Bolton’s past coming back to haunt him

PUBLISHER’S COMMENTARY: Those who know U.N. ambassador John R. Bolton best say he is a bully who abuses anyone who disagrees with his narrow view of the world (kind of like the President who nominated him for the post). Now that history of narrow-mindedness is coming back to haunt Bolton and threatening his nomination.

His Senate confirmation to be U.N. ambassador still not assured, John R. Bolton is fending off Democrats attacking his integrity and officials complaining of his treatment of people who disagreed with his assessment of the nation’s security dangers.

Bolton faced potentially damaging testimony Tuesday from Carl W. Ford Jr., a former chief of the department’s bureau of intelligence and research, as his hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee enters its second day. Ford could air new charges that Bolton intimidated other officials.

On Monday, Bolton – in his one day of scheduled testimony – rigorously rejected assertions by hard-charging Democrats that he tried to sack State Department intelligence officials who challenged his assessment of Cuba as trying to develop biological weapons and his appraisal of the weapons programs of Iran and other countries.

“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.

Meanwhile, committee Democrats meeting behind closed doors were interviewing Neil Silver, a senior department intelligence offiical, and a CIA agent whose identify the senators sought to conceal.

Bolton’s frequent assertions that the United States faced serious dangers often did not sit well with some analysts within the U.S. government. Reflecting their skepticism, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., admonished him, “We can’t afford to cry wolf.”

His style, Democrats charged, was ill-suited for the U.N. post.

“You have nothing but disdain for the U.N.,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. “You can dance around it. You can run away from it. You can put perfume on it,” she said.

However, with Republicans in the committee majority by 10-8 and the Senate itself by 55-44 plus an independent, Bolton could be on a track to confirmation unless damaging new information about him emerges. The chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., hopes to hold a committee vote Thursday and has no plan to recall Bolton for more testimony.

Nor did any Republican senator, including Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., considered the Republican likeliest to line up with the Democrats, take Bolton on. He said Monday that Democrats had not made a strong case against Bolton, and he remained inclined to support the nomination.

Summing up the view of Republicans amid a relentless Democratic attack, Sen. George Allen of Virginia told the embattled undersecretary of state, “You have the knowledge. … You will bring a credit to the U.N. that they sorely need.”