Biden: 'Right Wing' Pressured Bush To Appoint Reich

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says it was the right wing of the Republican Party that pressured President Bush into appointing Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs in a recess appointment.

Interviewed Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press, Sen Joe Biden (D-Del.) said, "I suspect there has been considerable pressure inside the right to go ahead and do this. I think it was a very bad political move on the president's part. I really regret having it happen."

"We're going to have to manage the fallout from this, and this was not, respectfully speaking, a smart thing to do in my view," Biden said.

Democrats threaten retaliation

He said Reich's appointment will cause further tension in relations between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House.

Biden says before the Senate went out on recess, a handful of senators asked him to tell the president "that if he does this, we will retaliate with regard to the rest of his nominations."

Biden said he hopes that doesn't happen. "The administration fully understood this. The State Department fully understood this. I can't believe the State Department didn't understand the potential political gravity of doing this," Biden said.

Bush appointed Reich on Friday. He will serve for one year. The Senate refused to hold confirmation hearings on Reich's appointment. The U.S. Constitution gives the president the power during Senate recesses to install nominees, without Senate approval, until the end of the next session of Congress.

Reich, a hard line anti-Communist, has irritated Democrats, especially Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) by making statements in support of the Nicaraguan Contras and speaking against the Sandinistas.

Dodd said Friday he was disappointed in Bush's decision to appoint Reich.

"I regret the administration has made this decision. The appointee becomes a lame duck as soon as he takes the position and can only serve until the end of this Congress. There are many difficulties in the region and it is unfortunate that U.S. foreign policy in the region is being sacrificed for a narrow domestic political agenda," said Dodd in a statement from his Capitol Hill office.

On Sunday, Reich picked up support from what some would consider an unlikely source, his ex-wife Connie.

In a letter to the Washington Times, she called on Dodd and other liberal critics to cease their criticism.

"During the past 20 years or so, Mr. Dodd usually found himself opposed to Otto's view of the world. Whether the issue involved terrorist threats or the spread of communism, Mr. Dodd and Otto were on opposite sides, with history interestingly vindicating Otto," said Connie Reich.

Connie Reich concluded, "The truth is that I am tired of the negative campaign against my ex-husband's nomination. It is time for Mr. Dodd to end his role in the politics of personal destruction."

Reich has previously served as the assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development and as a special advisor to former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, during which time he established and managed the interagency Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean.

From 1986 to 1989, Reich was the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and received the State Department's Exemplary Service Award, among other honors.