- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The White House yesterday accused Senate Democrats of opposing reform of the scandal-plagued United Nations by blocking the nomination of John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the world body.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee predicted that the panel will confirm Mr. Bolton when it reconvenes May 12. Democrats earlier this week said their Senate leaders have not decided whether to filibuster the Bolton nomination if it is approved by the committee.

The White House is trying to shift the debate away from Mr. Bolton and onto the United Nations itself.

Bemoaning the “corruption” of the oil-for-food program and other scandals at the United Nations, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters: “We believe that the United Nations could be much more effective.”

“Are you saying that Senate Democrats are opposing Bolton because they oppose U.N. reform?” a reporter asked.

“That’s what this issue boils down to,” Mr. McClellan replied. “A vote for John Bolton is a vote for reform at the United Nations. A vote against him is a vote for the status quo at the United Nations.”

The remarks confirmed a White House strategy, first outlined in The Washington Times on Tuesday, to focus attention on U.N. scandals such as the oil-for-food program in Iraq and the sexual abuse of African girls by U.N. peacekeepers.

Nonetheless, reporters continued to ask yesterday about reports that Mr. Bolton was abusive to subordinates when he served as an undersecretary to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

“These are side issues that distract from the real issue,” Mr. McClellan said. “The real issue here is, are we going to move forward on reform at the United Nations or are we going to accept the status quo?”

Although he did not confirm the substance of the accusations against Mr. Bolton, the presidential spokesman acknowledged that the nominee can be hard-nosed.

“John Bolton is someone who brings a lot of experience and a lot of passion — and sometimes a blunt style — to this position,” Mr. McClellan said.

“But those are exactly the kind of qualities that are needed in an agent of change to get things done, particularly at a place like the United Nations,” he added. “So we hope that the Senate will move forward quickly on his nomination.”

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, predicted that the panel would approve Mr. Bolton’s nomination and send it to the full Senate for a vote next month.

“We will have a vote that I believe will be favorable, and the committee will report the nomination to the floor,” the Indiana Republican told reporters.

“I’m not certain that I will know the heart of hearts of each member sitting there on May the 12th,” he added. “I hope that I will have a good idea, but each will have to make up his or her mind.”

Just to be on the safe side, the White House was trying to set up a meeting between Mr. Bolton and Sen. George V. Voinovich, the Ohio Republican whose concerns about the nominee’s temperament delayed the original vote, which had been scheduled for April 19.

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