Hand-to-hand combat over Bolton

John Kerry advertises in Rhode Island in an effort to swing Lincoln Chafee against Bush's U.N. nominee.

Published April 11, 2005 3:35PM (EDT)

We can't say whether it's unprecedented, but we can certainly say it's uncommon: A U.S. senator taking out ads in another senator's state to sway a vote on a presidential nominee. That's what John Kerry is doing today. The target is Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee -- and, more directly, John Bolton.

Confirmation hearings begin today for the man George W. Bush has nominated to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Kerry is doing everything he can to get Chafee to join Democrats in opposing Bolton's appointment. The Republicans have the numbers to confirm Bolton if he gets to the Senate floor, but Bolton has to get there first. If Democrats can get one Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against Bolton, his nomination will die in committee.

Chafee, who says publicly that he's non-committal, is the Democrats' best hope, and that's why visitors to Rhode Island Web sites this week will find ads from johnkerry.com, urging a no vote on Bolton's confirmation. In an email to reporters this morning, Kerry spokeswoman Katharine Lister said that Kerry will also be running ads on some blogs and emailing his supporters in Rhode Island.

In an email that went out to Rhode Island residents registered with Kerry's Web site, the Massachusetts senator asked, "In his heart, do you think Senator Lincoln Chafee thinks it is wise to award high government posts to those who have been the architects of some of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions of the last four years?"

Kerry says that Chafee is "under enormous political pressure from the White House and right-wing organizations to cast the deciding vote in favor of the Bolton nomination," and he urges Rhode Island resident to flood Chafee's office with calls asking him to just say no.

The Foreign Relations committee is expected to vote Thursday.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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John F. Kerry D-mass.