Cuba’s weapons programs, that he was excluded from meetings by them, that his integrity was attacked and that Mr. Bolton acted without ever meeting with him.
Bolton’s testimony — made under oath — does not square with the evidence coming forward from not just one quarter, but many.
I would really like to hear Senators Norman Coleman or George Allen explain to the American public, to the media, and to me why they can abide by testimony that is at such odds with what is clearly the troubling truth about Mr. Bolton. Do they think that such lies before their committee are acceptable.
Had a Democratic nominee during a Democratic administration provided the same false testimony, and provided it emphatically and without remorse, would Norm Coleman and George Allen be arguing the same?
I think that they want Bolton so badly in this post that they are willing to overlook these deeper questions of workplace ethics, decency, and of course the most important issue of Bolton’s mismanaging his foreign policy portfolio in ways that harmed U.S. national interests.
I am presently at a foreign policy conference called the CSIS Think Tank Summit organized by Simon Serfaty and Robin Niblett at the Wye Conference Center on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with a broad array of intellectuals who think about Transatlantic issues, the National Defense University, NATO, and national security strategy. I am here with people from AEI, the Monterey Institute, Harvard’s Kennedy School, CSIS, the Washington Institute on Middle East Policy, NATO, SWP in Germany, IISS, RAND Corporation, the German Marshall Fund, the Hoover Institution, and more.
The spectrum of perspective here is very wide — but I have not found a single defender of John Bolton. . .not one. And I have tried. One of those who might have defended his appointment did not show to the conference. No one here supports Boltonism at the U.N. — and many of these folks are wrapped fairly tightly into the inner circle of neo-conservatives thought that his appointment was a good move for the Bush administration.
There is one man here — a former senior diplomat and defense strategist — who used to manage Fulton Armstrong. He gave Armstrong outstanding marks and said that he was absolutely solid. He also said that all of this confusion about Fulton Armstrong being referred to as “Mr. Smith” during the hearings was just silly as Armstrong was previously the National Intelligence Officer for Latin America in the President’s National Intelligence Council, a CIA-run and managed operation. He said, “you could look up Fulton’s name in the phone book for god’s sake.”
One must admire Dick Cheney’s apparently tenacious support for Bolton amidst such troubling evidence.
But now that Bolton has clearly “lied” to Congress about his past — Cheney needs to pull back, offer Bolton a job on his Vice Presidential staff and offer someone else the position.
— Steve Clemons