09/07/2006 02:52 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lincoln Chafee: Taking a Principled Stand on Bolton


Senator Lincoln Chafee impressed just about everyone during the recent testimony of John Bolton before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He pushed Bolton for hard answers to important questions, and did not yield when Bolton tried to duck and swerve Chafee's queries.

Chafee is worried about American foreign policy and the absence of a clear plan in the Middle East. He thinks that the administration has done nothing credible in recent years to push forward a "viable, two state solution" in Israel-Palestine affairs.

Today, Chafee told Senator Lugar that he would not support John Bolton as things stood. He would vote no if pushed. This has been glossed over now by Senator Chafee's staff and others as being a prolonged period of purgatory for Bolton because Chafee has "unanswered questions".

But the vote was delayed -- and it is now certain to be delayed beyond the September 12th primaries in Rhode Island. After Senator Chafee wins, which TWN hopes he does, the Senator's hand is even freer to vote his views and conscience on Bolton.

There is still uncertainty among the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members as to whether Chafee's opposition to Bolton is "hard" or "soft", but clearly the administration did not read this blog's perception that Chafee was deeply troubled by Bolton's diplomatic failures and did nothing to respond to Chafee's articulated concerns.

If the vote on Bolton in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee occurs on September 14th, or the following week, and passes through Committee to the Senate floor, there will be a new range of concerns deployed by Senators who are not members of the Committee. This may involve a filibuster.

The Senate wants to go out of session by September 27th -- so thus far, for those who remain steadfast in their opposition to Bolton, things are looking good.

-- Steve Clemons