Nomination of John Robert Bolton to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations -- Part 4

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: May 25, 2005



Let me give you some context. This was on the eve of the President's initiative to begin what is referred to as the Six-Party Talks: the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, the United States, and China--a very delicate moment. Mr. Bolton has made it clear, in many speeches he has made, what he thinks of Kim Jong Il, and that is not inappropriate. And he has made it pretty clear that he rejected the idea proffered by me, and I believe even by Senator Lugar, and by other Senators here, several years ago that we should talk to the North Koreans--not negotiate, talk with them--and find out what it would take to make a deal and let them know what our bottom line was.

Mr. Bolton is not the architect of, but a disciple of, the policy of containing and putting the North Korean regime in a position where he thinks if enough pressure is put on them they would topple. And we are going back to when he was making a speech in Seoul, South Korea, in 2003, on the eve of the first Six-Party Talks.

The speech was filled with inflammatory rhetoric, even though it may be true, about the North Korean leadership. The result of him having given the speech was that the talks were almost scuttled.

Mr. Bolton, in reply to Senator Chafee of our committee regarding that speech, said:

I can tell you [Senator] what our Ambassador to South Korea, Tom Hubbard, said after the speech.

Meaning his speech.

He said [to me], ``Thanks a lot for that speech, John. It'll help us a lot out here.''

Got this, now: He makes what is termed an inflammatory speech. He is asked: Wasn't that inflammatory, and didn't that cause us real trouble in pursuing the foreign policy objectives of the President to get these talks underway? And Bolton, in effect, says: No. And then the Senator, in effect, says: Well, didn't our Ambassador to South Korea think it was damaging? And he says: No. He not only didn't think it was damaging, he said to me: ``Thanks a lot for that speech, John. It'll help us a lot out here.''

Now, you would draw from that exchange that this speech was totally consistent with the administration's policy, that it was something that was helpful, and that Bolton was doing a good job.

Now, we didn't call Ambassador Hubbard. I may be mistaken, but I think the Republican majority staff got a call from Mr. Hubbard, the former ambassador to South Korea, who I guess saw this on C-SPAN. I don't know what exactly prompted it. Maybe he read it in the newspaper. And he says: I want to talk to you guys. And in an interview which was totally appropriate, without minority staff there, he paints a very different story, accurately reported by the majority staff.

Ambassador Hubbard remembers that little exchange about the Bolton 2003 speech on the eve of the Six-Party Talks quite differently. The day after the committee hearing, Hubbard voluntarily contacted the committee to make clear that he disagreed at the time with the tone of the speech and thought the speech was unhelpful to the negotiating process and--this is the important part--and that he, Bolton, surely knew that, that I, Hubbard, thought it was unhelpful and was damaging.

Hubbard then told the Los Angeles Times that although he had talked to Mr. Bolton and thanked him for removing from his speech some of the attacks on South Korea. Remember this now, the speech was about North Korea. The only thing the ambassador was able to convince Bolton to do was take out some of the stuff that attacked our ally South Korea, whom, I might note parenthetically, if, God forbid, there is a war, we need on our side. We have 30,000 American troops there. Bolton is making a speech characterized as an inflammatory speech about North Korea and is going to attack our ally South Korea, as well.

And our ambassador says: Please don't do that stuff about South Korea. And so Hubbard says: It is true. I thanked him for removing some of the attacks he was about to make on South Korea.

Then he went on to say, but ``it's a gross exaggeration to elevate that [statement] to praise for the entire speech and approval of it.''

I don't know how you can comport how those two statements work out. Bolton saying: Remember that the ambassador said, thanks a lot for that speech, John. It helps us a lot out here. And the ambassador is saying that Mr. Bolton knows better. That is a gross exaggeration.

In other testimony, Mr. Bolton frequently tried to claim he had not sought to fire or discipline the INR intelligence analyst, Mr. Westermann.

He said:

I never sought to have [him] fired.

He later said:

I, in no sense, sought to have any discipline imposed on Mr. Westermann.

And finally, he said:

I didn't try to have Mr. Westermann removed.

This is incredibly disingenuous. It is just not true. The record is clear that Bolton sought on three occasions that I referenced earlier to have Mr. Westermann removed from his position and given another portfolio. And by the way, you don't get another portfolio. If the only job you do in a restaurant is cook and they say you can't cook anymore, there are not many jobs left for you. This guy's expertise was dealing with chemical and biological weapons. Mr. Bolton wanted him taken off the case.

As a lawyer, Mr. Bolton surely knows that civil servants have job protections and can't be readily fired. By asking repeatedly that this man be moved from his established area of expertise, he was endangering the man's career and sending a message of intimidation that was heard loud and clear throughout the Intelligence and Research Bureau. Mr. Bolton did not have the honesty or the courage to admit that fact to the Foreign Relations Committee. Where is this straight talker we hear so much about?

The President has said that in his second term, one of his priorities is ``to defend our security and spread freedom by building effective multinational and multilateral institutions and supporting effective multilateral action.'' If this is a serious objective, he sure is sending the wrong man to put together these kinds of coalitions.

It is manifestly not in our interest to send John Bolton to the United Nations.

It is not in our interest to have a person who is ``a lousy leader'' in charge of a mission of 150 professionals who need leadership.

It is not in our national interest to have a conservative ideologue who doesn't listen to others trying to rebuild frayed alliances at the United Nations.

It is not in our national interest to have a man with a reputation as a bully trying to construct coalitions necessary to achieve U.N. reform.

It is not in our interest to have someone with a reputation for taking factoids out of context, exaggerating intelligence information, as our spokesman in New York during the crises to come with Iran and North Korea, when we will have to convince the world to take action to stop nuclear weapons programs.

Is this the best the President of the United States can do? Is this the best among the many tough-minded, articulate, conservative Republican foreign policy experts?

The record presented by the Foreign Relations Committee is clear. The documents we have uncovered; the interviews with those who had to pick up the pieces at INR and CIA, in the office of the Secretary of State, and in South Korea; the testimony of former Assistant Secretary of State Carl Ford, a conservative Republican; all of this record has given us clear warning that Mr. Bolton is the wrong man for this job.

Mr. Bolton's nomination is not--I emphasize ``not''--in the interest of the United States of America. I don't know that I have ever said this before on the floor, but I believe that if this were a secret ballot, Mr. Bolton would not get 40 votes in the Senate. I believe the President knows that. I wish the President had taken another look at this and found us someone--I am not being facetious and I am not the first one to say this, I say to my friend from Virginia, the single best guy we could send to the United Nations right now at this critical moment is former President Bush. I cannot think of anybody better. He would get absolutely unanimous support on this side of the aisle.

Mr. Bolton is no George Herbert Walker Bush. I guess not many people are. But this guy should not be going to the U.N.

I yield the floor.


Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, to my good friend from Delaware, one of the interesting aspects of what has occurred in the Senate over the last week or so is an impetus to go back and do a lot of historical research. I went back and looked at the Articles of Confederation and the Founding Fathers and what they had to say about this provision of advise and consent in the Constitution.

It is interesting. I was very taken aback with how they went about modifying. If the Senator and others will indulge me, I would like to discuss that for a moment or two because I think it poses a question I would like to put to my good friend. That begins at this juncture.

You may ask why it is particularly appropriate for the Senate to be in executive session today, because on this day in 1787, 218 years ago, our Founding Fathers of the United States Constitution first reached a quorum so that the Constitutional Convention could draft our Constitution and they could proceed. It took several years to get it done. George Washington had been calling for such a convention for years, but it was not until this day, 218 years ago, that the convention finally began.

From May 25, 1787, straight through the summer, 55 individuals gathered in Philadelphia to write our Constitution. It was a hot summer, with long and arduous debate, and many drafts went back and forth. Careful consideration was given. Finally, in mid-September, it was over. It was a monumental achievement, one that would enable the United States today, 200-plus years later, to become the oldest, continuously surviving republic form of Government on Earth today.

I mention all this because one of the key compromises our Founding Fathers made throughout the Constitutional Convention was with respect to the advise and consent clause. Our Framers labored extensively over this section of the Constitution, deferring final resolution of the clause for several months. Some of the Framers argued that the President should have total authority to appoint. Others thought both the House of Representatives and the Senate should be involved in the process. Ultimately, a plan that was put forth by James Madison--if I may say proudly--of Virginia, won the day, where the President would nominate judges and executive nominees, and the Senate would reject or confirm them.

In Federalist Paper No. 76, in 1788, Alexander Hamilton explains in detail exactly why this compromise was so important. Let me read a portion of Hamilton's quote:

It has been observed in a former paper that ``the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.'' If the justness of this observation be admitted, the mode of appointing the offices of the United States contained in the foregoing clauses must, when examined, be allowed to be entitled to particular commendation. It is not easy to conceive a plan better calculated than this to promote a judicious choice of men for filling the offices of the Union.

I presume he wasn't looking into the future, so I will add ``women.''

Today, this great compromise can be found, unmodified, in article II, section 2 of the Constitution. This section of the Constitution reads in part as follows:

The President shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ..... public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States. .....

Thus, the Constitution provides a role for both the President and the Senate in this process. The President has the responsibility to nominate, and the Senate has the responsibility to render advice and consent on the nomination.

While article II, section 2 of the Constitution doesn't explicitly make a distinction between the Senate's role with respect to executive branch nominees and judicial nominees of the other branch of Government, the tradition of the Senate, in recognition of the Constitution, dictates otherwise.

Traditionally, a President, especially after taking office following an election, is given greater latitude in selecting individuals to serve in the executive branch of Government. This is in recognition of the fact that the Constitution treats Senate-confirmed executive branch nominees far differently than Senate-confirmed judges.

In contrast to Federal judicial nominees who, once confirmed under the Constitution, serve a lifetime appointment in the third branch of Government, independent of the President, executive branch nominees serve under the President solely at the pleasure of the President. That phrase, ``at the pleasure of the President,'' is paramount. This time-honored phrase, ``at the pleasure of the President,'' has been used by Presidents throughout American history to show the American people that the President is the final arbiter of accountability for executive nominees.

I say that because I have fought hard here recently to deal with this question of the judicial nominees, along with some others. I am not here to seek whether we did right or wrong; history will judge that. But it was a magnificent experience to go back and study the process and listen to many scholarly people and to read extensively. But it is clear to me there is a difference between the judicial nominee who goes for life on the third independent branch--independent of Congress and the executive branch--and the President's right to select those individuals who he, together with his fellow Cabinet officers and others in the administration, feels are best suited to do the job. Would you agree there is a difference in that? I yield for the purpose of answering the question.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I will answer the question. Let me say to my friend that regarding Federalist No. 76, I suffer from teaching the subject. For the last 16 years, I have taught a course in the separation of powers. I wrote a treatise, an entire book, on this subject. There is another phrase in Federalist No. 76 the Senator didn't read that I think is appropriate to mention.

Federalist No. 76 was about the issue--remember, the Federalist Papers were trying to convince a public that didn't have a television set or a radio that their legislative body should ratify the Constitution. It was sort of pamphleteering. That is what they were doing. They were taking arguments against the Constitution and framing them, setting them up, knocking them down, and making the case. The issue in Federalist No. 76 was whether the President would have undue influence on the Senate. Would he not be able to pressure the Senate because he was chief executive officer? Hamilton said: Don't worry about that. He went on to explain that there could be no better system than the one that was arrived at.

The compromise he is talking about, by the way, is the Connecticut Compromise. It was not until shortly before that the Founders decided--this is the only reason this got resolved--that the great State of Virginia with, I think, the first or second largest population at the time, could only have two Senators, and the small State of Delaware would have two Senators. That was the Connecticut Compromise. That is what it was about.

The reason it came about was that is they wanted to make sure that the minority would be able to be protected. He used the phrase--and I compliment and associate myself with my friend from Virginia; I know that is not why he sought recognition and why he asked the question, but what he did yesterday with Senator Byrd is what Alexander Hamilton was talking about--Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 76 used the following phrase in rebutting the argument that the President would be able to pressure the Senate. He said there will always be a sufficient number of men of rectitude to prevent that from happening. The Senator from Virginia demonstrated yesterday that there always is a sufficient number of men of rectitude--he and Senator Byrd--in averting a showdown that may have literally, not figuratively----

Mr. WARNER. Together with 14 in total.

Mr. BIDEN. It is true.

Mr. WARNER. Coequal.

Mr. BIDEN. The Senator from Virginia, Mr. Warner, and Senator Byrd were the catalyst that came along and rescued something that had been attempted and written off, at least by the six Democrats with whom I had been talking, as failed until the two of them came along. This in no way is to denigrate the significant efforts of the others.

Mr. WARNER. The leadership of Senators McCain, Ben Nelson, and everybody else.

Mr. BIDEN. The reason I say this is that, in the debates in the Constitutional Convention on this nominating process, on three occasions I believe it was Governor Wilson of Pennsylvania--I am not positive of that--proposed a motion that the President of the United States should have the power alone to appoint his Cabinet and inferior officers in the court. It never got, to the best of my knowledge, more than seven votes. The only consideration that almost passed twice was that only the Senate, without the President even in on the deal, could make those appointments. If we look at the constitutional history, the President was an afterthought in the nominating process. That is what Madison's notes show. That is what the history of the debate in the State legislative bodies shows.

So here we are, the Connecticut Compromise comes along guaranteeing that small States will be able to have an impact on these choices, but go back and look, and I think it is Federalist 77--do not hold me to that--but it is Hamilton's treatise on why there was a need to have the Senate involved in choosing not only judges but appointments to the Federal Government. There was the fear that what happened in the British Parliament would be repeated; that, in fact, the King and the leaders of the majority would appoint incompetent people, such as their brothers-in-law, their friends, to be surrounding them in their Cabinets, in the lesser offices of the Federal Government.

So it was a genuine concern and a clear understanding--I think the phrase in Federalist 76 is; this is off the top of my head--if by this we are limiting the President, so be it; that is our intention.

To the specific question, yes, there is more deference given to the President of the United States in the appointment of his Cabinet than there is to his appointments to the Supreme Court, district court, any lower court, or any other appointed office in the Government. But the single exception that was intended by the Framers, if you read what they said, in terms of even appointing those around him, if the persons he would pick, notwithstanding that they would reflect the President's political views, if the appointment inures to the detriment of the United States, they should be opposed.

There have not been many occasions when I have opposed nominees to the President's Cabinet or Cabinet-level positions, and I imagine there have not been many my friend from Virginia has opposed. But I opposed two in the Clinton administration. I opposed one in the Carter administration. I think I opposed two in the Reagan administration. In each case, my opposition--and this would be only the second one I have opposed in this administration--is because the appointment of that individual, notwithstanding the fact that he or she is the choice of the President, would have the effect of negatively affecting the standing, security, or well-being of the United States.

So there are exceptions, and I would argue Mr. Bolton, as my friend from Ohio, I suspect, is going to make a compelling case, falls into the category of, yes, the President gets who he wants, unless the appointment of that person would inure to the detriment of the United States.

That is the central point I am trying to make. I understand my friend does not agree with me, but I honestly believe Mr. Bolton going to the U.N. will inure to the detriment of the United States, notwithstanding the President's judgment that it would not do that.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for the colloquy. We did settle clearly that greater latitude is given to the President.

Mr. BIDEN. That is right; I acknowledge that.

Mr. WARNER. And the Senator from Virginia does not infer that latitude is a rubberstamp, that everyone goes through. Clearly--and I know my good friend from Delaware speaks as a matter of clear conscience--I speak as a matter of clear conscience.

Mr. BIDEN. If the Senator will yield, I am confident that is true about the Senator.

Mr. WARNER. Correct, and we have a difference of views as it relates to our conscience.

Mr. BIDEN. If the Senator will yield, I respect that difference.


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