Former Colleagues Defend Bolton's Management Style

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - Forty-three of John Bolton's former colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute want to set the record straight: They've sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defending Bolton's conduct and management style.

"We were colleagues of John Bolton during his tenure as senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute from January 1997 through May 2001. We are writing to tell you and your colleagues that the various allegations that have been raised before your Committee, concerning Mr. Bolton's management style and conduct in other organizations and circumstances, are radically at odds with our experiences in more than four years of intense, frequent and continuous interaction with him."

The letter, addressed to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar and ranking Democrat Joseph Biden, said Bolton was a "demanding" colleague all right -- as demanding of himself as he was of others.

"He was unfailingly courteous and respectful to us, regardless of our AEI positions or seniority," Bolton's former colleagues said.

They called it "preposterous" that Bolton would want to punish or settle scores with subordinates who disagreed with him - and several of them noted that they were Bolton's subordinates at AEI.

They described Bolton's style as "clear and consistent" in cases where disagreements arose: "He would state his own views openly and directly, expect others to be equally open and direct, and go out of his way to encourage subordinates to be open and direct, all in the service of arriving at the best possible decision."

Sometimes Bolton's own views would change as a result of discussion, his former colleagues said.

But once a decision was reached, Bolton expected subordinates to get with the program, just as he followed the decisions reached by his peers or superiors.

The letter praised the "crispness, openness, fairness, and efficiency" of Bolton's management style at AEI, and it questioned the "strange allegations" that surfaced after President Bush nominated Bolton to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

(Several people who testified at Bolton's confirmation hearing described him as a temperamental and vindictive man who lashed out at people who disagreed with him -- even chasing one woman down a hallway to yell at her. But Bolton's defenders note there are plenty of people in Washington who don't suffer fools gladly.)

"Contrary to the portrayals of his accusers, he combines a temperate disposition, good spirit, and utter honesty with his well-known attributes of exceptional intelligence and intensity of purpose," his former AEI colleagues wrote.

Such a "rare combination" is a "highly desirable" attribute for the next U.N. ambassador, the letter said.

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research describes itself as a think tank that is "dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of freedom -- limited government, private enterprise, vital cultural and political institutions, and a strong foreign policy and national defense."

President Bush is standing by Bolton, calling him the right man for the U.N. job. His nomination remains bottled up in committee for the time being.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.