The Battle Over Bolton's U.N. Nomination

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," April 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A stunning defection leaves the nomination of John Bolton (search) as our U.N. ambassador very much in doubt. Ohio Republican George Voinovich (search) suddenly said today he is not comfortable voting for Bolton right now.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee then postponed the vote until after the April recess. Bolton has been heavily grilled throughout the nomination hearings, with opposition ranging from his harsh demeanor to questions over his credibility.

Joining me now is former senior adviser to the Kerry campaign, Michael Meehan, and Republican strategist, Genevieve Wood.

So, Genevieve, what happened today? It appears the Republicans kind of melted in the face of these attacks on Bolton and just lost their spine. What happened?

GENEVIEVE WOOD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's a bump in the road, John, and I think it will be a bump that we quickly get over.

I think Senator Voinovich will get back on the bus, so to speak. I mean, look, what this is, is a guy, Mr. Bolton, who has been smeared, if you will, by Democrats, who, unfortunately, they lost an election and instead of realizing that the guy who won the election gets to make appointments to the U.N., gets to appoint judges to the bench, instead of realizing that and then trying to figure out how to win an election, they lose elections and then try to come in and filibuster and stop the process of confirmations in the Senate. John Bolton is just the most recent example.

GIBSON: OK, Michael, I assume you would argue with that. So let's go to the point. What's wrong with Bolton?

MICHAEL MEEHAN, FORMER SENIOR KERRY ADVISER: He's not qualified. The man is in charge of nuclear disarmament. And North Korea has quadrupled the amount of nuclear weapons that they have.


GIBSON: Wait. Wait. Wait. Michael, come on. That happened as a result of...


MEEHAN: He doesn't have the temperament.

GIBSON: That happened as a result of the Carter and Clinton deal...

WOOD: Thank you.

GIBSON: ... that went south. You can't blame that on John Bolton.

MEEHAN: You don't promote people — even if you have absolute power — who aren't qualified. And now Republican senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Hagel over the weekend, Senator Voinovich today...


WOOD: This is ridiculous.

MEEHAN: Senator Chafee, another member...


MEEHAN: ... all have put this off until next month.

GIBSON: Michael, come on. This has never been a qualification issue.

MEEHAN: Sure, it has.

GIBSON: I want to know what the beef is from the Democratic side. I heard Kerry saying it today, that there are people in the background complaining about Bolton's demeanor, the way he treats underlings. Is that an issue to stop a U.N. ambassador over?

MEEHAN: It's a diplomatic post. And if you can't exhibit diplomacy, no, you shouldn't get the job.

WOOD: That is ridiculous.

MEEHAN: And if Republican senators are now raising flags, then he should have been passed today; but he's not.


WOOD: This is not a personality test. This is whether or not somebody is qualified. It's quite clear by John Bolton's background that he is quite qualified for this position.

MEEHAN: And if he could convince Republican senators, he would have been on the way to the floor. But he can't.


WOOD: Well, Michael, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this.

You realize that, if this particular vote goes to the full floor of the Senate, he's going to win. Your guys, Democrats, John Kerry included, have the right to vote against this candidate.

MEEHAN: We would have voted today.

WOOD: What they don't have a right to do is obstruct justice. And that's exactly what you guys are doing on this nomination, just like you are with the judges.

MEEHAN: Senator Democrats would have voted today. We would have voted today. It's the Republicans who postponed the vote.


WOOD: Oh, right, Michael. You weren't trying to postpone the vote.

GIBSON: Explain to me...


MEEHAN: We were trying to have it. Time is not an ally for Bolton.

GIBSON: Michael, explain to me this, though. It's some issue that they won't talk about in public. But it has to do with yelling at a subordinate. Now, frankly, I can't see how that makes a big difference to a U.N. ambassador.

And the second one is some kind of issue about his credibility on information he has reported back to his superiors. What is that stuff? Why is it so critical, as far as the Democrats are concerned, that would disqualify him from being the U.N. ambassador?

MEEHAN: Well, he should answer the questions.

And the Democrats asked for us to go into closed session today to answer these questions, and the Republican leadership said no. So, now you've got Chuck Hagel and Voinovich raising questions to Republicans, I might add. If they had the votes, they would have voted today. They clearly don't have the votes. Now, he should answer the questions that are being raised. And if they were answered properly, he would...


GIBSON: OK, let me turn it to Genevieve.

Genevieve, on that point, I know Michael's side does not want this guy to be U.N. ambassador. You can say it's because they lost the election, if you want. But they're making specific charges here. And nobody is actually saying them out loud. Without sliming anybody, what is the beef with Bolton?

WOOD: Well, I don't know, John. You have to ask them.

I think the fact is they don't like his positions. They don't like that he represent the politics, the preferences of President George W. Bush. That's why they didn't vote for George Bush.

MEEHAN: That's not true.

WOOD: But George Bush won the majority votes in this country and he gets to pick the guy who best represents his views at the United Nations. And that's what President Bush — John Bolton is my pick to represent my policies at the United Nations.

GIBSON: OK, Michael, what is it about the U.N. — because I think Democrats have said this a lot — that it ought to be saved from the John Bolton treatment? We know what he's going to do. He's going to go there and yell at them. Why shouldn't they be yelled at?

MEEHAN: Well, look, he's not qualified. And that's the argument Democrats are making, because he hasn't done the job in the job that he was appointed to in order to be the chief diplomat at the U.N.

WOOD: What has he not done in his job, Michael?

MEEHAN: If he was qualified, moderates like John Voinovich would have voted yes today. He did not.

WOOD: What has he not done?

MEEHAN: Linc Chafee (search) in Rhode Island, another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is under enormous pressure to vote against him. Chuck Hagel over the weekend, another member, Republican member, didn't pass on him today. There are issues being raised not just by my side, but also by your side.

WOOD: Michael, can you tell me what he hasn't done? What has he not done? You keep making these charges. What has he not done well?

MEEHAN: He's not capable of convincing three Republicans to vote for him.

GIBSON: I guess we're going to find out, Genevieve, but not today, because I've got to run.

WOOD: All right.

GIBSON: Michael Meehan, Genevieve Wood, thank you very much.

MEEHAN: Thanks for having us.

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