In addition, the White House appears to be trying to take advantage of the current crisis in the Middle East to gin up support for Bolton, an aggressive defender of Israel, among Jewish organizations, despite the fact that most of their members traditionally vote for Democrats.
"This is all about domestic politics," said Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation, an independent Washington think tank. "They're appealing above all to two groups: the Jewish community, and those who associate themselves with the anti-UN, nationalist, anti-government politics of (former Sen.) Jesse Helms."
With Bolton scheduled to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, the administration is hoping to get a vote on the Senate floor before the upper chambre takes its August recess at the end of next week.
But Democrats are determined to delay the process, and most analysts believe the nomination is unlikely to emerge from the committee until the first or second week of September.
If, as is now considered likely, the nomination goes to the floor, it still may face a Democratic filibuster, a procedural mechanism whereby 41 of the 100 members of the Senate can effectively block a nomination. The Senate currently includes 44 Democrats and one independent who often votes with Democrats. Of the eight Democrats on the committee, six have already announced their opposition to Bolton.
"I'm not expecting this to be a smooth confirmation," said Don Kraus, executive vice president of Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), a lobby group that has strongly criticized Bolton's performance at the UN
An outspoken unilateralist and protege of both Helms and Vice President Dick Cheney who served as the State Department's top arms-control official in Bush's first term, Bolton was first nominated to the UN post in March 2005.
But after a bruising confirmation battle during which Democrats and some of his former State Department colleagues accused him of a bullying management style, strong anti-UN bias, excessive secrecy and distorting intelligence to suit his ideological preferences, Bush gave him a "recess appointment," a rare procedural manoeuvre that enables presidents to appoint individuals to posts without Senate confirmation.
Unlike a Senate confirmation, which lasts a full presidential term, however, a "recess appointment" only lasts until the expiration of the Congress in session at the time. With the current Congress set to expire at year's end, Bolton will lose his post unless he is confirmed by the Senate or given another "recess appointment" for which, however, he could not be paid.
The White House decided to renew its call for Bolton's confirmation last week when the one Republican senator who had opposed his nomination last year, Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, reversed his position in a published column in the Washington Post.
"My observations are that while Bolton is not perfect," he wrote, "he has demonstrated his ability, especially in recent months, to work with others and to follow the president's lead by working multilaterally."
"Should the president send his re-nomination to the Senate, I will vote to confirm him, and I call on my Democratic colleagues to keep in mind the current situation in the Middle East and the rest of the world should the Senate have an opportunity to vote," he added.
While it remains unclear how closely Voinovich coordinated his statement with the White House, its publication was followed immediately by the scheduling of this week's hearing by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and by the dispatch of urgent messages from the White House liaison to the Jewish community, Jay Zeidman, to major Jewish organizations calling on them to rally behind Bolton in light of the current crisis and his staunch support of Israel.
Indeed, according to the strongly pro-Israel New York Sun, the White House is calculating that Democrats who last year filibustered Bolton's nomination will be less inclined to do so now given the coincidence of the current violence in the Middle East and the imminence of the November elections for which some Democratic candidates -- particularly in the Northeast and Florida -- will rely heavily on Jewish financial contributions and votes.
"They got Voinovich, and their strategy now is to suggest that anyone who votes against (Bolton) is anti-Israel," said Morton Halperin, Washington director of the Open Society Institute (OSI).
Given Bolton's record at the UN, however, the administration's concern about Israel and the current crisis should work against the nominee, according to Halperin and other critics. "We need a UN ambassador who has the respect of the full Senate and the other UN ambassadors, and Bolton has neither," he told IPS.
Indeed, in an article based on interviews with UN ambassadors from more than 30 countries, most of them close allies of Washington, the New York Times reported Sunday that fears that Bolton's diplomatic and personal style have alienated his fellow diplomats and isolated the U.S. at Turtle Bay, particularly with regard to overhauling the management and governance of the world body, Bolton's top priority.
"Envoys say he has in fact endangered that effort by alienating traditional allies," according to the detailed Times article. "They say he combatively asserts American leadership, contests procedures at the mannerly, rules-bound United Nations and then shrugs off the organization when it does not follow his lead."
"I think the Times article was just the tip of the iceberg," said Halperin. "My conversations with UN ambassadors suggest that they don't trust him as a negotiating partner, and they don't think he's committed to the UN"
On two priorities -- UN management reform and the new UN Human Rights Council -- according to Clemons and Kraus, Bolton failed to achieve U.S. objectives, and in some cases, he took positions without clearing them with his superiors in the State Department or that were actually at odds with official Department policy.
"Bolton spent all his time lowering expectations," Clemons said. "He didn't negotiate; he didn't want to succeed. He was doing everything he could to sabotage the process so that we can continue to kick the UN"
"One would think that Israel and members of the American Jewish community would want someone helping to steward their concerns in the UN who was actually good at achieving stabilising results that can stand the test of time," he noted. "Bolton blows things up, and we've had enough of that in the Middle East."
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July 27, 2006 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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