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Recess appointment is logical but risky
San Francisco Chronicle


August 03, 2005

WASHINGTON - There has always been an in-your-face element to John Bolton's nomination to represent the United States at the United Nations.

Bolton's bombastic manner and his belligerence toward the United Nations alarmed opponents but were cited frequently by supporters as among the very qualities that made him the perfect candidate for the job.

Allegations that Bolton embellished intelligence reports, sought classified intercepts to use as political weapons and lied to Congress regarding his testimony before CIA investigators were shrugged off by the White House as partisan delaying tactics.

So in many respects, President Bush's announcement Monday that he would circumvent the Senate and install Bolton at the United Nations by a recess appointment was a logical conclusion to the most controversial appointment of Bush's second term.

Opponents used brazen procedural tactics to block the nomination, and Bush used brazen tactics to counter them.

"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform," Bush said moments before Bolton was sworn in.

Yet the rocky, five-month ordeal leaves Senate Democrats - and perhaps a Republican or two - seething over a delicate diplomatic matter, in which politics typically are secondary, just as they prepare to consider Bush's first Supreme Court nominee.

And it awkwardly fills an ambassadorial opening as the United Nations embarks on a period of reform. The body's other 190 nation-members are aware that the U.S. representative could not win approval from his own Congress.

"This greatly reduces Bolton's status in the United Nations." said Jean- Robert Leguey-Feilleux, a professor of political science at St. Louis University. "This move by the president sends the message that Bolton does not have the support of a large part of the U.S. government."

Democratic members of Congress, scattered throughout the country at the start of their August recess, offered thunderous objections to the development, though they are powerless to stop Bolton from serving until the next Congress begins in January 2007.

The restraint that has marked some senators' objections to John Roberts, the president's choice for the Supreme Court, was replaced with passionate denunciations of Bush's tactics and foreign policy.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said the action "demonstrates the undue stubbornness of an administration that seems more concerned with getting its own way than in providing the nation with the best possible representation at the U.N.

"I believe it is a serious mistake to send an ambassador to the U.N. who has shown an unrestrained contempt for diplomacy and international treaties."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California's other Democratic senator, called it "another example of the arrogance of power displayed by this administration, over and over again. Can't this administration ever admit that they made a mistake?"

Some Democrats accused Bush of abusing his authority by exercising his recess appointment power. Such appointments are provided for in Article II, Section II of the Constitution, which permits the president to fill positions when Congress is away. Modern presidents have used the power regularly to avoid Senate rejection of unpopular nominees, though rarely for such high- profile positions.

President Bill Clinton used the recess appointment 140 times, including the naming of San Francisco philanthropist James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg and California attorney Bill Lann Lee to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Bush has used recess appointments 106 times.

In announcing his decision Monday, Bush asserted that a majority of senators "agree that he is the right man for the job." A Democrat-led filibuster has prevented an up-or-down vote on Bolton's nomination. In May, 57 senators voted to end the filibuster, three short of the 60 required, and in June the effort to cut off debate failed when only 54 senators voted in favor.

Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican from Ohio who opposed Bolton's nomination, said he was "concerned that a recess appointment will only add to John Bolton's baggage and lack of credibility with the United Nations."

Several other Republicans expressed regret that Bolton will arrive in New York without Senate confirmation but said they supported Bush's decision.

"Although I would have preferred an up-or-down Senate confirmation vote .. . the president's appointment of Secretary Bolton was necessary to ensure our representation at the United Nations and to provide momentum to the vital process of U.N. reform," said Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which conducted hearings on Bolton.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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