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Nomintation of John Robert Bolton to Be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations

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Location: Washington, DC


NOMINATION OF JOHN ROBERT BOLTON TO BE THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE UNITED NATIONS--Continued -- (Senate - May 26, 2005)

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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, let me begin my statement today by outlining what I think this debate is not about.

I do not believe this debate is about Mr. Bolton being rude on occasion. This debate is not about Mr. Bolton being blunt. The debate is not about Mr. Bolton occasionally losing his temper.

As the distinguished Senator from Arizona just noted, if this is the criteria, many of us in the U.S. Senate would not be qualified to serve in a position that requires confirmation. Almost all of us lose our cool from time to time and say things we come to regret later. Let me add, I don't think this debate is about whether Mr. Bolton is an intelligent man.

These are not the issues at the heart of the strong bipartisan objections that have been voiced on this nomination.

The crux of the objections is very specific, very credible allegations that Mr. Bolton sought to shade intelligence and sideline career intelligence analysts who did not agree with his policy views. This is the core of the bipartisan objections to this nomination.

Over and over again, we heard from a range of career officials and Bush administration appointees that Mr. Bolton sought to massage intelligence to fit an ideological bias. Let me emphasize, these are objections coming forward from Bush appointees.

In addition, we have 102 former ambassadors and senior diplomats who oppose Bolton--from the Nixon administration, the Ford administration, and that bastion of fuzzy-headed liberalism, the Reagan administration.

In an environment where reliable intelligence is one of the best tools we have to keep us safe, we must heed the lessons from the Iraq war: Intelligence must never be shaped to fit policy views. Dissent within the intelligence community should not be muzzled or suppressed; it should be respected and encouraged.

The United States Senate should be sending a clear, unequivocal statement to our intelligence officers: We want you to play it straight and call it like you see it--even if it is something we do not want to hear.

I am afraid that by voting to confirm Mr. Bolton, we will fail to send that critical message.

Now, I believe the President is entitled to the benefit of the doubt when appointing senior members of his team. To that end, I have supported a number of the President's choices for top foreign policy positions, including Secretary Rice; Robert Zoellick, to be her deputy; and Nick Burns, to fill the third-ranking position at the State Department.

I think we should provide some deference to the President. The executive branch is primarily responsible for the day-to-day operations of our foreign policy.

At the same time, the Constitution gives the Senate the power to advise and to consent. This is a responsibility I take very seriously.

And so, because of Mr. Bolton's consistent breach of the line between practicing politics and analyzing intelligence--that is pivotal to our national security--I intend to vote ``no'' on the nomination of John Bolton to be our representative to the United Nations.

I agree with much of what my colleagues have said about the problems with Mr. Bolton's qualifications to serve in this position. But I would like to focus on one issue that I believe has not been covered in great detail--Mr. Bolton's performance in his current job.

It has been suggested we should overlook the troubling aspects of Mr. Bolton's record--the fact that he appears to have attempted to manipulate intelligence data; the fact he does not appear to have been entirely forthcoming before the Foreign Relations Committee; and the fact we still cannot get basic information from the State Department on his nomination--for one reason: because Mr. Bolton is so competent for the job. I have heard this argument repeatedly from the other side of the aisle.

I am baffled by this reasoning. I am stupefied by the suggestion that Mr. Bolton is such an excellent choice for the job, so uniquely qualified for this job, that we should just ignore all of these other problems.

When I look at the record of Mr. Bolton during the last 4 years as the top arms control and nonproliferation official at the State Department, I am not impressed. Let's look at his track record.

On North Korea, the approach that has been advocated by both Mr. Bolton and this administration has simply not worked. Under Mr. Bolton's watch, there are no longer international inspectors and cameras at any site in North Korea. The North Koreans have withdrawn from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We now believe North Korea has developed material for six to eight nuclear weapons.

When North Korea has one or two nuclear weapons, the situation is critical. They can test one weapon, and hold one weapon. When it has six to eight, the situation is terminal. North Korea can now test a weapon, hold a couple, and sell the rest. And we know that North Korea will do virtually anything for the money.

Another area Mr. Bolton was responsible for is the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a critical tool for helping to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states, which could ultimately fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.

President Bush recognized the importance of the NPT and pledged to strengthen this treaty in a 2004 speech at the National Defense University. A week later, Mr. Bolton promised to do the same.

What has happened since? Virtually nothing. The administration has made very little progress on this issue, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference currently underway is not going well.

An article from MSNBC reports:

The United States has been losing control of the conference's agenda this week to Iran and other countries, a potentially serious setback to U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran.

Where has Mr. Bolton been throughout this process?

According to the same article:

[S]ince last fall Bolton, Mr. Bush's embattled nominee to be America's ambassador to the United Nations, has aggressively lobbied for a senior job in the second Bush administration. During that time Mr. Bolton did almost no diplomatic groundwork for the NPT conference ..... officials say. Everyone knew the conference was coming, and that it would be contentious, says a former senior Bush official, but Bolton stopped all diplomacy on this six months ago.

In other words, Mr. Bolton was more interested in lobbying for the U.N. job than doing the tough groundwork necessary for a successful review conference.

Let's turn to Iran--another issue on which Mr. Bolton should have been working to formulate a coherent, workable administration strategy. Instead, the administration's policy has been all over the map. In a hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee last week, a senior State Department official described the latest iteration of the Administration's policy as a ``patient policy.''

I would say the policy has been less about patience and more about paralysis--a dangerous situation for a nation such as Iran that is developing nuclear weapons, is a state sponsor of terrorism, and is meddling in Iraq.

Perhaps this paralysis and incoherence is best illustrated by the fact that since 2001, the administration has tried--to my knowledge, without success--to formulate a Presidential Directive on Iran. As the top non-proliferation official at the State Department, Mr. Bolton should have been doing more to shape a workable policy instead of letting it drift dangerously along for the last 4 years.

Mr. President, I know my time is running short, so let me conclude with a couple of simple points.

Two examples are frequently cited by Mr. Bolton and his supporters as evidence of his success and competence in his current position: Libya and the Proliferation Security Initiative. During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Bolton touted these successes over and over again.

Now, I agree with Mr. Bolton that we have made important progress on these issues. But reports suggest that the Libya deal was struck in spite of Mr. Bolton, not because of him. In fact, Mr. Bolton was sidelined from the negotiations by the White House. And, the British Government specifically asked that Mr. Bolton not play a role in this process.

I quote from an MSNBC article that specifically addresses this issue:

Bolton, for instance, often takes and is given credit for the administration's Proliferation Security Initiative, an agreement to interdict suspected WMD shipments on the high seas, and the deal to dismantle Libya's nuclear program, a deal that Bolton, by the way, had sought to block. But [a] former senior Bush official ..... says that, in fact, Bolton's successor, Robert Joseph deserves most of the credit for these achievements. This official adds that it was Joseph who was in charge of counterproliferation at the NSC [and] who had to pitch in when Bolton fumbled preparations for the NPT conference as well.

Now, here is my point: If there was clear evidence that Mr. Bolton is a terrific diplomat, maybe I could understand how some in the Senate could overlook what I consider to be a mountain of evidence concerning his misuse of intelligence and say: You know what, this guy is such a capable administrator and diplomat, we need him to reform the United Nations.

I would still believe that the misuse of intelligence, in and of itself, disqualifies Mr. Bolton from the job, but at least I could understand why some people would draw such a conclusion.

But the record indicates that in his current job he has not had much success, which leads me to ask: Why is it we are so confident this is the person who is going to lead reform in the United Nations?

The distinguished Senator from Arizona is exactly right, we need reform in the United Nations. It is inexcusable some of the things that go on up there.

But as a consequence of Mr. Bolton's diminished credibility and stature, I think he is exactly the opposite of what we need at the United Nations. Countries such as Zimbabwe and Burma, and others that do not want to see reform take place at the UN, are going to be able to dismiss our efforts at reform by saying: Mr. Bolton is a U.N. basher, someone who is ideologically opposed to the existence of the U.N.--thereby using Mr. Bolton's own words and lack of credibility as a shield to prevent the very reforms that need to take place.

Moreover, I have yet to hear a comprehensive plan from Mr. Bolton or the administration for U.N. reform.

So let me close by saying this: When the Foreign Relations Committee considered Mr. Bolton's nomination, I invoked the memory of Adlai Stevenson, a great citizen of the State of Illinois. Stevenson had the credibility, the temperament, and the diplomatic skill to guide the United States through some of the worst, most difficult times at the United Nations--especially the Cuban missile crisis.

During this crisis, we were able to isolate the Soviets because of the stature and integrity of our permanent representative to the United Nations.

Given the issues that have surfaced surrounding Mr. Bolton's nomination, I simply ask my colleagues this: If a crisis were to occur with North Korea or Iran, are we sure the integrity and credibility of Mr. Bolton would command the respect of the rest of the world? Would Mr. Bolton, like Adlai Stevenson, be able to convince the world that our intelligence and our policies are right and true? Would Mr. Bolton be able to isolate our enemies and build a coalition that would ultimately make our troops safer and our mission easier?

I believe the answer is no. There are some wonderful, capable, tough, conservative, reform-minded Republican diplomats who are well qualified for this task and would easily be confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Bolton is not one of them.

I would urge that the other side of the aisle seriously consider their position on this nomination. I hope we can muster the votes to send this nomination back to the President. Let's start afresh. I know we can do better.

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