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"Those who know Powell best"
"according to Republican sources"
"according to two people familiar with the conversations"
"a Powell spokeswoman"
"considers the discussions private"
"his former chief of staff"
"former associates say"
"he has let it be known"
"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the Senate floor that Bolton's temper
should not disqualify him. 'I believe John Bolton could provide the medicine
the United Nations needs,' he said."
Powell Playing Quiet Role in Bolton Battle
GOP Senators Sought Views on Nominee
By Jim VandeHei and Robin Wright
Friday, April 22, 2005; Page A01
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell is emerging as a behind-the-scenes
player in the battle over John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the
United Nations, privately telling at least two key Republican lawmakers that
Bolton is a smart but very problematic government official, according to
Powell spoke in recent days with Sens. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Chuck
Hagel (Neb.), two of three GOP senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who
have raised concerns about Bolton's confirmation, the sources said. Powell did
not advise the senators to oppose Bolton, but offered a frank assessment of
the nominee as a man who was challenging to work with on personnel and policy
matters, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
"General Powell has returned calls from senators who wanted to discuss
specific questions that have been raised," said Margaret Cifrino, a Powell
spokeswoman. "He has not reached out to senators," and considers the
A spokesman for Chafee confirmed that at least two conversations took place.
Bolton served under Powell as his undersecretary of state for arms control,
and the two were known to have serious clashes.
Powell's tenure as secretary of state was often marked by friction with the
White House on a range of foreign policy issues, disagreements that both sides
worked to keep from surfacing. It is not Powell's style to weigh in strongly
against a former colleague, but rather to direct people to what he sees as
flaws and potential problems, former associates say. Powell's views are highly
influential with many Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Those who know Powell best said two recent events provide insight into his
thinking. Powell did not sign a letter from seven other former U.S.
secretaries of state or defense supporting Bolton, and his former chief of
staff, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, recently told the New York Times that Bolton
would be an "abysmal ambassador."
"On two occasions, he has let it be known that the Bolton nomination is a bad
one, to put it mildly," a Democratic congressional aide said. "It would be
great to have Powell on the record speaking for himself, but he's unlikely to
With a final committee vote delayed until next month, Chafee is studying
Bolton's record and withholding judgment, his spokesman said. Chafee told
reporters Wednesday he is "much less likely" to support Bolton because of
questions about his credibility.
President Bush yesterday accused Democrats of blocking Bolton's nomination for
political reasons, as the White House intensified its campaign to confirm
Bolton and discredit his critics.
"John's distinguished career and service to our nation demonstrates that he is
the right man at the right time for this important assignment," Bush said in a
speech to insurance agents. "I urge the Senate to put aside politics and
confirm John Bolton to the United Nations."
Yet it was Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) who prevented a final vote in the
Foreign Relations Committee this week and called for more time to study
Bolton's past. "The senator's motives are to do what is best for the American
people," said Marcie Ridgway, Voinovich's spokeswoman.
Chafee and Hagel share Voinovich's concerns. Powell called Hagel, asking the
Nebraska Republican if he should return Chafee's call. Hagel said that he
should and that he should be frank, the sources said.
"I think it's being held up because Democrats oppose John Bolton, oppose him
with passion," said Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), when
asked whether politics were to blame for the delay.
Bush entered the increasingly tense showdown over Bolton's nomination as both
sides are digging in for a tough fight over the confirmation of the next U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations.
Democrats are charging that Bolton is a bully with a history of berating
people he works with and of seeking to remove those who disagree with him. The
White House is accusing Democrats of using "trumped-up" charges to prevent a
highly qualified Republican from shaking up the United Nations. The committee
yesterday failed to agree on whether Bolton should be called back to answer
Bolton has been accused of mistreating subordinates, including threatening a
female former government contractor and misleading members about the handling
of classified materials. Initially, Democrats opposed Bolton because of his
negative comments about the United Nations. Their attack now centers on his
character and temperament. "I do not believe that's a convincing case," Lugar
Former State Department official Carl W. Ford Jr. told the committee last week
that in 2002 Bolton sought to remove two intelligence analysts who refused to
endorse a speech he was preparing on Cuba's weapons capability.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), ranking Democrat on the committee, last week
released a letter from Melody Townsel, a former subcontractor for the U.S.
Agency for International Development in Kyrgyzstan, charging that Bolton
harassed her over work-related matters more than a decade ago. Since then, at
least two people have denied Townsel's charges.
Democratic committee sources said Biden and others are opening new lines of
inquiry, including looking into a report posted yesterday on Newsweek's Web
site that Bolton twice clashed angrily with Thomas Hubbard, a former U.S.
ambassador to South Korea.
Hubbard, who was appointed by Bush, has discussed his concerns about Bolton's
credibility with committee members. Hubbard also challenged Bolton's testimony
to the committee that he had praised Bolton for a 2003 speech denouncing Kim
Jong Il, the leader of North Korea, as a "tyrannical dictator."
White House officials are moving quickly to address concerns among
Republicans. Matthew R. Kirk, the president's liaison to the Senate, grabbed
Voinovich shortly after this week's hearing to tell him the White House stands
ready to provide him any information he wants, GOP sources said.
"John Bolton is someone who has a long record of getting things done, and
sometimes that's going to make people mad," White House spokesman Scott
The White House also helped organize Republicans to speak out in favor of
Bolton yesterday. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the Senate floor that
Bolton's temper should not disqualify him. "I believe John Bolton could
provide the medicine the United Nations needs," he said.
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