Video: Bolton under fire

updated 4/13/2005 2:17:29 PM ET 2005-04-13T18:17:29

A Senate committee delayed until next week a vote on John R. Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after Democrats asked for more time to consider the nomination.

Committee Democrats, who are united in opposing Bolton, want to question State Department officials in writing about the undersecretary of state, said Andy Fisher, spokesman for the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Deferring a vote, which had tentatively been planned for Thursday, would give Democrats more time to try to persuade a moderate Republican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, to defect to their side. Chafee has said he is inclined to vote for Bolton but has not made a flat statement that he definitely would support confirmation.

Republicans have a 10-8 edge in the committee. A tie vote could block a recommendation to the Senate to approve Bolton, whose managerial style and criticism of the U.N. have come under attack in two days of committee hearings.

On Wednesday, a former chief of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research castigated John Bolton on Tuesday as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" who abused analysts who disagreed with his views of Cuba's weapons capabilities.

With Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Democratic attack, Carl Ford Jr. appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support accusations of harassment.

"I have never seen anyone quite like Mr. Bolton," Ford testified under oath. "He abuses his authority with little people."

‘Serial abuser’
Contradicting Bolton's assertion Monday that he never tried to have officials who disagreed with him discharged, Ford charged that Bolton was a “serial abuser” who tried to sack one analyst, Christian Westermann.

But the chairman, Lugar, said the "paramount issue" was giving President Bush the nominee he wants to undertake reform at the United Nations. "Bluntness may not be very good diplomacy, but on occasion it may be required," Lugar said as the hearing drew to a close.

None of the 10 Republicans on the committee seized on Ford's testimony as a reason to vote against Bolton. Having a 10-8 majority, Republicans appeared to be able to approve the nomination when a vote is taken later this week or next week.

Sen. Joseph F. Biden, Jr., D-Del., who is leading the fight to block the nomination, responded angrily to the accusation of mistreatment. Anytime a senior official calls in a lower-level one "and reams him a new one," he said, "that's just not acceptable."

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Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said it was not an isolated incident, that Bolton had harassed at least three officials who disagreed with the extent of threats he saw posed by Cuba and other countries.

Calling Bolton a "bully," Boxer said, "I think Mr. Bolton needs anger management at a minimum and he does not deserve to be promoted" to the U.N. post.

Chafee noted calmly that analysts criticized by Bolton had "kept their jobs."

Testimony discounted
And. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., noted that Ford had not witnessed the incident he testified about, saying that much of his testimony would not be admissible in a court of law.

World power

Ford told the committee he considered himself a loyal Republican, a conservative and a strong supporter of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Ford said he appeared before the committee only after a lot of "soul-searching."

On Monday, Bolton — in his one day of scheduled testimony — rigorously rejected assertions that he tried to fire subordinates who disagreed with him.

“I didn’t seek to have these people fired. I didn’t seek to have them discharged. I said I lost my trust in them,” Bolton testified.

Bolton also assured the committee that he supports international law and views the United Nations as “an important component of our diplomacy.” The 56-year-old State Department chief of arms control is a hard-liner with a skeptical view of some U.S. arms control treaties and a frequent critic of the value of the United Nations.

Also on Monday, committee Democrats met behind closed doors were interviewing Neil Silver, a senior department intelligence official, and a CIA agent whose identify the senators sought to conceal.

Democrats also took aim at Bolton's strident criticism of the United Nations, which they said made him ill-suited for the U.N. post.

‘Nothing but disdain’
“You have nothing but disdain for the U.N.,” Boxer said. “You can dance around it. You can run away from it. You can put perfume on it,” she said.

But Republicans shrugged off the relentless Democratic attack.

Sen. George Allen of Virginia told the embattled undersecretary of state on Monday, “You have the knowledge. ... You will bring a credit to the U.N. that they sorely need.”

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