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Special Report

Who Is John Bolton?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," April 25, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

BRIT HUME, HOST: Critics of John Bolton (search) have all kinds of reasons for opposing him. But the one that has become the focus of his confirmation hearing is that he is a hothead with an aggressive and bullying style incompatible with the job of high-level diplomacy.

So is he? One person who has worked with Bolton is former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger who joins me now from Charlottesville, Virginia.

First of all, Mr. Secretary, for how long have you known John Bolton? And when did you work around or with him?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, it's been at least 10 years. It's been 10, 15 years, something like that, a long time.

HUME: And you knew him — you've known him for 10 or 15 years or you worked with him — how long did you actually work with him?

EAGLEBURGER: I worked with him in the State Department. I retired too long ago. But it must have been the time in the State Department — it's got to have been, again, 10 years or so, something like that. I'm not sure, but a long time by my standards.

HUME: Nobody seems to doubt that this is a man with strong convictions and who is not afraid to express them. So is he abrasive?

EAGLEBURGER: Yes. He's abrasive. So am I, sometimes.

I worked for a lot of people in the State Department who were, on occasion, abrasive, and one in particular named Henry Kissinger. And I came away recognizing that when he was abrasive, it was because he was right.

I've never yet in all my time in the State Department — first of all, I never saw anything that indicated that John was abrasive to his subordinates. That isn't to say that it didn't happen. I'm simply saying I don't know anything about it. I never saw it.

But beyond that, it seems to me you ought to be very careful when you start attacking someone for the way he deals with his subordinates unless you are prepared to understand, first of all, what it is he's done and why it is he does it. And I don't see anything wrong with arguing with intelligence analysts and raking them over the coals if you disagree with them.

In fact, it is precisely that that the Silberman-Robb Committee or the investigation, rather, recommended be done, that the analysts needed to be challenged when they made their analyses. And certainly, we've seen times lately when it hasn't worked out well.

HUME: The argument is made, however, that not only was he aggressive in his argumentation in the back-and-forth with intelligence officers who were subordinates to him in the State Department, but that when someone didn't really disagree with him over time, that he sought to have that person removed, at least not from the State Department, to another job. What about that?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, again, I can't comment on whether he did it or not. I can only tell you again that, if you have someone — if you're in a policy position and you have someone below you who keeps fighting you on your policy decisions, at some point — and I've done this myself on more than one occasion — you ask them to remove themselves and go somewhere where they won't be standing in your way of getting your decisions made.

But may I say, I think all of this, by the way, is just a smoke screen for the real reason they're trying to get — to object to John. And that is because they know he's been critical of the U.N., they know he will be tough on the U.N. if he gets the job. And these people don't want us to be confronting the U.N. these days. They still believe it's the holy of holies and we have to roll over and play dead.

HUME: Let me ask you this question, as well, Mr. Secretary, and that is, this does — I mean, it's the universal suspicion in Washington is that this incident with Bolton and this whole controversy has revealed in a way that nothing before it really has the depth of the disagreement between the White House and the top levels of the State Department in the first Bush term.

And that the president saw in Bolton someone who was battling to achieve his policy. If he didn't think that, he obviously wouldn't have appointed him to this job. And that under Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage, there was some level of obstruction tolerated and perhaps even encouraged over there. What about that?

EAGLEBURGER: I have to tell you, listening to your analysis here, I suspect it's correct. I think there's no question in my mind that, on occasion, Secretary Powell did not agree with his president or vice versa. And I think that has something to do with what happened in terms of his departure.

I'm not now trying to argue who is right and who is wrong other than to say that when a president decides he wants something done, under normal circumstances, you'd better go ahead and try to do it.

And Bolton — I will not only suspect, I know — Bolton is much tougher on a number of questions that I think — and particularly on the U.N. — than I think on occasion the previous secretary wanted. And I'm not now condemning Colin Powell.

I am saying, however, that I understand that the real concern about John Bolton is that he's tough and he says what he thinks. And that's a terrible thing to do in Washington.

HUME: It has been alleged that — by the one witness who testified against him in particular who was the head of the intelligence bureau over there for a time — that Bolton is what he called a "kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy." Now, he served with you and presumably under you. Is he a kiss-up kind of guy?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, I don't remember being kissed, but I do remember this — and it's one of the reasons I admire him — is that when we'd get together on a subject, he would argue with me if he thought I was wrong. And when I got a little bit purple in the face, he would recognize that it was time to shut up.

But he let me know what it was he thought about issues. And the trouble with government too often is that they don't do that to their superiors. And so in this case, I wouldn't say it was kissing up, but I would say it was telling me what he thought.

HUME: All right. Secretary Larry Eagleburger, very good of you to join us. Thank you very much, sir.

EAGLEBURGER: My pleasure.

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