Former U.N. Ambassador and American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow John Bolton told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily that he was a little surprised to see Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, become a central topic of the final 2016 presidential debate, given the conventional wisdom about Russia’s harmless irrelevance circa 2012.
“I think that the various issues that relate to Putin in the broader foreign policy context help demonstrate what I think was the biggest takeaway from the debate last night in the national security area, and that is really just how close Hillary’s foreign policy views are to Obama’s,” he said.
“There’s a notion out there in some circles that she’s gonna be tougher, have a more hawkish foreign policy. Absolutely false,” Bolton declared. “Her worldview is the same as Obama’s, and I think Trump made that point very clearly as part of that discussion. When he talked about how Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Obama were out-negotiated by the Russians in terms of the New START nuclear arms treaty, how they’ve been out-maneuvered by Russia in Syria ever since the conflict began there, right after the Arab Spring in 2011 – that’s what I think Trump means when he talks about Putin being a strong leader, compared to Obama and his foreign policy, which is weak, and which Hillary would continue.”
Bolton thought that Trump “made more points on national security in this debate than he was able to make in earlier debates.”
“I think that he demonstrated convincingly, and Hillary didn’t back away from, the fact they will follow the same policies in a Clinton administration as in Obama’s. For example, in the case of Iran, he excoriated her for her support of the Iran nuclear deal, which I think is the worst act of appeasement in American diplomatic history. Hillary Clinton’s only regret there is that she wasn’t able to cut the deal while she was secretary of state, and it fell to John Kerry to do it,” he said.
“I thought Trump made a very important point about the conflict we’re reading about daily around Mosul, in Iraq – that even if the Iraqi forces, aided by American advisers, succeed in taking Mosul in the very near future, that will primarily advantage Iran,” Bolton said. “This is a complex multi-sided war in Iraq and Syria, and while, certainly, ISIS should be eliminated and its territorial control eliminated, as rapidly as possible, we should not do it in a way that benefits Iran more than is absolutely necessary.”
“Obama’s strategy, which Hillary fully supports, is to pursue ISIS in ways that maximize the benefits to Iran – which, I think, is gonna come back to haunt us,” he warned.
Bolton said Trump was correct to fear that Mosul would eventually fall into the hands of Iran “because the government of Iraq today, the Baghdad government, is functionally a satellite to the mullahs in Tehran.”
“And he makes another important point: the media only want to talk about, did he support the Iraq war before George W. Bush launched it, or did he not? To me, the answer to that is irrelevant. Hillary Clinton expressly voted for it on the floor of the Senate, which I think was one of her finest moments in foreign policy. She now regrets it,” he observed.
“But the key point is, the current instability in Iraq and Syria, and really around the Middle East, stems in substantial part from the Obama administration decision in 2011, when she was secretary of state, to withdraw all American forces from Iraq. That’s what gave al-Qaeda, and then its manifestation as ISIS, the opportunity to bring about the chaos that we see today. That’s a direct result of their policy – not George W. Bush – their policy,” Bolton stated.
“Hillary has said before, ‘No American troops on the ground.’ There are 6,000 American troops on the ground there, really right near the front lines in Mosul, many of them, as a consequence of the loss we suffered when we pulled our people out in 2011. I think it’s important for Trump to make that point. It’s hard to get through some of the noise in these debates, but in substantive terms, that’s an extremely important point,” he said.
Marlow asked for Bolton’s take on Donald Trump’s point that Hillary Clinton had a great deal of experience in government, but it’s bad experience, with many disasters and few accomplishments of which to speak.
“I think Hillary Clinton is a creature of the Washington establishment, and she’s progressed through the ranks. Her resume shows that. But it’s the kind of progression that doesn’t require achievement,” Bolton replied. “I think Trump is absolutely right. I’m still waiting for Hillary Clinton herself to tell us what her major accomplishments were as secretary of state. Now, obviously, she’s not the final decision-maker, the president is, but you can look in vain for any substance, other than running up a lot of miles traveling around the world.”
“I think it’s an entirely fair point to make. I think that’s one of the advantages somebody like Trump, coming from outside the Washington establishment, has to shake things up. And it’s an essential point, I think, to his campaign that he is the bringer of change, and she certainly is not,” he added. “She will be Obama’s third term. I think that’s true on domestic issues as well as foreign policy issues, and that’s why Obama supports her so strongly. He wants a third term to lock in his achievements, the way Reagan benefitted from George H.W. Bush, in effect being his third term.”
“Just to put this in historical context, the Democratic Party has not won three straight elections, presidential elections, in a row since 1940, when Franklin Roosevelt won a third term and was able to lock in the New Deal, in effect,” he pointed out. “If people don’t think this is a stunning development, to see Hillary Clinton poised to win the election. It has little or nothing to do with electing the first woman president. It has everything to do with making it more and more difficult to correct the mistakes and get us out of the hole, domestically and internationally, that Obama’s put us in these last eight years.”
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