WASHINGTON - President Bush installed embattled nominee John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations on Monday, bypassing the Senate after a testy five-month standoff with Democrats who argued that the tough-talking conservative was unfit for the job.
"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform," Bush said at a White House ceremony with Bolton and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Bolton went directly from the White House to the State Department where he was sworn in. Within five hours of his appointment, he arrived at the U.S. Mission in New York to begin work.
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."
Bush's appointment was the climax to a high-stakes test of wills with Democrats. Republicans failed twice to break a Democratic-led filibuster against Bolton's confirmation.
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 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.
Bush put Bolton on the job by means of a recess appointment, an avenue available when Congress is in recess. 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 and the first U.S. ambassador to the U.N. named by a recess appointment.
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."
An attorney, Bolton had been undersecretary of state for arms control and international security since May 11, 2001, and earlier he held a variety of jobs at the departments of Justice and State under Republican administrations.
Democrats complained that the White House had refused to turn over classified information on Bolton's tenure as arms control chief. They said he was an ideologue who lacked the diplomatic touch to advance U.S. interests at the world body and repair the American image abroad. And they said that Bolton had twisted intelligence to fit his hawkish philosophy.
The Democrats and the White House deadlocked over Bolton's acknowledged request for names of U.S officials whose communications were secretly picked up by the National Security Agency. Democrats said the material might show that Bolton conducted a witch hunt for analysts or others who disagreed with him.
The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee received a limited briefing on the contents of the messages Bolton saw, but they were not told the names.
Bolton succeeds former Sen. John Danforth, who retired in January. The job has been filled temporarily by Anne Patterson, a career foreign service officer.