Senate Democrats

Reid Statement on Bolton Nomination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today on the nomination of John Bolton to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations.

*Remarks as prepared.

Let me say at the outset, Mr. President, that I do not intend to vote for cloture on John Bolton, nor do I intend to support him for the position of United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

As I have said repeatedly since he was nominated, this is the wrong man for the job. Not because of his abrasive personality, although I am deeply troubled by his serial mistreatment of co-workers and subordinates.

My objections to this nominee go much deeper than his inability to work well with others. I am opposed to this nominee because of his poor performance, his flawed views, and his repeated misstatements and mischaracterizations of his record.

Let me commend Senator Biden and the Democratic staff on the Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Rockefeller and his Intelligence Committee staff. As a result of their leadership and diligence, the Senate and the American people have a much more complete understanding of John Bolton and his entire troubling record.

And there is no doubt that we have learned a lot about Mr. Bolton. We’ve learned about his failures in the proliferation area, his repeated efforts to manipulate intelligence, his numerous misstatements of fact, and his serial mistreatment of career civil servants.

But, in spite of the best efforts of Sen. Biden and the other Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee, the record on this nominee is still incomplete.

Despite numerous requests, the Administration has failed to turn over important information about this nominee. This is astounding to me. The Administration’s stonewalling has not only had the effect of slowing down the confirmation process, it has also put a further cloud over this individual and has – perhaps unnecessarily – raised the impression that the nominee and the White House have something to hide. The end result is further questions about this nominee, further disruption to the Senate’s consideration of this nominee, and further demonstration of the Administration’s willingness to keep information from the Congress and the American people.

This is information that the Senate is entitled to under the advise and consent clause of the Constitution. Information that is central to this man’s qualifications. Information that, had it been provided, could have possibly spared this man further questions about his already damaged reputation.

But, has so often been the case with this Administration, they have sought to ignore the public’s right to know and prevent Congress from making a fully informed decision. They want to be the judge and the jury. They have decided the information is not relevant to our consideration of Mr. Bolton.

Let me see if I understand their argument. The Administration asserts that information that bears directly on Mr. Bolton’s role in assessing the threat posed by Syria and in his seeking intercepted conversations of foreigners and U.S. citizens is not relevant to his qualifications to represent this nation at the United Nations, and therefore should not be provided to the Senate.

After all the damage caused when this Administration stretched the truth at the United Nations as it made the case for war in Iraq, does the White House really believe it is not relevant for us to be absolutely certain their nominee was not trying to stretch the intelligence yet again?

So, Mr. President, we are in this largely avoidable position of having to vote against cloture and extending debate until the information is turned over to the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees. I hope the Administration will do the right thing and provide the information to the Senate.

In the meantime, the information the Foreign Relations Committee has managed to obtain is deeply troubling. This is a record which caused one of the most respected and storied committees in the entire Congress to be unable to recommend him favorably to the full Senate. Based on that fact alone, the President should have withdrawn the nomination. Unfortunately since he hasn’t, I think the Senate should follow the committee’s lead and not recommend him for this job either.

I know Mr. Bolton has tried to distance himself from certain parts of his record, like his past statements about the United Nations and its role in international affairs. However, there can be no denying that the man harbors a deep animosity towards the institution. At a time when we need diplomacy more than ever, and we need help in Iraq and in the global war on terrorism, this is exactly the wrong man to send to the UN and it sends exactly the wrong message to our friends and allies.

Mr. Bolton’s supporters have advanced only one reason to ignore the weight of all the evidence that he is unqualified: they say Mr. Bolton believes the United Nations needs to be reformed. The U.N. does need to be reformed. The U.N. can improve its performance. It can reduce inefficiency in its bloated bureaucracy. It can become more effective and more relevant. And we ought to have a U.N. ambassador who is willing to take on that mission of reform. But the President should be able to find someone capable of reforming the U.N. without Mr. Bolton’s baggage.

So let’s be clear, I do not oppose sending someone to the United Nations who is willing to engage in some tough-minded reform. I do oppose sending someone who has misused intelligence and bullied intelligence analysts in a way that undermined our diplomatic corps and produced wrong-headed national security policies.

The facts show that Mr. Bolton repeatedly sought the removal of intelligence analysts who disagreed with him. In speeches and testimony, Mr. Bolton repeatedly sought to stretch intelligence to fit his views. In dealing with other professionals, Mr. Bolton repeatedly exhibited abusive behavior and intolerance that had a chilling effect on analysts’ ability to provide different views.

The second highest ranking official at the State Department, Secretary Powell’s Deputy Rich Armitage, was so concerned about Bolton speeches that he decreed that he must personally review and clear all of Mr. Bolton’s public statements. And Robert Hutchings, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said that Bolton took “isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted.” He said the impact of Bolton’s actions on the intelligence community, “creates a climate of intimidation and a culture of conformity that is damaging.”

But this is not merely a concern for historians. At the same time that Mr. Bolton was agitating and undermining intelligence professionals on issues such as Cuba and Syria’s WMD programs, the Administration was putting together a dramatically hyped case for war in Iraq to deal with a threat from weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist. Mr. Bolton’s modus operandi of hyping intelligence and berating analysts has been so discredited by the results of the Iraq WMD fiasco that it will be difficult for him to operate in the future. Imagine Mr. Bolton arguing to the United Nations Security Council about the threat posed by Iran or North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. Why would anyone take him or the Administration that sent him seriously?

I support the President’s message of reform of the U.N. I am open to someone who can speak bluntly on these issues, who can deliver tough messages.

But we need a different messenger than Mr. Bolton.