In the end, John Bolton jumped before he was pushed. His temporary appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations would have expired with the current Congress, and even though President Bush renominated him last month, the Democrats made it clear that he would not be approved once they take over the Senate.
That’s too bad because Bolton accurately and forcefully — too forcefully for his critics — represented the views of the Bush White House to the U.N. He was credited with engineering the U.N. resolution on North Korea’s nuclear weapons activities and holding together a consensus on Iran’s nuclear program.
Bolton’s performance during his 15 months at the U.N. was good enough to make one opponent, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, change his mind but another opponent, Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., was unmoved. Without Republican unanimity, there was little point in the leadership trying to force the nomination through the lame-duck Senate this month.
Bolton resigned in a brief, four-sentence letter in which he thanked the president and wished him every success for the remainder of his term. The president opted to reply at length in a statement in which he teed off on Bolton’s Senate opponents for disrupting U.S. diplomatic work “at a sensitive and important time.
This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation.” Bolton was a special case and his nomination, like some of Bush’s judicial candidates, was an in-your-face political challenge to the Democrats. Bush knew he was asking for a fight when he nominated Bolton. His choice for Bolton’s successor and how the Senate Democrats handle that nomination should demonstrate how much the spirit of cooperation and compromise will really prevail during the next two years.