Can the vote on Bolton come soon enough?

With Republican Chuck Hagel beginning to waver, the bads news keeps coming about Bush's nominee for the United Nations.

Published April 18, 2005 12:58PM (EDT)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote Tuesday -- for the moment, at least -- on the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. For the Bush administration, that vote can't come soon enough: With every day seeming to bring new reason to question Bolton's qualifications for the job, even one Republican on the committee says he's almost heard enough to vote no.

Appearing on CNN Sunday, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel said that he's prepared to vote for Bolton for now, but he added: "I have been troubled with more and more allegations, revelations, coming about his style, his method of operation." Referring to a "disturbing pattern of things that have come out about Bolton's management style, this intimidation," Hagel said: "We cannot have that at the United Nations."

The latest allegations against Bolton surfaced over the weekend, when Democrats on the committee forwarded to reporters a letter from Melody Townsel, a Texas businesswoman and outspoken critic of George W. Bush who once worked for a company that contracted with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Kyrgyzstan. She says she came across Bolton in that role -- he represented a subcontractor that reported to Townsel's company -- and the encounter wasn't pleasant. After Townsel complained to officials about work being done by the company Bolton represented, she said Bolton "proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman." She said this conduct continued for nearly two weeks, and that she eventually resorted to staying in her hotel room to avoid Bolton, but that he "routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats." Later, she said, Bolton attempted to smear her with false stories suggesting that she was facing a criminal investigation.

For Hagel, the allegations must have sounded a little familiar: He'd already heard, from a member of his own staff, about what happens when you cross John Bolton. In 2003, Bolton ordered Rexon Ryu, an expert on non-proliferation issues who now works for Hagel, removed from his his duties in the State Department because Bolton he had failed to provide a document requested by Bolton's chief of staff. Ryu's story was the third case to emerge in which government analysts said that Bolton had retaliated against them or tried to intimidate them based on his perception that they opposed his policy goals.

And with this morning's papers, there's news that, in addition to trying to manipulate the information and analysis bubbling up below him, Bolton kept key information from Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. The Washington Post says that Bolton "often blocked" Powell and then Rice "from receiving information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran, according to current and former officials who have worked with Bolton."

The officials cited what the Post called "dozens of examples" of reports or information that Bolton withheld from his superiors at the State Department, including a 2003 report written for Powell which warned the secretary of state that the United States was losing support for its bid to have the U.N. Security Council investigate Iran's nuclear program. When Powell was headed to a critical international meeting on Iran and the staff for Powell deputy Dick Armitage asked for information about what other countries were thinking, Bolton said that such information "couldn't be collected" -- even thought it had been, officials told the Post.

By Tim Grieve

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

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