John Bolton on Sanctuary Cities: California Is Proposing ‘Nullification’ like Slave States Before Civil War

Sanctuary Policy Rally in San Francisco
AP File Photo/Haven Daley

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about the legal battle over California’s “sanctuary cities” for illegal aliens, a possible trade war with China, chaos in Syria, and North Korea’s offer to discuss denuclearization.

Bolton said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is “absolutely right” to sue the state of California over its sanctuary cities.

“There are aspects of immigration law that people debate: should this be a state matter or a federal matter? You remember the Arizona legislature tried to stiffen certain requirements, and the Supreme Court declared that it was unconstitutional because the national law pre-empted it. But certainly, in terms of the fundamental decision, who gets into the country legally and who got in illegally, that is a decision at the level of the federal government,” he said.

“The idea that law enforcement at lower levels shouldn’t be required to cooperate with the feds is just unthinkable,” Bolton continued. “Suppose the FBI were investigating bank robberies around the country and the state of California just said, ‘Well, we’re not going to cooperate with the FBI on this.’”

“It really is a question that if the left thought about it for a little while, they would see that what California is proposing, essentially, is what’s called nullification. That was also proposed by South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun before the Civil War, to say that South Carolina and other slave states would not enforce federal law regarding slavery,” he noted.

Marlow noted that when Attorney General Sessions made that very point, Democrats basically told him to shut up because white men from Alabama should not be allowed to criticize anyone else for using antebellum Southern legal strategies.

“I think from their point of view, it’s the only thing they can do. Since their substantive arguments are so weak, they’ve got to try and stop people from speaking,” Bolton agreed.

“This is the logic of authoritarianism: they get to decide who speaks on what subjects, and what it’s permissible to say, and if you don’t meet their standards, you can’t talk at all,” he charged.

“It’s just a fundamental repudiation of the whole concept of the system of freedom of expression that’s embodied in the First Amendment. It was a deeply held view of our Founders that the remedy for speech you don’t like is not to repress speech; it’s more speech – that in debate and a free, robust exchange of ideas, you’re much more likely to find truth than by trying to prevent people from speaking,” he said.

“I just think that their unwillingness, their fear of having people talk about these issues, reflects their basic lack of confidence in the substance of their own positions,” he stressed.

Marlow asked Bolton for his take on a story covered extensively by Breitbart London: the flood of migrants pouring into the small Irish town of Lisdoonvarna under an arrangement made with the European Union, very much against the wishes of many local residents.

Bolton said such offenses against local government are one reason support for the European Union is declining.

“If you don’t believe that countries, that nations, are anything other than the sum of people that happen to be within the national borders at any given time, then it really doesn’t matter who’s there,” he noted. “You can transplant people from Ireland to Sri Lanka and people from Sri Lanka to Ireland; what difference would it make?”

“I think that the nation-state has historically proved to be the basis for a lot of good and a lot of evil, but it’s fundamental to the notion of a representative government and democracy. If you can’t define who is eligible to be there, then you don’t have a basis for community or really sound constitutional government,” he contended.

“I’m a strong supporter of legal immigration into the United States,” Bolton added. “I think it’s what made this country great. I think what made it great once the immigrants got here was the melting pot. These are two things that the left internationally is absolutely against.”

Bolton, who identifies as a “free trader,” said he supports what he believes “the president has been saying consistently” about the deficiencies of many past agreements promoted as free trade deals.

“When you enter into a trade agreement – whether it’s NAFTA, the World Trade Organization [WTO], bilateral trade agreements – we make commitments, and other nations make commitments. They’re really not, in most cases, true free trade agreements like the constitutional system. They’re systems of managed trade. Those are the deals you have to make to open up from really closed protectionist national policies,” he explained.

“The point that the president has made is that when some other country makes a commitment, they need to honor it. Time and time again, we’ve seen China using mercantilist policies inside the WTO to their advantage. We’re following our commitments. We do it rigorously when we enter treaties. We don’t enter treaties lightly. When we do, we honor our obligations,” he maintained.

“I think what Trump is saying is, other nations need to do the same. China has not done that on a consistent basis since it got into the WTO, and it’s not just on dumping steel. It’s on theft of intellectual property. It’s on discriminating against foreign investors in their judicial system. It’s a long list,” he charged.

Bolton suggested President Trump could win more support in Congress for his trade proposals by focusing on such abuses by China.

“I think more is coming,” he predicted. “I hope that the people who are involved in this – I’m an old friend of USTR Bob Lighthizer; he and I were at the same law firm, Covington & Burling, when we got out of law school. I hope they’ve got a sustained strategy here. It’s not a strategy just to say, ‘We’re going to have steel and aluminum tariffs; what do you think of that?’ They need to have thought through not just the first chess move, but five and ten moves down the board.”

Marlow asked Bolton to interpret the fluid situation in Syria, where numerous regional and global powers have become involved in a variety of conflicts.

“There are multiple sides in this fight,” Bolton said. “It’s not a two-sided war, and that makes things difficult. I think the bottom line is that Iran and Russia, and their support for the Assad regime, are taking advantage of the defeat of the ISIS territorial caliphate, which is now all but eliminated. Some pockets of resistance, but basically gone. It just strengthened their hand across the region, particularly Iran.”

“We’ve had reports that Iran is building a new military base outside Damascus. We know the Russians built an airbase at Latakia a couple of years ago; they’re beefing up their naval station at Tartus. The Iranians now have an arc of military control that runs from their territory through southern Iraq, linking up to Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, I’m afraid getting ready for the next war,” he warned.

“Amidst all the confusion, I think we’ve got here an increasing threat to Israel, to the friendly Arab states, and really highlighted in the past ten days by this report compiled by U.N. inspectors looking at the serious sanctions that North Korea over the past couple of years has sold substantial quantities of precursor chemicals and manufacturing equipment to fabricate chemical weapons, quite possibly financed by Iran,” Bolton added.

“Here you have North Korea demonstrating the new reality that it is part of the Middle East – to say the least, not a constructive part. I think the risks and dangers because of this uneasy alliance between Russia and Iran and the participation of North Korea are really making things increasingly dangerous,” he cautioned.

Bolton advised that U.S. policy in Syria should focus “mostly on the threat posed by Iran,” but he acknowledged that President Trump has “made it clear that the spread of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, biological – is a big priority for him.”

“I think he did a lot to reverse the mistake Obama made some years back when he said that Syria using chemical weapons would be a red line he wouldn’t let them cross, but then he let them cross it. Trump didn’t let them cross it. I think he needs to follow through on that,” he said.

“I think what we really need is a strategy to deal with Iran,” he emphasized. “The problem is not just Syria, not just the Assad regime. The biggest threat to peace and security in the Middle East clearly is Iran.”

Marlow lamented the seeming abandonment of the Kurds, once a vital American battlefield ally against the Islamic State, and how the Kurds seem to be turning to some global bad actors for protection against adversaries such as Shiite militia in Iraq and invading Turks in Syria.

“The other external actors are taking advantage of the fact that we haven’t supported Kurds who have been loyal to us in the way that’s appropriate,” Bolton agreed. “The Iranians are trying to move in. They’re trying to get the Shia militia and the military of the Baghdad government in Iraq, as they have taken over substantial territory that the Kurds held. The Turks have their own conflict with a more Marxist-oriented group of Kurds. This is a good example of this multi-sided conflict that we’re in.”

“I think we need to do more to help the Kurds,” he advised. “I would recognize an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. But there’s been no movement, essentially, on that front for some time.”

Bolton concluded the interview by dismissing North Korea’s purported offer to talk about denuclearization as a “complete charade.”

“After 25 years of working to get deliverable nuclear weapons, they have gotten very, very close,” he observed. “CIA Director Mike Pompeo said they’re within a ‘handful of months’ – that’s his phrase – of achieving that objective.”

“I think they’re worried about President Trump,” he continued. “They’re worried his military threat is serious. I don’t think the president wants to have to use military force, but I think the key point is he’s not afraid to use it if he has to, unlike some of his predecessors. I think the North figured that out.”

“So I think the ploy about negotiations, like the participation in the Olympics, is blue smoke and mirrors to distract us while the North Koreans continue to race toward the finish line of getting the ability to hit any target they want in the United States with their nuclear weapons,” Bolton judged.

John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and head of his own political action committee, BoltonPAC.

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