WSJ wrongly absolved Bolton of "wild accusations," falsely attacked Clinton recess appointments


An August 2 Wall Street Journal editorial falsely defended recently appointed United Nations ambassador John R. Bolton, claiming that "[n]o wild accusation was ever proved" about Bolton "other than that he sought the removal of two intelligence analysts for incompetence and insubordination." The Journal also responded to those criticizing President Bush for "having bypassed the Senate" by using a recess appointment to place Bolton in the ambassador's job, claiming that Bush has not "shown himself willing to abuse the appointment power, unlike the most recent Democratic President." In fact, other claims made against Bolton have been proven true, including allegations that he misled the Senate during the nomination process and overstated Syrian weapons capabilities. Also, Bush is on pace to surpass former President Clinton's number of recess appointments; in less than five years, he is closing in on Clinton's eight-year total.

While the Journal gave little indication as to what constitutes a "wild accusation," it omitted a number of accusations levied against Bolton that have been proven accurate or are strongly supported by available evidence, including recent reports that he gave a false answer on a Senate questionnaire that was part of the nomination process. Bolton answered on the questionnaire that he had not been interviewed by an inspector general, government agency, or grand jury during the past five years. But in response to a letter from Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), the State Department acknowledged that Bolton had indeed been interviewed by inspectors general from the State Department and the CIA in 2003 regarding disputed claims that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger. According to a July 30 Los Angeles Times article: "The State Department responded to Biden with a letter saying Bolton did not recall being interviewed by its inspector general's office."

Additionally, the Journal neglected evidence that Bolton, as undersecretary of state for arms control, exaggerated the threat posed by Syrian weapons capabilities. The editorial claimed that "Senators Biden and [Christopher] Dodd [D-CT] ostentatiously demanded that the Administration let them see confidential intelligence intercepts relating to Mr. Bolton's testimony on Syrian weapons of mass destruction. These same Senators agreed that Mr. Bolton's testimony was accurate." But it was the testimony Bolton planned to give before Congress on Syria in 2003 that was problematic, not his actual testimony, as Media Matters for America has documented. In preparing to testify before Congress in 2003, Bolton drafted a statement (not publicly available) on Syrian chemical and biological weapons programs that, according to various news reports, went far beyond what the intelligence community believed at the time. Whether or not Biden and Dodd agreed with Bolton's actual testimony is moot. According to a June 23 Knight Ridder article, Biden and Dodd were seeking the draft of the testimony:

Democrats want the White House to hand over an early draft of a speech that Bolton, while a State Department official, was preparing on the state of Syria's weapons programs. They also want a list of 19 names of U.S. officials and companies that Bolton requested regarding secret intercepts of their communications by the National Security Agency. Biden and Dodd say the information would show whether Bolton tried to exaggerate Syria's access to weapons of mass destruction, and tried to keep tabs on officials who had policy differences with him -- such as his then-boss, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Further, the Journal's suggestion that Clinton used his power to make recess appointments more frequently than Bush is false. Bush has made more than 110 recess appointments in just over one term as president -- close to the 140 Clinton made over the course of two whole terms, as Media Matters has noted. Notably, Ronald Reagan, the last two-term president before Clinton, made 240 recess appointments, according to a March 15 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service on recess appointments.

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