Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bolton Finds U.N. Nomination in Jeopardy

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Bolton Finds U.N. Nomination in Jeopardy

By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON - Withdraw or be pushed out by the White House. Survive the test of his professional life. Suffer a rejection by the Senate. That's about what it comes down to for John R. Bolton, President Bush's besieged nominee to be U.N. ambassador.

Bolton could weather the indignity of further investigation into his personal and professional behavior and win confirmation by the Senate next month. He also could find his nomination scuttled. Or he could pull the plug before a scheduled May 12 vote by a Senate committee.

Only a week ago, Bolton seemed assured of moving on to New York to be the ambassador who works toward Bush's wishes for major changes at the United Nations. His new assignment, however, was thrown into jeopardy last week when moderate Republican senators said new allegations about Bolton gave them cause to reconsider whether he was the right person for the job.

"This nomination is not doomed, but it's on life support and the plug may well be pulled any day," said Allan J. Lichtman, a political history professor at American University.

GOP support for Bolton cracked during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing early last week, so the chairman decided to postpone a vote that Bolton would have lost.

Since then, the White House has defended Bolton daily and blamed Democrats for playing politics with the nomination. Yet each new day has brought fresh allegations that Bolton dressed down subordinates or behaved, as one former colleague claimed, "like a madman," when he was crossed.

The charges come on top of unease over Bolton's past hostility toward the United Nations and allegations that the political appointee tried to pressure career intelligence analysts into twisting the facts for political reasons.

Sen. Gordon Smith (news, bio, voting record), R-Ore., went to the full Senate on Thursday to decry what he called "death by a thousand cuts."

Later that day, word spread that former Secretary of State Colin Powell quietly was telling wavering Republican senators what he knows about Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security since May 2001. The two did not get along during Bush's first term.

"My sense is that he's going down," said Thomas Mann, an expert on Congress and the presidency at the Brookings Institution in Washington. It is not clear, Mann said, whether Bolton would jump or be pushed by the White House.

Vice President Dick Cheney sounded as resolute as ever about Bolton's nomination when he spoke to Republican campaign lawyers on Friday.

"If being occasionally tough and aggressive and abrasive were a problem," Cheney said, "a lot of members of the United States Senate wouldn't qualify."

Bolton has not commented publicly since he testified before the committee on April 11. Until the committee hearing on Tuesday, he appeared headed to a 10-8 party line approval, which would have sent the nomination to the GOP-controlled Senate.

Now the focus is on one committee member, Sen. George Voinovich (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio. Voinovich stunned the chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., and his colleagues when he announced during the hearing that he had misgivings about Bolton.

The White House is now lobbying Voinovich and two other GOP senators on the committee to support Bolton, although Bush has not gotten involved personally.

To salvage the nomination, the White House probably will have to offer some "exculpatory information" to counter the daily trickle of new allegations about Bolton's record, Lichtman said. In the end, however, he said it may depend on how badly the White House wants Bolton's confirmation.

"If the White House wants to spend enough political chips they could save it," Lichtman said.