Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Rove: Bolton will be confirmed; judges deserve vote


Rove: Bolton will be confirmed; judges deserve vote

By Judy Keen, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Karl Rove rejected a compromise with Senate Democrats Monday on long-stalled nominations for the federal judiciary and strongly defended President Bush's choice of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. (Audio: Rove speaks out)
Deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove has kown U.N. nominee John Bolton for more than 30 years.
Tim Dillon, USA TODAY

In an hour-long interview with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors, Rove, deputy White House chief of staff, dismissed suggestions from Democrats that they might drop threats to use filibusters to prevent votes on Bush's judicial nominees if the president would withdraw a few of the most controversial names.

"I think that would be a worthwhile compromise," Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Monday. "We're willing to talk about a way of ending this impasse," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Bush wants votes on seven federal judge nominees who were blocked in the last session of Congress. The filibuster allows 41 senators to block action on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said he's prepared to change the rules to ban filibusters against judicial nominees. Such a tactic would alter Senate tradition and could bring Senate business to a halt. Reid and other Democrats have threatened to retaliate by slowing or blocking all but the most vital legislation.

"We believe that every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote," Rove said. "The process is not well served by these political games."

Rove said Bush tried to end the stalemate when he renominated just seven of the 10 nominees who had been blocked last year. But "I saw no change in tone" among Democrats, he said. "The flamethrowers ... came out within moments."


Karl Rove added the title deputy White House chief of staff for policy to his job
description in February after four years as senior adviser to President Bush. He
has long been Bush's top political adviser and Bush called him "the architect" of
his re-election.

Rove, 54, oversees strategy for most domestic issues and coordinates the
development of policy in the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic
Council, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council. His job
is to "make sure that we have an open and fair process ... and to make sure that
policy is complementary and consistent," says White House spokesman Scott

Rove also is in charge of intergovernmental affairs, political affairs and
strategic initiatives.

Rove passionately defended Bolton, whom he said he has known for more than 30 years, and said his critics oppose reforming the United Nations. "I'm absolutely confident he'll be confirmed," he said.

Two U.S. intelligence analysts, Christian Westerman and Fulton Armstrong, have alleged that when Bolton was undersecretary of State for arms control, he tried to have them fired when they disagreed with his assertions about a Cuban biological weapons program.

Rove said the Sept. 11 attacks proved that officials should "be contesting, not simply supinely receiving, information from security analysts." He suggested that other critics are motivated by politics.

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on Bolton's nomination was postponed last week after Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said he had concerns. The vote is now scheduled for May 12.

Rove also said:

•Despite polls showing that Bush's push for reshaping Social Security is not gaining public support, "people understand there's a problem" and the administration is open to all ideas for ensuring the retirement system's solvency. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday found that 64% of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of Social Security, his lowest rating ever on that topic. The telephone poll of 1,007 adults Thursday-Sunday had an error margin of +/—3 percentage points.

•He expects House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to keep his job despite ethics questions. DeLay took trips that may have been paid for by a lobbyist. House rules forbid such trips.

"He's going to continue to be an effective and strong leader," Rove said. If the ethics committee would take up the matter, he said, it would "be quickly resolved" and clear his name. The ethics panel is not currently functioning because of a dispute over its rules.

•There was "general knowledge within the White House" of an Education Department contract to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind education law, but officials there had no knowledge of the specifics of a subcontract with television and radio commentator Armstrong Williams to personally promote it.

"I'm pretty confident there was not any knowledge of the details of the contract being with Armstrong Williams," Rove said. On Jan. 26, Bush said, "We didn't know about this in the White House."

Contributing: Kathy Kiely, Barbara Slavin and Greg Toppo