Lisa Murkowski

Statement on John Bolton - May 12, 2005

Lisa Murkowski
May 12, 2005— Washington, DC
Foreign Relations Committee Meeting
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Thank you Mr. Chairman. I know that this has been a long process not only for Mr. Bolton but for the committee as well and I thank you for your indulgence and your patience. I also want to thank you for the delay – if you will - the time that we have had since the Committee last met… to get to the facts. There were things that were raised at the last business meeting, and… I appreciate the chance you gave this Committee to go out and do its homework.

…I appreciate that you gave us that opportunity because it is important to go into the allegations and into the background. And I want to extend thanks to the Committee staff for putting in the long hours – giving up their recess to conduct interviews to ensure we have the information requested.

The challenges and opportunities that face the next United States Representative to the United Nations are incredibly significant. We are at a point in time when real reform can take place – where countries that are habitual abusers of human rights do not find seats on the Human Rights Commission, and that investigations into the Oil-for-Food Program are given the real consideration that they deserve. This is not the time for the United States to send an individual who will be a caretaker, but one who will be proactive in pushing the United States’ agenda. The question that we are faced with today, is John Bolton the right individual for that job?

Prior to the President’s nomination of Mr. Bolton to be the representative to the U.N. I had not had any personal dealing with this gentleman, I had not had the opportunity to meet him or interact with him. What I knew was what I heard from the media – fortunately or unfortunately - and comments from my colleagues. In the past couple months I have come to know a great deal about Mr. Bolton. As I told him yesterday, I probably know far more about you than I ever hoped to.

I think it’s fair to say that one of the things that I have learned about him is that Mr. Bolton has a management style that is perhaps far different than my particular management style. And there’s been discussion about behavior, about management style, about how one conducts himself. And as you go through the transcripts and as you listen to the testimony that we’ve heard, and as I’ve talked with those who have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Bolton, you hear some words that describe him. He has been described as hard charging, overbearing, and confrontational.

There are some here that view these characteristics as exactly what is needed at the United Nations – a no-nonsense, straight-talking, take no bull from anybody type of Representative.

In conversations I have had with some who have interacted with the nominee, there are those that have used the word brilliant, but they’ve also said that he can be extremely difficult to work with. He can be focused, but can also be over-aggressive. It has also become very clear to me that when Mr. Bolton has made up his mind about an issue, it can be very difficult to change that mind-set.

And I to, I’m paying my penance …for going through all of the hundreds of pages of testimony – fortunately it is a long flight between Alaska and DC so I had time to do the reading – and a lot of time to do the thinking.

When I met with Mr. Bolton… prior to the time that allegations that he was abusive toward staff members and so it was a topic we did not discuss. What we did discuss, though, was his role in New York. We talked about some of the inflammatory statements he made in the past and the question I asked him was whose opinion would he be presenting at the United Nations – the President’s and Secretary of State’s or his own.

And I bring this up for a couple of reasons. When he made his comments about North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, in his speech in South Korea, this became part of this Committee’s focus during the interview process. We spend a lot of time and energy in Alaska focusing on the North Korea issue.

I found Mr. Bolton’s comments to be inflammatory at a time when we were trying to promote diplomacy in the region. It seemed to me that if he was willing to fan the flames with disparaging rhetoric at that point in time, it was a question how he would conduct himself in New York. It is an issue that we brought up at that initial meeting.

And I understand Mr. Bolton remarked during his confirmation hearing that he received a thank you from then-Ambassador Hubbard for his speech, saying the speech had been helpful and would do them some good in South Korea. Yet when I reviewed the transcript from the interview with Ambassador Hubbard, it is clear that Ambassador Hubbard’s intent had not been to thank Mr. Bolton for the speech itself, but for making factual changes to his speech – so as to not spread the flames any further. And I have to agree with Ambassador Hubbard’s assessment that the speech did not advance the President’s objective of verifiably dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program through negotiation.

A second matter: I had had concerns that Mr. Bolton might get out ahead of instructions while stationed in a post outside of Washington. In reviewing the transcripts and in conversations I have had with individuals, I believe that there is a pattern of Mr. Bolton pushing that envelope on whether he could or could not say and trying to push policy that was perhaps more ambitious than the Administration might be willing to go.

And then you dig deeper into the evidence, you find that Ambassador Hubbard suggested it was possible that Mr. Bolton may have misinterpreted his remarks – leading to his comments at the hearing. And then we’ve got Secretary Powell’s letter to Senator Kyl stating very clearly that Mr. Bolton’s speech had been fully cleared by the State Department.

Looking at the transcript of Lawrence Wilkerson’s interview, and it is clear that Mr. Bolton went through the appropriate hoops and hurdles to have his speech on North Korea cleared – even if those who cleared it may not have given it the attention that it needed. … So whether you support or don’t support the content of the speech – and I do question the language used at that particular time – the reality is Mr. Bolton did what he was supposed to do in getting the speech cleared which was approved by those at a higher pay grade.

When the Committee learned of allegations that Mr. Bolton had berated an INR analyst in his office – an individual who was not directly working for Mr. Bolton – that concerned me – concerns me a great deal. The additional charges of trying to get other personnel removed from their positions only added to that concern. I do believe that how one treats not only those on a similar level of authority, but also those with not as much power, says a lot, not only about them as a person, and how they work with others. And at this position in the U.N. our representative needs to be able to work with others and build those relationships.

At the same time, this is the President’s nominee. The President deserves to be surrounded by individuals that he trusts, by individuals that he selects, by individuals who will advance the interests of the Administration. That is a high bar to over come.

When it comes down to it, my concern is not about Mr. Bolton’s intelligence – he has certainly demonstrated his intellectual prowess. It is not about capability – he has clearly demonstrated on a number of global projects to advance the United States’ interests. Mr. Bolton clearly has the ability to effectively represent the United States in a beneficial manner if that ability is directed appropriately.

My concern has more to do with the conduct – how Mr. Bolton conducts himself and treats those who disagree with his assessments. How he conducts himself with his superiors, his equals, and those below him on the totem pole. This is not about how John Bolton treats Lisa Murkowski. This is about how John Bolton interacts with other representatives and their staff at the U.N., and how he represents the United States.

Ultimately, in a position assigned by the President, that conduct is going to reflect on the President and the head of the Department. It is the President’s responsibility to ensure that his nominee is part of the team, and not a free lancer. That the nominee abides by the chain of command, receives the appropriate in-put, and listens to that in-put.

The President has put his trust in John Bolton. Secretary Rice has put her trust in John Bolton. The President deserves to have the individual that he believes will be most effective in that position. And with the understanding that how Mr. Bolton conducts himself at the United Nations reflects directly on the President of the United States, I will support moving Mr. Bolton’s nomination to the Senate floor.