Closing in on Bolton

Ahead of tomorrow's expected vote, it's looking more like Bush's controversial nominee will be throwing his weight around next as ambassador to the U.N.

Published May 11, 2005 3:54PM (EDT)

President Bush's controversial nominee for U.N. ambassador appears to have a key swing vote in hand: Moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who'd been wavering on Bolton, has now said he'll back Bolton for the post -- albeit reluctantly. Apparently the White House has Chafee worn down.

"I won't deny a lot of the information certainly brings great pause," Chafee said. "But I fight the administration on so many issues; this is one of those that I've been with them on -- to appoint their team."

Though it may be too little too late, Senate Democrats appear to have reached a deal with the State Department on a slew of internal State documents that Bolton's opponents believe will reveal more about his career history. The department will turn over the documents in question if the Dems will reduce the scope of their request.

The State Department has already turned over about 500 pages of e-mails, memos and drafts of speeches, but according to a letter that Bolton opponent and ranking committee Democrat Joe Biden wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, the department has primarily provided documents based on what Senate Republicans think is relevant to Bolton's nomination, and has not responded to requests from Democrats. Earlier this week, the department blocked requests for documents that Senate Democrats hoped would answer questions about whether Bolton spied on other government officials who disagreed with his ideas. According to the agreement reached on Tuesday, the department would only have to provide documents related to whether Bolton misused government assessments of Syria's weapons capabilities.

The committee is scheduled to put Bolton's nomination to a vote on Thursday, though Biden has suggested that he might force another delay unless the State Department complies with Democrats' requests. Rice, who has done her share of obfuscating on Bolton's history, trotted out the usual generalities in response to the Democrats' inquiries: "I see nothing that suggests that John was anything but an interested consumer of intelligence and asked difficult questions," Rice told CNN on Monday. "I don't think there's anything wrong with someone, a policy-maker, asking difficult questions of the intelligence community."

For his part, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who also officially supports Bolton's nomination, seems barely able to swallow the whole thing: Bolton "was the president's choice," he said, "and I support my president."

For those who aren't interested in biting their lip on Bolton's appointment, the left-wing group Citizens for Global Solutions offers a call-your-senator primer on its dedicated Stop Bolton Web site, which encourages citizens to remind their elected officials that Bolton's "remarkable record of choosing his own ideology over results for America puts us at risk."

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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