WASHINGTON – Doubts dogged John Bolton Monday about whether he can be effective as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after President Bush bypassed the Senate to install him temporarily despite strong opposition to the tough-talking diplomat.

Foreign-affairs analysts said the political beating Bolton took at the hands of opponents – Republican majorities in the Senate twice were unable to muster enough votes to stop debate on the appointment – might cost him influence at the United Nations. But that wasn’t a universal opinion.

“Much of it depends on John Bolton,” said Donald McHenry, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter. Bolton’s “unorthodox” route to the United Nations “need not affect his job.”

In a subdued White House ceremony, Bush announced Monday that he was placing Bolton in the U.N. post as a “recess” appointment, taking advantage of the Senate’s annual summer break, which began Saturday. When the Senate is in recess, the Constitution permits the president to fill an open post that normally requires Senate approval, but the appointment is good only until a new Congress takes office. That means Bolton’s tenure will expire in January 2007.

Democrats charged that Bolton, as undersecretary of state for arms control, had browbeaten subordinates, displayed a blustery, undiplomatic temper and manipulated intelligence to serve his policy preferences.

Even some Senate Republicans were skittish about sending Bolton, an ardent U.N. critic, to represent America at the United Nations. Bolton’s nomination squeaked through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-8 vote without recommendation, an unusual move that let his nomination proceed to the Senate floor without the expert panel’s seal of approval.

The Senate voted twice – on May 26 and June 20 – to shut off debate and move to a final vote on Bolton’s nomination. But while both motions pulled majorities in the 100-member Senate, each fell short of the 60 votes needed under Senate rules to end debate, so Bolton never won Senate approval.

Predictably on Monday, Democrats blasted Bush for acting without Senate approval, while Republicans cheered the move.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called the appointment a “devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton’s credibility and the U.N.”

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, straightforward candidate and will represent the president and America well on the world stage.”

Less partisan analysts, including some of Bolton’s admirers, said various factors might hamper his effectiveness, including his failure to win Senate confirmation, the fact his term will be limited to 17 months, and discomfort among the diplomatic community over his confrontational manner.

“The Senate opponents have certainly made his job harder at the U.N.,” said Nile Gardiner, a U.N. expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “He remains formidable, though, and likely to be just as dogged and aggressive in pursuit of reforms.”

If Bolton learned something from his nomination process “in terms of his behavior and conduct and attitudes, there’s nothing that stops him from doing the job,” said McHenry, the Carter-era U.N. representative.

But McHenry said Bolton’s ability to achieve U.N. changes – the White House’s chief selling point for the nominee as a tough can-do operative – is exaggerated. There’s consensus on some needed changes, McHenry said, but where there’s none, Bolton will be unlikely to force progress.

Bush made clear that he thinks the only opinion that matters is his.

“I’m sending Ambassador Bolton to New York with my complete confidence,” Bush said in announcing the appointment. “He will speak for me on critical issues facing the international community.” Later, in conversation with Texas journalists at the White House, Bush added: “Bolton’s standing in the world depends upon my confidence in Bolton, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in Bolton.”

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday that Bolton’s recess appointment was “the president’s prerogative.” Bush “has decided to appoint him through this process, for him to come and represent him. And from where I stand, we will work with him, as the representative of the president and the government,” Annan said.


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