Bolton yields to Senate critics, quits fight for U.N. post
President Bush on Dec. 4 accepted John R. Bolton’s resignation as U.N. ambassador, giving in to the objections of Senate Democrats and one Republican a month after the White House pledged to push to confirm him.
Mr. Bolton had been serving as a temporary “recess appointment” since August 2005, but his busy term was not enough to persuade Senate critics to give him full approval for the top U.S. job at the United Nations.
“I’m not happy about it. I think he deserved to be confirmed,” Mr. Bush said at the White House after accepting Mr. Bolton’s resignation in person in the Oval Office.
Republican leaders had wanted to force another vote on Mr. Bolton’s nomination before the end of the year, when Democrats assume control of Congress. But in Mr. Bolton’s Dec. 1 resignation letter, he said the fight was over and he would end his service in the Bush administration when his temporary post expires, when Congress adjourns this year.
The White House said Mr. Bolton’s letter also ended the possibility of keeping him on the job, which they could have done by creating another similar position and giving him a recess appointment to it.
His departure will leave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with three major vacancies to fill. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, the department’s second-in-command, left for Wall Street in July, and Philip Zelikow, the department counselor and a top confidant of the secretary, announced last month he plans to return to his teaching job at the University of Virginia in January.
The Bloomberg News service reported Dec. 4 that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad may soon be leaving Baghdad and is a leading candidate to fill one of the top vacancies.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said Mr. Bolton’s departure showed the confirmation process was broken, and he blamed partisan obstruction.
But lawmakers on Capitol Hill said Mr. Bolton couldn’t have even gotten out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Republican control because one Republican committee member, Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, opposed him, denying him majority support to proceed for a floor vote.
“It basically fell because of the fact that Lincoln Chafee changed his mind and [Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G.] Lugar couldn’t bring it to commit- tee because he wouldn’t have the votes to get it out of the committee,” said Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican.
Mr. Voinovich, an early opponent of Mr. Bolton’s who later became his champion, said in an interview that Mr. Bolton had become “a team player” who did- n’t stray from the Bush administration’s policy during his time as ambassador.
Mr. Bolton’s departure comes as the United Nations is grappling with developing nuclear weapons programs in North Korea and Iran and upheaval in Lebanon.
Mr. Bolton worked on U.N. agreements on each of those issues, and Mr. Voinovich said he fears the loss of continuity. He said on the Lebanon resolution in particular, he doubts Israel would have signed off without Mr. Bolton’s firm assurances.
Outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Mr. Bolton “did the job he was expected to do.”
“He came at a time when we had lots of tough issues. As a representative of the U.S. government, he pressed ahead with the instructions that he had been given, and tried to work as effectively with the other ambassadors,” he said.
But Democrats said the resignation gives Mr. Bush a chance to show he can be bipartisan and respond to the needs of the international community.
“This is an opportunity for the president to appoint a United Nations ambassador who enjoys the support necessary to unite our country and the world and who can put results ahead of ideology,” said Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.
Mr. Bolton’s nomination had previously passed out of committee but had been blocked by a Democratic filibuster, failing on May 26, 2005, by a 56-42 vote and on June 20, 2005, by a 54-38 vote.
David R. Sands and Betsy Pisik contributed to this report.
John R. Bolton (right), acting as a Republican legal observer during the November 2000 election recount, watched Judge Charles Burton check a ballot in Florida.