The Magazine

Senatorial Discourtesy

From the May 2, 2005 issue: The Foreign Relations Committee plays trivial pursuit.

May 2, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 31 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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But George Voinovich, Ohio Republican, had not attended the previous hearings on the Bolton nomination. He was apparently so concerned by the unsubstantiated allegations made against Bolton that he asked Lugar to delay the vote. "I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton," Voinovich declared.

His words stunned his colleagues. "There was a lot of drama when Senator Voinovich announced that he wanted more time," said Senator George Allen, Republican from Virginia and a Bolton supporter, in an interview the following day. "He had not been at all these other hearings and I've been at them. I guess he missed a lot of this."

Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, who has emerged as the Senate's leading voice on U.N. reform, was seated next to Voinovich at the hearing. When Voinovich finished his remarks, Coleman leaned over to speak to his colleague. "I told him that everything that's being said here today by the Democrats, there's another perspective," says Coleman. "I offered to sit down with him and go over the record with him."

The delay could be a problem. Not because Melody Townsel's allegations are compelling. They're not. In the days since she first aired her grievances, more information has come to light. Townsel is a Democratic activist who founded the Dallas, Texas, chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush. Her allegations were immediately challenged and convincingly refuted by four of her colleagues, including Jayant Kolatra, owner of the firm that employed Townsel and a longtime contributor to Democrats.

Kolatra disputed her account of the alleged interactions and offered a possible explanation for her hostility toward Bolton.

Ms. Townsel's recollection of what transpired, ten years later, is impossible to square with the fact[s]. Mr. Bolton was not engaged by our firm to have any contact with her on any issue related to her activities in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, Mr. Bolton later became our legal counsel to represent our interests before the U.S. government in response to Ms. Townsel's attempt to try to grab our contract [for herself]. Her claims against Mr. Bolton make no sense but are consistent with her belligerent attitudes toward others.

Rather, the delay could be a problem because it gives Bolton's opponents at least two weeks to pressure Lincoln Chafee into changing his vote. (In fact, both sides in the debate have begun intense lobbying efforts. A conservative PAC called "Move America Forward" has taken out radio ads blasting Voinovich, and others have launched www.confirmbolton.com.) But the White House is optimistic not just that both Voinovich and Hagel will eventually support Bolton. They believe Chafee will stay on board, even though he is a Republican in a heavily Democratic state and is up for reelection in 2006. According to his spokesman, Steve Hourahan, Chafee will take another look at Bolton.

"He's not going to have any comments about whether he's more likely or less likely to support the nomination," says Hourahan. "He was prepared to support the nominee and vote yes. But he heard more information at that hearing and wants to vet it more completely. If the allegations are actually true, then they'll talk about it. If they're not, it's important to know that, so when Bolton goes to the U.N. he won't have this hanging over his head."

With a committee vote scheduled for May 12, Bolton will have it hanging over his head for the next couple of weeks.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.