Opening Statement of Senator Barack Obama at the Confirmation Hearing of Bolton
- They are having the final vote on Bolton right now (live on C-SPAN
2). The Democrats are obviously very angry. Anyway, never noticed
that Pat Moynihan and Henry Cabot Lodge served as the U.N.
Ambassador. From these "most distinguished Americans" to John Bolton,
and some are still pretentiously questioning why the world hates
Opening Statement of Senator Barack Obama at the Confirmation Hearing
of John Bolton
Monday, April 11, 2005
Opening Statement of Senator Barack Obama
Confirmation Hearing of John Bolton
April 11, 2005
Mr. Chairman and Senator Biden, the position of United States
Permanent Representative to the United Nations is one of the most
important diplomatic positions in the entire U.S. government.
Some of the most distinguished Americans - Democrats and Republicans
like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, George H.W. Bush, and Henry Cabot
Lodge - have served with honor in this position.
Yet, there is one man from my home state of Illinois whose experience
as Permanent Representative is quite relevant today.
Adlai Stevenson served in this position during the Cuban Missile
Crisis. And, as we all know, it was Stevenson's presentation to the
U.N. Security Council that proved to the world that the Soviets were
moving intermediate range missiles into Cuba. Using charts and photos
to build a compelling case, Stevenson declared to Soviet Ambassador
Zorin that he was prepared to wait "until Hell freezes over" for
Zorin's response to the U.S. charges.
What few people remember is that Stevenson's presentation came on the
heels of what one might call an "intelligence failure." A year
earlier, Stevenson had been misled by the White House and the CIA
into publicly stating that the United States was not behind the Bay
of Pigs invasion. Stevenson almost resigned over the incident.
This series of events is important to keep in mind today. During the
Cuban Missile Crisis, we were able to succeed diplomatically because
of the stature and integrity of our Permanent Representative to the
United Nations. In fact, President Kennedy said that, "the integrity
and credibility of Adlai Stevenson constitute one of our greatest
As a result, Adlai Stevenson was able to get tough, isolate the
Soviets, and convince the world we were right.
Today, we face a similar situation. With the rest of the world
questioning our intelligence capabilities, and nuclear proliferation
threats from Iran to North Korea that may require action by the U.N.
Security Council, we must be able to convince the world that we are
right. Now, more than ever, we need a credible messenger at the U.N.
Unfortunately, I have some serious reservations about whether Mr.
Bolton is the right man for the job:
First, senior U.S. intelligence officials have called into question
Mr. Bolton's credibility on statements he's made about non-
proliferation. There are also accusations related to political
pressure on intelligence analysts who did not agree with Mr. Bolton's
statements. Considering that he's the top arms control official at
the State Department, this is troubling to say the least.
Second, Mr. Bolton's history of inflammatory statements about the
U.N. would seem to make it more difficult for him to advance U.S.
interests at the U.N. I am concerned about whether Mr. Bolton even
believes the U.N. is a viable institution and a useful instrument of
U.S. foreign policy. Saying that it wouldn't make a difference if you
lop off ten floors of the UN building in New York isn't exactly the
best way to earn people's respect and support - whatever the context.
Finally, Mr. Bolton appears to have an overly confrontational history
with several member-states on the Security Council. Like Adlai
Stevenson, I believe there are times to be tough. But statements
like "I don't do carrots" coming from someone who wants to be our
chief diplomat at the U.N. certainly give me pause.
Mr. Chairman, there is no question that we need someone in New York
who is unafraid to shake things up and challenge the status quo. But,
we also need someone with the credibility, temperament, and
diplomatic skill to work with other nations, form coalitions, and
advance U.S. interests.
That is why I've invoked the memory of Adlai Stevenson here today: he
was tough; he was credible; he was diplomatic. Most importantly, he
was effective. Stevenson proved that we should not make compromises
or trade-offs when selecting our Representative to the U.N.
I want to give Mr. Bolton a chance to speak on these issues, and so
my mind is not made up yet. I want to hear from him as to how he can
be an effective and credible advocate for the U.S. I look forward to
hearing his testimony and answers to the Committee's questions.