It’s been clear for a long time that Senator Russ Feingold was going to oppose John Bolton, but it was not so from the beginning.
In TWN‘s considerable work on the Bolton nomination and inquiries with various offices on their stances on Bolton and the rationale for whatever position the Senator was taking, Feingold was one who had very clear views that the Senate should nearly always support the President’s nominees. In fact, he voted for John Bolton when he was up for his former position as Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control.
This time, however, Feingold’s standards for “rejecting” a nominee have been met — and he is now convinced that Bolton engaged in behavior harmful to the national interest in his last position.
TWN just wanted to emphasize the points here that those who keep painting this opposition to Bolton underestimate two things: first, the internal discomfort in Republican ranks with Bolton and secondly, that not all Democrats were on board at the beginning or are on board now (but they may all soon be. . .)
Here is an excerpt from Russ Feingold’s statement opposing Bolton:
What the Committee found, Mr. President, was not that Mr. Bolton made careless remarks in the heat of a tough bureaucratic dispute. The evidence shows that over a period of many months, Mr. Bolton repeatedly sought the removal of a respected intelligence analyst at the State Department who had raised concerns about language Mr. Bolton wished to use publicly in the course of the standard clearance process — a process that is there to protect against misleading or inaccurate public characterizations of important security issues.
And Mr. Bolton repeatedly sought the removal of the National Intelligence Officer for Latin America, again pursuing this vendetta for months, not heated minutes, and going so far as to consider blocking country clearance for Mr. Smith to travel abroad. In both cases, the offense that so incensed Mr. Bolton appears to be that the analysts did their jobs — they presented the facts as they saw them, and declined to keep silent when the facts did not support what Mr. Bolton wished to say.
And in both cases, senior officials with decades of experience in government who were involved in these episodes told Committee staff that Bolton’s actions — his attempts to retaliate against these analysts — were absolutely extraordinary.
In addition to these disturbing incidents, other interviews conducted by Committee staff revealed a broader pattern of attempting to simply cut those who disagreed with his policy views, or those who he believed disagreed with his policy views, out of the policy-making process entirely. John Wolf, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation, told Committee staff that Bolton attempted to retaliate against at least two public servants in the Non-Proliferation Bureau because of differences in their policy views.
Mr. Bolton tried to remove a State Department attorney from a case relating to a sanctions issue because of perceived policy disagreements — the record suggests that Mr. Bolton actually misunderstood where the lawyer in question stood — and went so far as to suggest that he would not work with the State Department’s entire legal bureau on the matter from that point on — a declaration quickly negated by Deputy Secretary Armitage, who felt compelled to remind Bolton that as a State Department official, he would indeed be working with the State Department’s lawyers.
This kind of tunnel-vision, everyone-else-out-of-the-room approach was summed up Secretary of State Powell’s Chief of Staff Larry Wilkerson, who told the Committee staff, “when people ignore diplomacy that is aimed at dealing with [North Korea’s nuclear weapons development] in order to push their pet rocks in other areas, it bothers me, as a diplomat, and as a citizen of this country.” When asked specifically if he thought that Mr. Bolton had done that, Wilkerson said, “Absolutely.” Mr. Wilkerson ended his interview with the Committee with the following:
“I would like to make just one statement. I don’t have a large problem with Under Secretary Bolton serving our country. My objections to what we’ve been talking about here — that is, him being our ambassador at the United Nations — stem from two basic things. One, I think he’s a lousy leader. And there are 100 to 150 people up there that have to be led; they have to be led well, and they have to be led properly. And I think, in that capacity, if he goes up there, you’ll see the proof of the pudding in a year. Second, I differ from a lot of people in Washington, both friend and foe of Under Secretary Bolton, as to his, quote, “brilliance,” unquote. I didn’t see it. I saw a man who counted beans, who said, “98 today, 99 tomorrow, 100 the next day,” and had no willingness — and, in many cases, no capacity — to understand the other things that were happening around those beans. And that is just a recipe for problems at the United Nations. And that’s the only reason that I said anything.”
Very powerful and informed statement.
TWN hopes everyone is in the midst of a refreshing Memorial Day weekend — and also remembering the heroes who sacrificed for this nation.
People know leaders, visionaries, and heroes when they see them. And they know when they don’t.
— Steve Clemons