Like lingerie for Christmas, this gift keeps giving.
A new portrayal of John R. Bolton describes him as having so angered senior State Department officials with his public comments that the deputy secretary of state, Richard L. Armitage, ordered two years ago that Mr. Bolton be blocked from delivering speeches and testimony unless they were personally approved by Mr. Armitage.
The detailed account was provided to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Lawrence S. Wilkerson, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Mr. Wilkerson said that Mr. Bolton, who was then an under secretary of state, had caused “problems” by speaking out on North Korea, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other delicate issues in remarks that had not been properly cleared.
“Therefore, the deputy made a decision, and communicated that decision to me, that John Bolton would not give any testimony, nor would he give any speech, that wasn’t cleared first by Rich,” Mr. Wilkerson said, according to a transcript of an hourlong interview with members of the committee staff last Thursday.
In an e-mail message on Monday, Mr. Wilkerson said of the restrictions imposed on Mr. Bolton that “if anything, they got more stringent” as time went on. “No one else was subjected to these tight restrictions,” he said.
Mr. Wilkerson said that Mr. Bolton had been a major cause of tension and resentment at the highest levels of the State Department because of his temperament, his treatment of subordinates and the fact that he had “overstepped his bounds” on a number of occasions, including what Mr. Wilkerson called “his moves and gyrations” aimed at preventing Mohamed ElBaradei from being reappointed as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring body.
“Now, what do I mean by that?” Mr. Wilkerson said. “I mean, going out of his way to bad-mouth him, to make sure that everybody knew that the maximum power of the United States would be brought to bear against them if he were brought back in,” Mr. Wilkerson said of Mr. Bolton’s approach to Dr. ElBaradei.
Mr. Wilkerson also disputed one account that had been provided by Mr. Bolton, and said that it was Mr. Armitage, and not Mr. Bolton, who decided in the summer of 2003 to postpone Congressional testimony that Mr. Bolton had planned to give on Syria and that had touched off significant opposition from American intelligence agencies. Mr. Wilkerson also provided a new account of the reaction within the State Department to a speech that Mr. Bolton delivered on North Korea in the summer of 2003, saying that the speech had not been fully vetted and that Mr. Armitage had become “very angry – that’s to put it mildly” – at an assistant secretary of state who signed off on Mr. Bolton’s language.
In his capacity as chief of staff, Mr. Wilkerson said, he was often visited in his office by other high-level State Department officials who would ask, “Can I sit down?”
“Sure, sit down,” Mr. Wilkerson said he would say. “What’s the problem?” Invariably, Mr. Wilkerson said, the answer would be “Bolton.”