April 13, 2005



SUBJECT: Bolton: Character Assassination

The assault on John Bolton—a collaborative effort of Senate Democrats, the liberal media, and some quasi-Republicans resentful of his success—has now degenerated from an earnest (if misguided) critique of his views to a pathetic attempt at character assassination.

I worked with John Bolton in the first Bush administration. I know many people who have worked with him and for him in this administration. Carl Ford’s characterization of Bolton as a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” is disingenuous. No, let’s call a spade a spade—it’s dishonest.

John Bolton is no “kiss-up.” Quite the contrary. Over the last four years, he was famously willing to challenge his bosses, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, at the daily 8:30 State Department senior staff meeting. He paid a price for this, especially by earning the enmity of Armitage. Carl Ford, the former State Department intelligence chief, was a close associate of Armitage.

Nor is Bolton a “kick down sort of guy.” In fact, Bolton has always had a reputation as a straight shooter, a good boss, and not a screamer—unlike, say, Armitage. (Not that Armitage’s screaming should disqualify him from a future appointment, either. Lots of able public officials have been screamers.) The fact is, John Bolton lost trust in a subordinate of Ford who had tried an end run around him and then asked, according to the subordinate’s immediate boss in the intelligence shop, only that he be “moved to some other portfolio.”

This character assassination of Bolton is repugnant. If people want to oppose him because of his views, they’re certainly entitled to do so. I and other Bolton supporters have welcomed such a debate (see my editorial, “Bolton’s the One,” in the April 18 Weekly Standard). But to impugn the character of someone who has served sixteen years in government, in four Senate-confirmed positions, and has been popular and respected (if disagreed with, at times) in each of these positions, is just plain wrong.