President Bush knocked around Democrats today for delaying a vote on John Bolton — but in fact, it is his own team who has caused the delay.
With one utterance, President Bush could end the efforts by Democrats and moderate Republicans to hold off a Bolton vote by just offering up the documents requested by Senators during their Constitutionally-required investigation of Bolton, his record, and his behavior.
Until Bush concedes defeat to the growing list of Senators who have serious concern (like Senator John McCain) that this battle over requested evidence is not just about Bolton but about the principle of separation of powers in government, then Bolton’s nomination will sit in limbo.
Although those opposing John Bolton would love to permanently preempt his confirmation because it is wrong-headed and offends the sensibilities of Americans who believe in “common sense decency” in their engagement with the world, the fact is that George W. Bush could bring this battle to an immediate and decisive vote if the administration complied with Senate requests as it is mandated to do.
If Bolton never comes to a vote, then it is the White House to blame — ALL THE WAY.
Here is the transcript of President Bush’s comments on the John Bolton situation today at his morning press conference:
From the President’s May 31 Press Conference
Thank you, Mr. President. On your nomination of Mr. Bolton to the United Nations, it is now, by most accounts, under a filibuster, the Democrats refusing to invoke cloture last week. I wonder if you could address their demands for ongoing documents, in the case of Mr. Bolton’s nomination, as well as what many Republicans have now criticized as a pervasive attitude of filibustering on behalf of the opposition on Capitol Hill.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I thought — I thought John Bolton was going to get an up or down vote on the Senate floor, just like he deserves an up or down vote on the Senate floor, and clearly he’s got the votes to get confirmed. And so I was disappointed that once again, the leadership there in the Senate didn’t give him an up or down vote. And the reason it’s important to have an up or down vote is because we need to get our ambassador to the United Nations to help start reforming that important organization.
As I mentioned to you I think at the press conference in the East Room, that the reason I picked Bolton is he’s a no-nonsense kind of fellow who can get things done. And we need to get something done in the United Nations. This is an organization which is important.
It can help a lot in terms of the democracy movement; it can help deal with conflict and civil war. But it’s an organization that is beginning to lose the trust of the American people, if it hasn’t already, and therefore, we need to restore that trust. We pay over
$2 billion a year into the United Nations, and it makes sense to have somebody there who’s willing to say to the United Nations, let’s — why don’t you reform? Let’s make sure that the body works well and there’s accountability and taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. And it’s important that people in America trust the United Nations, and Bolton will be able to carry that — that message.
Now, in terms of the request for documents, I view that as just another stall tactic, another way to delay, another way to not allow Bolton to get an up or down vote. We have — we’ve answered questions after questions after questions; documents were sent to the — to the intelligence committee; the intelligence committee reviewed the NSA intercept process and confirmed that Bolton did what was right. And so it’s just a stalling tactic. And I would hope that when they get back that they stop stalling and give the man a vote. Just give him a simple up or down vote.
Q What about the filibuster as a tactic, in general, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s certainly been a tactic that’s been used on judges and Bolton, if this is a filibuster. I don’t know what you call it. I’m not sure they actually labeled it, filibuster. I’d call it — thus far, it’s a stall — stall headed toward filibuster, I guess. All I know is the man is not getting a vote, and it’s taking a long time to get his vote. And we’ve — he’s been through hearings and questions and questionnaires. And it’s pretty obvious to the American people, and to me, that you can tie up anything in the United States Senate if you want to.
But it also ought to be clear that we need to get an ambassador to the United Nations as quickly as possible. And so I hope he gets a vote soon.
Mr. President, you can have a vote on John Bolton when you provide the transcripts. If there is NOTHING there, then there is NOTHING there. . .but it is not the right of the White House to determine such. It is your office that is “stalling” matters.
Stop the stall, Mr. Bush. Provide the documents.
And in the mean time, TWN will continue to remind a majority of U.S. Senators in the United States Senate that John Bolton’s record as it is is completely inappropriate for such an important position.
This appointment demeans the nation, demeans a reformed and improved United Nations, and demeans the many American citizens the White House counted on to remain ignorant of John Bolton and his flawed record.
I think it’s time to start showing off Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, who is the most likely successor candidate if Bolton falls off the shelf.
Stop stalling, Mr. President!
— Steve Clemons