So, where are we? After weeks of attacks on John Bolton’s character, integrity, temperament and conduct by John Kerry, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and other Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, what do they have to show for it all?
Answer: The nation would be lucky to have Mr. Bolton represent it at the U.N. as President Bush has proposed.
As the Foreign Relations Committee prepares for what is supposed to be D-Day on the Bolton nomination — a business meeting of the panel scheduled for Thursday morning — here’s a round-up of what has been learned over the month that Democrats have been campaigning against Mr. Bolton:
If John Bolton were actually a “serial abuser,” as one witness claimed, he would have plenty of company in official Washington. For example, as reported by Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough in The Washington Times last Friday, a former subordinate of Mr. Bolton’s, John Wolf, testified the nominee, “on several occasions lost his temper and screamed at co-workers over policy issues.” One of them, a fellow assistant secretary of state, Paula DeSutter, reportedly “was so shaken by [one such] outburst that she feared for her safety.”
Interestingly, intemperate behavior toward staff is also not unknown among the senators who profess such concern about Mr. Bolton’s conduct. In fact, during a recent TV interview about the Bolton nomination, Mr. Biden seemingly hoped to neutralize any criticism of his own highhanded behavior toward his subordinates. He contended that speaking sharply to a staffer who failed to get him to a presidential appointment on time was different than what Mr. Bolton is said to have done — namely, express displeasure with an intelligence officer who engaged in professional misconduct that even the officer’s boss agreed was “unacceptable.” Both are understandable, but of the two the latter would seem far more justified.
Testimony taken by the Foreign Relations Committee makes it quite clear Mr. Bolton was not in the habit of abusing intelligence officers. To the contrary, Alan Foley, director of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center, told the committee staff Mr. Bolton was “quite supportive of my guys” and engaged with them regularly and appropriately in “normal negotiations” over intelligence conclusions and how they could be described in public.
It is clear, however, Mr. Bolton had plenty of grounds for losing confidence in two individual intelligence officers involved with Cuba-related assessments. The Foreign Relations Committee has evidence State Department analyst Christian Westermann and Fulton Armstrong, the one-time National Intelligence Officer for Latin America, took it upon themselves improperly and personally to assail Mr. Bolton over their disagreements concerning the state of Fidel Castro’s biological weapons research and development efforts.
Almost entirely absent from the discussion of these actions has been an important — and highly relevant — fact: U.S. intelligence about Cuba had been penetrated and influenced for years by one of Mr. Castro’s operatives, Anna Belen Montes, Mr. Armstrong’s counterpart at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Mr. Bolton’s efforts to revisit assumptions and conclusions about Cuba’s covert weapons of mass destruction capabilities found in and derived from a National Intelligence Estimate written by Ms. Montes is not a case of manipulating or “politicizing” intelligence.
Rather, it is, as Andy McCarthy recently noted in National Review Online, the sort of role the blue-ribbon Silberman-Robb Commission on U.S. intelligence capabilities thought officials like Mr. Bolton should play:
“The intelligence community needs to be pushed. It will not do its best unless it is pressed by policymakers — sometimes to the point of discomfort. Analysts must be pressed to explain how much they don’t know; the collection agencies must be pressed to explain why they don’t have better information on key topics. While policymakers must be prepared to credit intelligence that doesn’t fit their preferences, no important intelligence assessment should be accepted without sharp questioning that forces the community to explain exactly how it came to that assessment and what alternatives might also be true. This is not ‘politicization’; it is a necessary part of the intelligence process.”
There seems to be nothing more to charges Mr. Bolton improperly sought the identities of U.S. officials monitored in conversations with foreign nationals of interest that were intercepted by the National Security Agency. These requests were done by the book, approved each time by the relevant authorities and occurred infrequently.
Finally, even a man who in the past frequently and bitterly clashed with Mr. Bolton — former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage — has publicly supported President Bush’s choice of Mr. Bolton, declaring him “eminently qualified” for the U.N. post and “one of the smartest guys in Washington.”
So where does all this leave us? Back at the beginning. Clearly, Senate Democrats — and a number of other people — don’t like John Bolton. But the real reason for their opposition remains what it has always been: He is a competent, effective advocate for policies espoused by a president they don’t like either, and who they unsuccessfully tried to defeat last November.
The Democrats leading the charge against Mr. Bolton are sore losers. They are entitled to be unhappy. They are today, as they were last fall, in the minority, however. Consequently, they are not entitled endlessly to obstruct confirmation of a highly qualified and distinguished public servant, especially now that their defamatory gambits can be seen for what they always have been — a smoke screen for the Democrats’ repudiated foreign policy agenda.View Entire Story
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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