An emerging portrait of Mr. Bolton as a bully

Let’s go back back back in time to see why a Republican-led Senate committee in 2005 refused to approve John Bolton as Bush’s ambassador to the UN, because now he’s in a job that doesn’t need Senate approval.

One moment singularly derailed his nomination. Testifying before the usually staid Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2005, Carl W. Ford Jr. — the former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research — called Mr. Bolton a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” and a “serial abuser” of people beneath him in the chain of command. Mr. Ford — a self-described conservative Republican and Bush supporter — made vivid an emerging portrait of Mr. Bolton as a bully who repeatedly sought retribution against career intelligence analysts with the temerity to contradict him.

No wonder Trump likes him. “Kiss-up, kick-down” exactly describes Trump. Smooch Pootie, kick almost everyone else.

Mr. Bolton, President Bush’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security, had a general disdain for diplomacy that rankled several Republican members of the committee, including George Voinovich of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Mr. Lugar had quietly counseled the administration not to nominate him.

That disdain, in and of itself, did not sink his nomination. Rather, it was the testimony we heard and evidence we uncovered that Mr. Bolton had a habit of twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and sought to remove anyone who objected.

He insisted Cuba was developing biological weapons; people who knew more about it disagreed; Bolton tried to get them moved to other jobs.

Mr. Bolton also was accused of attempting to inflate the dangers of Syria’s biological and nuclear weapons programs, by trying to sneak exaggerated assertions into speeches and congressional testimony before being called on it by intelligence officials. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage reportedly issued an extraordinary decree that required Mr. Bolton to clear all of his public utterances with Mr. Armitage himself.

That sounds very Trump-like too. Trump tells shameless lies, and seems to have no qualms about it whatever.

Then in 2002, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Bolton helped orchestrate the removal of the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (which would win the Nobel Peace Prize more than decade later). His crime? Trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Iraq. (Mr. Bolton said he was fired for “incompetence.”) Those inspectors might have debunked claims that Saddam Hussein retained a stockpile of chemical weapons and was pursuing a nuclear arsenal — the justification for the following year’s invasion.

He tried to get other people fired. He frequently demanded the identities of US officials whose names were hidden in sensitive intelligence; some on the Committee worried that was because he wanted to retaliate against them.

Other witnesses came forward to allege abusive behavior by Mr. Bolton during his time as a lawyer in the private sector — screaming, threatening, throwing documents and, in the words of one woman, “genuinely behaving like a madman.”

All of this ultimately proved too much for Senator Voinovich. In a remarkable speech to his colleagues on the committee, a visibly pained Mr. Voinovich explained his decision to vote against Mr. Bolton, effectively killing the nomination. We’ve heard, he said, that Mr. Bolton is “an ideologue and fosters an atmosphere of intimidation. He does not tolerate disagreement. He does not tolerate dissent.”

“This is not,” he continued, “the behavior that should be endorsed as the face of the United States to the world.” President Bush used a recess appointment to make Mr. Bolton the ambassador without Senate approval.

We are about to find out whether this sort of behavior is any more appropriate for a president’s national security adviser, arguably the most powerful, sensitive and demanding job in the administration short of the president’s — and one that requires an honest broker, willing to present the president with ideas and analyses he does not agree with.

Bad moon.

2 Responses to “An emerging portrait of Mr. Bolton as a bully”