John Bolton Not Running For President

AP Photo/Dennis Cook
AP Photo/Dennis Cook
Washington, DC

Former United Nations ambassador John Bolton announced on Thursday that, despite previously considering it, he won’t run for president in 2016.

“I wondered whether I should contemplate running for president again to continue to drive this issue to the center of the political agenda and I have concluded that for somebody in my circumstances it’s not feasible to do that although I believe the substance of the issues will be central next year,” Bolton said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

What I’ve concluded is that while I will not seek the Republican nomination I will continue all of the activities through the PAC, the Super PAC, a new foundation, a 501(c)4 that we’ve created to work on the issues and the candidates that are going to be so critical in 2016. What I expect to do is have an influence on the Republican side, put a marker down, and what I expect is the Republican Party will remain the party of national security and that all of the candidates who may go forward are going to have to show that they are systematically and comprehensively addressing national security. More importantly than anything else, the people who want to be the nominee of the party have to demonstrate that they feel in their gut that protecting the country is the president’s first job.

Bolton said, too, when asked by Breitbart News if he plans to endorse that he may down the road endorse a candidate running.

“I have no plan to be the S&P rating service for the Republican candidates, but I really want to do for the next foreseeable time is press the issues doing educational work and urge the candidates on the Republican side—or would-be candidates—who don’t see an interest in foreign policy and haven’t seen it properly that they see this is the number one issue and to get with the program,” Bolton said when asked by Breitbart News if he plans to endorse. “Whether there would be an endorsement at some point, I don’t know. I think it’s possible. But that would be sometime down the road.”

Bolton kicked off the conference call laying out how he believes President Barack Obama “simply doesn’t give adequate attention to American national security in addition to all of his failings policy after policy, I do think there’s an overarching issue which is this lack of priority for national security.”

“I think it’s because as he told us in 2008 his real priority is domestic and to transform the country—I think he only addresses national security when he has no alternative,” Bolton said.

I think Republicans have been at fault during much of this period as well for not criticizing the president’s lack of attention to threats and challenges around the world—you don’t make threats easier to resolve by not talking about them, in fact by allowing them to fester you make them more serious and all the more difficult to resolve. Really, at bottom, it’s troubling because all the things the president does the president’s number one—the most important task for a president is securing the country.

A president has to deal with a lot of other important issues but if the country is not safe all of the rest of them are secondary in my view. Thinking how to address this problem, back in the 2012 cycle I initially thought of trying to run for president to fight the inadequacy at the national level we were giving to foreign and defense policy. I concluded it was not feasible at the time—I didn’t want to be the issue, I wanted it to be national security.

After Bolton decided against running in 2012, just like he is deciding against running now, he created in 2013 a Political Action Committee aimed at supporting strong national security candidates including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).

“In the 2014 cycle, we raised over $7.5 million, more than 25,000 donors, did three independent expenditure campaigns for Tom Cotton and Thom Tillis and Scott Brown and made direct contributions to 87 House and Senate candidates,” Bolton said.

I think that was pretty good proof that Americans were concerned about national security—I think you could see the issue rising when ISIS started beheading Americans, with the Ebola scare, and other issues as well. Everything that’s happened since the election like the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris to the attacks at Copenhagen to beheadings of Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya, the growth of ISIS’ sphere in Iraq, the Iranian nuclear weapons negotiations, Russia, China, a whole range of things continue to point toward the inevitable conclusion that national security is going to be a major issue in the 2016 campaign.

Bolton said he is excited that Republicans are discussing more and more about national security  issues—and that he thinks ordinary Americans are much further along in understanding these things than politicians.

“I think that what we’re seeing certainly on the Republican side is more candidates are talking about that issue than the political commentariat and many political operatives would have said even just a year ago,” Bolton said.

I don’t purport to take credit for that, but I do take credit for seeing the events in the external world had to drive this conclusion—that the policies and lack of attention from the Obama administration were creating an environment where threats to the United States would be rising. I do think really the American people are very common sense, very pragmatic in how they view it. I think they’re out ahead of their political leaders—they really do believe the president should be focused on protecting the country.