UPDATE: Thank god for the LA Times. (At end of story.)

“Johnny, we hardly knew ye!”

About “this brainy son of a Baltimore firefighter,” the Sunday New York Times writes fondly:

Mr. Bolton has proved himself a fighter, fiercely committed to a bedrock American nationalism.

Bedrock. Can you get any more solid than that? Thing is, that phrase is not a quote. Those are the words of the NYT reporter, Scott Shane.

This tough American — in a story that makes his critics look like a bunch of isolated whiners — passes the foxhole test:

Seemingly untroubled by self doubt, Mr. Bolton, whom former Senator Jesse Helms once called “the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon,” has never shied from a dispute nor hesitated to shatter a consensus. In his office he displays a grenade designating him as “Truest Reaganaut,” a telling gift from former colleagues at the United States Agency for International Development.

A real John Wayne.

Cross-posted at DailyKos … more below from “Never Shy, Bolton Brings a Zeal to the Table”:
His critics clearly misunderstand. He’s a patriotic fighter:

From his battle, as a Justice Department official, for the doomed Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork to his dramatic declaration to poll workers tabulating presidential ballots in Florida in 2000 – “I’m with the Bush-Cheney team and I’m here to stop the count” – Mr. Bolton has proved himself a fighter, fiercely committed to a bedrock American nationalism.


When you hear people describe him as abrasive, you think, ‘That sounds like John Bolton,’ ” said [former classmate Ed] Wroe, an attorney in Idaho. “He didn’t worry about what people thought of him.”

Dr. Bruce K. Krueger, his Yale roommate for five years and now a physiologist at the University of Maryland medical school, recalls Mr. Bolton as a far more pleasant character. “He might say something provocative – everyone else in the room might disagree with it – but he’d have something solid and well-reasoned to back it up.”

The flattery goes on for three Web pages, including a paean to Bolton’s work ethic and preparedness. He’s not abusive! He’s “dogged”:

He wins … plaudits [from James Baker and Dick Cheney] partly because of an extreme work style that sometimes has him firing off e-mail messages to subordinates from home at 4 a.m. before arriving at the office at 6. In his current job, he has required staff members to stand – along with him – at morning meetings, to discourage long-winded discussions.

“When you go in to brief John Bolton, as I found out early, you better be prepared,” said Thomas M. Boyd, who was Mr. Bolton’s deputy when he was assistant attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department and who remains a friend. “He’s kind of like an appellate judge. He will read everything. If you have holes in your argument, he won’t work with you.”

He has also impressed superiors with his dogged pursuit of goals he believes in. As assistant secretary of state in the administration of the elder George Bush, he took on the task of repealing a United Nations General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism, long resented by Israel and its American supporters.

And he’s tough, logical, relentless, but decent:

“He’s tough and he’s relentless and he’s very logical,” said Frank J. Donatelli, a Republican consultant who has worked with Mr. Bolton both in government and party operations. “But I’ve never observed any kind of abusive behavior.”

Then there are his modest roots, beginning at “Baltimore’s McDonogh School, where Mr. Bolton discovered his intellectual gifts and his fascination with politics”:

Raised in a working-class row house neighborhood in southwest Baltimore called Yale Heights – a far cry from the university where he would earn undergraduate and law degrees – Mr. Bolton won a scholarship to McDonogh, then an all-male military school.

That modest background is a key to his personality, some associates say. “He didn’t come from money,” said Mr. Boyd, his former subordinate. “Sometimes when you push the rock up the hill, you’re hungrier. You have more of a drive to succeed.”

Colleagues admire this devoted family man who loves his wife but who sacrifices a family ski trip to serve his nation:

[A]ssociates describe Mr. Bolton as an avid reader, particularly of history and biography, and a political junkie. They describe him as a very private person who is devoted to his wife, Gretchen, a financial planner, and their daughter, Jennifer, who now attends Yale. When mother and daughter head off on ski trips, he stays behind.

“He can appear to be very stern,” said Mr. Boyd, his former Justice Department colleague. “I think that’s a product of his reserve. He’s got a great sense of humor, a great cackle of a laugh – but he has to trust you.”

Take that, you naysayers! The rehabilitation has begun, thanks in no small part to today’s The New York Times.

In fairness, it must be noted that there are three paragraphs about one of the naysayers:

The drive and ideological certainty that admirers believe make Mr. Bolton effective strike his critics as excessive. Avis T. Bohlen, who worked under Mr. Bolton as assistant secretary of state for arms control, said she agreed with several of his initiatives, including scuttling a protocol to the international ban on biological weapons. But she thought the United States should work with European allies to find a better approach to preventing biological weapons. Mr. Bolton did not.

“He was absolutely clear that he didn’t want any more arms control agreements,” Ms. Bohlen said. “He didn’t want any negotiating bodies. He just cut it off. It was one more area where we lost support and respect in the world.”

In handling disagreements, too, Ms. Bohlen said, Mr. Bolton sometimes went over the line. “What I find unfortunate is that he had a tendency to go after the little guys,” she said. “I think Bolton is a bully.”

But, in her isolation — amidst such positive portraits — Ms. Bohlen’s comments seem rather like whining, just like that silly young woman who complained that Bolton chased her down a hallway.


Bless the LA Times. From the War and Piece blog today:

Bolton’s Civl War. There is much worth contemplating in Sonni Efron’s LAT review today of John Bolton’s being dropped behind enemy lines in the State Department: that Bolton proved himself so untrustworthy that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage appointed a full time minder to watch him and required that all his speeches be vetted; that foreign officials had to be told to not accept that Bolton’s pronouncements represented Bush administration policy towards Iran and North Korea; that Condoleezza Rice has personally called Senate Republicans to say Bolton would be carefully “scripted” at the UN and that if “he goes off the reservation, he’s out”; that one key reason Bolton got the UN nomination is because Rice wouldn’t accept Bolton as her deputy secretary but thought she could manage him in a position less to do with policy than following instructions; and this:

Some U.S. officials complained that Bolton’s undiplomatic style sometimes backfired, harming U.S. interests.

A U.S. government nonproliferation expert said that in the fall of 2003, Bolton insisted on taking a harsh line against Iran at the board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. mission in Vienna, where the agency is based, had been assigned a key task: winning a board vote referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for action to restrain its nuclear programs.

But energy agency board members from other countries refused to go along. Nevertheless, Bolton instructed the U.S. mission at the agency not to compromise on any of the changes sought by other countries to a draft resolution, the official assigned to “mind” Bolton said.

“Next thing I know, our ambassador … is calling the secretary or Armitage and saying, ‘What the hell are you guys doing? You’re going to send this train over the cliff!’ ” the official said.

Bolton was overruled.

Bolton was distraught at what he considered a soft-line policy on Iran, and sought to have [his chief of staff Frederick] Fleitz travel to Vienna to sit in on a luncheon meeting of energy agency ambassadors, the official said. But the trip was seen as an attempt by Bolton to keep an eye on the U.S. ambassador there, and was nixed as “highly inappropriate.”

The senior State Department official declined to comment on specifics of the Iran policy flap, calling it an example of the “malevolent gossip” surrounding Bolton’s nomination.

Reading between the lines, it’s pretty clear that key Bush administration officials, including Rice, acknowledge there are serious reasons to not have confidence in Bolton in the role of parlaying and representing Bush administration policy at the UN. The multiple accounts of bureaucratic warfare gathered here also add to the suspicion that when Bolton sought the US names from the NSA transcripts he obtained, it was in his role as fighting a guerrilla war against US officials inside the Bush administration, rather than in pursuing external national security matters. More to come, as Steve Clemons alerts us that the NSA has recommended release of those intercepts.

Posted by Laura at May 1, 2005 10:05 AM

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