The president circumvented the Senate, which had been mired in debate.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- John Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations had languished for five months. Then, in just five hours Monday, the tough-talking conservative got the job, was sworn in and was at work in New York.
"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform," President Bush said at a White House ceremony that ended a lengthy battle with Senate Democrats who argued that Bolton was abusive and unfit for the job.
Circumventing the Senate confirmation process, Bush installed Bolton by means of a recess appointment, an avenue available when Congress is out of town. Under the Constitution, Bolton's appointment will last until a newly elected Congress takes office in January 2007.
The president has made 106 recess appointments, many of them judges. Bolton is the highest-level such appointment of Bush's administration. Also, he is the first person ever to become the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. by means of a recess appointment, according to a Senate historian, Betty Koed.
Democrats had argued that Bolton twisted intelligence to suit his hawkish ideology and complained that the administration was withholding classified information about his work as arms control chief.
Bolton went directly from the White House to the State Department where he was sworn in and then to the U.S. Mission in New York.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointedly noted that Bolton was one of many U.N. ambassadors. "I think it is all right for one ambassador to come and push," Annan said, "but an ambassador always has to remember that there are 190 others who will have to be convinced, or a vast majority of them, for action to take place."
Act of defiance
Bush's appointment was the climax to a high-stakes test of wills with Democrats. Republicans tried twice to break a Democratic-led filibuster against Bolton's confirmation but failed.
The president, after feuding for months with Democrats over judicial nominations, decided to defy his opponents and get his way with his U.N. candidate.
The shaggy-haired Bolton has been a sharp critic of the United Nations, a man who rarely muffled his voice for the sake of diplomatic niceties. His own critics portrayed him as an uncompromising and hotheaded conservative who shut out or retaliated against any voices of caution or dissent. Bush said he was "the right man" to prod the U.N. to adopt difficult reforms.
Addressing concerns that Bolton's hand had been weakened by the process, Bush said the diplomat had "my complete confidence. ... He will speak for me on critical issues facing the international community."
Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, who had stunned the White House by opposing Bolton, said he was disappointed by Bush's decision.
"I am truly concerned that a recess appointment will only add to John Bolton's baggage and his lack of credibility with the United Nations," Voinovich said.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., called the appointment "shameful and irresponsible." Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada called Bolton "seriously flawed and weakened." Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said Bolton was a man who "bullies, marginalizes and undermines those who do not agree with him."
However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said, "The president did the right thing by sending Mr. Bolton to the U.N. He is a smart, principled and straightforward candidate, and will represent the president and America well on the world stage."
"Let's not prejudge his behavior," said Brazil's U.N. ambassador, Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg. "Let's wait for how he comes and what he says here. ... The tendency here at the United Nations is for us to work together. So I hope that this general tendency will prevail."