In directly installing John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Monday, President Bush sent a strong message to the Senate and the United Nations that he wants a loyal and tough aide speaking for the administration as the United States conducts a war in Iraq and forces reforms on the world body.
Equally, and perhaps more importantly, Bush made it bluntly clear to the Senate that Bolton may not be the only nominee in line for an interim appointment in this first year of Bush’s second term.
From the White House podium, with Bolton at his side, Bush offered a not-so-subtle signal that he’s ready to do what it takes to secure his goals five weeks before the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
The president’s quick action on Bolton after the Senate left town Friday until after Labor Day was taken by some as a strong warning that Bush would be willing again, should the Democrats test him, of using the unusual maneuver of an interim appointment on his own authority.
White House officials said the president’s action should be understood by the Senate as a powerful display of Bush’s determination to place his nominees where his wants them.
In a pertinent comparison between the Bolton and Roberts nominations, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., warned his colleagues that Bush would sidestep the Senate again if he does not like the way a regular confirmation is moving along.
“Senate Democrats’ constantly increasing demands to see more paperwork before allowing a vote on Bolton’s nomination was a transparent charade,” Kyl said. “The Senate shouldn’t get too carried away with out ability to say no, because if we do, the president ultimately has the authority to go around us.”
Democrats acknowledged that Bush had the authority to act on Bolton while the Senate was vacationing. But Democrats deplored the president’s use of the power on behalf of Bolton.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that Bush’s unusual step “demonstrated the undue stubbornness of an administration that seems more concerned with getting its own way than in providing the nation with the best possible representation at the U.N.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., blasted Bush’s action. She said the recess appointment was “just another example of the arrogance of power displayed by this administration over and over again”
The lone Senate Republican to oppose Bolton, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, voiced regret at the president’s use of a recess appointment.
“I am truly concerned that a recess appointment will only add to John Bolton’s baggage and his lack of credibility with the United Nations,” Voinovich said in a statement.
Bush’s recess appointment Monday took the Senate out of the picture of confirming Bolton to his high post, perhaps triggering a new debate during the consideration of Roberts over the role of the president and the Senate in the constitutional nomination and confirmation process.
If Bush was sending a signal that he would not tolerate delay in confirming Roberts, the message had a special timeliness as Democrats ask the administration to provide more of Roberts’ records as a government lawyer. The administration has shown no signs of bowing to the Democrats’ insistence.
The president’s action means that Bolton will serve for the next 17 months _ until the current congress expires and is replaced in January 2007 by the Congress elected in November 2006.
Driving home the president’s power to skip the Senate in the confirmation process, the Republican National Committee noted in a statement that 15 Supreme Court justices began their tenure with a recess appointment.
The most recent justice given a recess appointment, according to the RNC document, was Potter Stewart, nominated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958. Stewart was later confirmed by the Senate.
In recent months, Senate GOP leaders twice tried _ and failed _ to win Bolton’s nomination by breaking a Democratic filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said that Bolton had been “stymied in the name of politics.”
Praising the combative conservative Bolton for a “willingness to confront difficult problems head-on,” the president used the first business day of the congressional summer recess to say that he expects Bolton, a strong U.N. critic for many years, to “insist upon results” and to “defend our nation’s interest with character and resolve that were installed early in life” by his father, a Baltimore firefighter, and his mother, a homemaker who took her son to the public library.
In exercising his recess appointment authority, the president said the U.N. post is “too important to be left vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform.”
Opponents said that Bolton, a 56-year-old lawyer, had while serving in the State Department bullied career U.S. intelligence analysts to modify their assessments to support Bolton’s conservative political views.
Bush chided the Senate by blaming “partisan delaying tactics by a handful of senators” for block Bolton. The president expressed his “complete confidence” in Bolton and said that the new ambassador “believes passionately” in the U.N. charter.
Bush said that the new ambassador will “make it clear that America values the potential of the United Nations to be a source of hope and dignity and peace.”
In a brief acceptance speech, Bolton said he was prepared to “work tirelessly” on the agenda and initiatives set by the president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“We seek a stronger, more effective organization, true to the ideals of its founders and agile enough to act in the 21st century,” Bolton declared.