- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Two days of hearings on President Bush’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations have not swayed any Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republicans to oppose his confirmation, despite accusations of trying to have intelligence claims changed for use in a speech.

All 10 Republicans appear ready to vote to approve John R. Bolton’s nomination later this week, setting up a floor confirmation vote by the whole Senate.

Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota said neither he nor any of his nine fellow Republicans had been persuaded to vote against Mr. Bolton, despite two days of charges.

“I certainly hope not,” he said. “I don’t think that goes to undermine that he has the credentials, the intellect to do the job President Bush asked him to do.”

One key swing Republican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who had said he wanted to see what the two days of hearings would bring, is also still leaning toward voting for Mr. Bolton.

“He’s inclined to support it,” said Stephen Hourahan, spokesman for the Rhode Island Republican, though he said Mr. Chafee is still looking at testimony from two witnesses interviewed earlier by committee staffers and waiting to see if Democrats want to push for a further investigation or more witnesses.

Democrats still could choose to filibuster Mr. Bolton’s nomination on the floor, though aides said no decision has been made.

Yesterday’s hearing highlighted a nasty dispute within Mr. Bush’s State Department, which pitted a self-described “loyal Republican” against Mr. Bolton.

Carl Ford Jr., who used to run the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, said he and one of his analysts clashed with Mr. Bolton, the undersecretary for arms control and international security, over intelligence information about Cuba that Mr. Bolton wanted to use in a 2002 speech to the American Enterprise Institute.

Mr. Ford called Mr. Bolton “a quintessential kiss-up/kick-down sort of guy,” and said the 2002 dispute he had had a chilling effect on the analysts.

“My advice, my opinion, is don’t give him any responsibility for controlling people, because he’ll hurt them,” Mr. Ford said.

Democrats had initially sought to oppose Mr. Bolton because of past statements that seemed to question the usefulness of the United Nations. But this week they have shifted to questioning his behavior toward intelligence reports, arguing that the administration has credibility problems after claims made in the run-up to the war in Iraq turned out to be false.

“What you have here, as far as I can tell, is a very bright, provocative individual with a strong foreign policy view, who in a position of extraordinary sensitivity, dealing with nuclear nonproliferation, is intimidating intelligence officers so that the facts will fit his positions, which is exactly what the debate was about with respect to the Iraqi war and which got us trouble in the United Nations,” said Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat.

Democrats said there are other examples than just the one involving Mr. Ford’s analyst, and they have had committee staffers interview other intelligence analysts.

“I believe this may be the most significant vote any of us cast this year, in terms of America’s security interests,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, the panel’s top Democrat. “I would just respectfully suggest that, as we Catholics say, you better examine your conscience and figure out whether or not this is just a little slip or that we’re about to send a man who lacks credibility — I would argue at least with half of us on the Hill.”

But committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, said the “paramount issue” is that Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have said Mr. Bolton is their man.

“In the event that Secretary Bolton is confirmed as our U.N. ambassador and he does make statements at the U.N., I have confidence they will be the statements of the president of the United States,” he said.

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