Amb. John Bolton on Hopes for Senate Confirmation Vote

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This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," November 16, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, Iran says that it is ready to take the final step in its nuclear program, while North Korea threatens to pull away from nuclear talks. And the one guy who has been working tirelessly to squash these threats could be about to get the boot.

With us now, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who must be confirmed by the Senate before Democrats take control to keep his job. And, increasingly, that doesn't look like it's going to happen.

Ambassador, that's not right.

JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Well, thank you for having me here, to begin with.

It's — it's something that I'm content to let the Senate and the White House work on. You know, I'm concentrating up here on North Korea, Iran, Darfur, Lebanon. And the White House is working very hard to get a vote on the Senate floor. And I think, if we had a vote on the Senate floor, the nomination would be successful. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping they can do it in Washington.

CAVUTO: All right, Joe Biden had said last week: Mr. President, give us another nominee.

What did you think when you heard that?

BOLTON: Well, it's obviously up to the president.

And I was very gratified and honored — and I have been since serving at the beginning of his administration — that he continuous to push the nomination forward. And I think we have got several weeks now in the lame-duck session. But we will just see what happens.

CAVUTO: All right. Now, I'm — maybe steer me through Washington politics — I guess you have gotten a baptism by fire through this — but what could a lame-duck session do? It could technically still approve you, but it has to get to the floor. What is the difficulty?

BOLTON: Right.

At this point, all of the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are continuing to vote against me. And I don't doubt that they would vote against me on the floor. One possibility would be that they would say: Look, we are going to vote against Bolton, but the president's nominee deserves an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Vote the nomination out without recommendation. Let each individual senator on the floor make up his or her mind.

CAVUTO: I have been wondering, is there another way around it, another — someone said an alternative way of paying your salary or giving you a different title, let's say deputy U.N. representative, something like that, has that been discussed?

BOLTON: Well, there — there is a lot of speculation out there.

But I think we have got our eyes focused on the confirmation route. We think that — that there's a good shot at having it happen. I was very gratified earlier this year that Senator Voinovich, who had been a critic and an opponent last year, looked at the performance up here, and said: I'm going to vote for Bolton.

I think there are some others out there. You know, Joe Lieberman announced during the recent campaign he would vote to confirm me. So, I think if we could just, as I say, get it — get the nomination to the floor, we will see what happens then. That would be the fair thing...


CAVUTO: But, in your gut, that really doesn't look likely, right?

BOLTON: Well, I think the — the odds are uphill. But we still have several weeks to go. So, that's what the White House is focused on.

CAVUTO: Ambassador, I have heard from others who are saying, the president might not want to stake this bipartisanship environment on pushing and ramming you through, so that you might actually, ironically, be a sacrificial lamb.

What do you make of that?


BOLTON: Well, I don't — I don't want to speculate on what might come next.

One thing I learned, among the many things I learned from Secretary Powell, is that, in this situation, it really is true that the political nominees depend on the pleasure of the president. I have been honored to serve him. I will be satisfied with whatever decision he makes.

Right now, we are focused on seeing if we can get some action on the Senate floor.

CAVUTO: All right.

If you don't mind my belaboring this point, Ambassador, one is that those who were against you going into this thought you would be a bull in the china shop, that — that you would get everybody annoyed, that you would have no people skills, that you were a horrible human being, yadda, yadda.

It turns out that you have done a pretty fine job. And, when — when — when ambassadors from China and Russia and some of the other countries sing your praises, did that mollify some of those critics? Did you ever privately hear, hey, you know, Bolton is not the guy we thought he would — he would be?

BOLTON: Well, you know, if I were the person that they had caricatured me to be, I probably wouldn't have voted for me anyway.


BOLTON: So, it's — it's no surprise that I didn't turn out be that way.

But I do think that, if people look at performance, I would be happy to be judged on my performance over the past 16 months. But that — that requires getting it to the Senate floor. So...

CAVUTO: OK. But, again, there's been no talk, short of that, of giving you another appointment or another way around a Senate appointment?

BOLTON: As I say, there has been a lot of speculation in the media about it.

CAVUTO: Right.

BOLTON: We prefer to keep our focus on what may happen in the Senate.

CAVUTO: All right.

Now, to many in the conservative community, and — and the larger Republican Party as a whole, you have become a bit of a rock star. Have you considered, if this doesn't work out — and I don't want to jinx it, but if it doesn't work out — running for office?

BOLTON: No, I haven't.

And, although Senator Moynihan used the U.N. ambassadorship to good effect...

CAVUTO: To become a senator, yes.

BOLTON: ... in 1976...

CAVUTO: Right.

BOLTON: ... I recall that what he did to do that was to beat Jim Buckley, the Conservative senator, Conservative Party senator, from New York. So, that's not a — that's not a path I'm going to follow. I'm — I'm...


CAVUTO: But it has been done.

BOLTON: It has been done. I'm — I'm not...


CAVUTO: And you haven't even thought about it?

BOLTON: People have asked me about it, so, of course, I have thought about it, but I have concluded that's not going to happen.

CAVUTO: All right.

Now, the — the fear among, I know, many in the White House, Ambassador, is that, if you are forced out, it will be sending a dangerous message to the North Koreas, the Irans.

What do you make of that?

BOLTON: Well, I'm concentrating on sending a message this week to Iran that we are very serious. We want them to suspend their uranium-enrichment activity. We want to give them — have them give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

And this is something that is very serious. President Bush addressed the North Korean problem in an important speech in Singapore today, making it clear it remains our very highest priority to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

CAVUTO: I didn't know what he meant by his threat, quasi-threat today.

What did he mean?

BOLTON: Well, I think one of the things we are most concerned about North Korea is not only the threat they pose in Northeast Asia by possessing nuclear weapons, but the fact that North Korea could sell or transfer such a weapon to a terrorist organization or another rogue state.

North Korea is already the world's biggest proliferator of ballistic missile technology. They will do anything for hard currency. They counterfeit our money. They sell illegal narcotics in diplomatic pouches. And it's perfectly within their capability to sell a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group. We cannot let that happen.

CAVUTO: Do you think — I keep going back to this stance for you at the — as the ambassador — that your maybe weakened state, or the fact that you might not be there long, has hurt you in — in — in dealing with North Korea, dealing with Iran?

BOLTON: I don't — I don't think it has, because I think the people up here in New York know that I speak for Secretary Rice and for the president, that we are pursuing policies that have been clearly articulated. And it doesn't slow me down at all.


In Iran's case, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister of Israel, had said that, very soon — I think I'm paraphrasing here, Ambassador — that country could be capable of producing multiple nuclear weapons every year, and that — that the arsenal will get bigger and bigger and bigger.

What did you think of that?

BOLTON: Well, I think — I think his analysis is correct.

One of the things we are trying to do is prevent a situation where Iran has a completely indigenous capability to go all the way from uranium in the ground, which they have — they have uranium deposits — to go all the way from uranium mining, right up to the fabrication of nuclear weapons.

You know, data from the International Atomic Energy Agency — it's publicly available — already says that Iran has 173 tons of uranium, in the form of uranium hexafluoride, a gas that you need to have to enrich it to weapons-grade. If they took that 173 tons and enriched it to weapons-grade, that would be enough, roughly, for 20 nuclear weapons.

CAVUTO: Finally, do you think our security is in danger right now in this political environment, that the world seems to think, hey, the U.S. is shifting course; the U.S. U.N. ambassador might be out; the devil will play?

BOLTON: Well, I think some countries may be reading it that way.

It would be a mistake, because one rock in all of this changing political environment here is President Bush, who has said, publicly and repeatedly, that it's just unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons, for North Korea to transfer those weapons.

CAVUTO: So, you don't think we have been chastened at all in this?

BOLTON: I don't think President Bush has been moved an inch in his determination to stop the proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction.


Ambassador, always good seeing you. I hope you continue as ambassador.

John Bolton, thank you very much.

BOLTON: Thank you.

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