It is, politically speaking, former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton’s worst nightmare: the post-Iraq War GOP, through inattention and lack of focus, largely cedes national security issues to Hillary Clinton in 2016, giving her a pass on what Bolton believes could be one of her greatest weaknesses and should be one of the Republicans’ top strengths.
“Republicans ought to be prepared to take her on, or we’re going to find the Republican party – which is the party of national security – at a disadvantage to Hillary Clinton, whose foreign policy is indistinguishable from Barack Obama’s,” Bolton said in a phone interview from New York, where he was stopped before traveling to Iowa for a Steve King-led summit of major 2016 names.
Bolton is considering his own bid, he says, and he’s been putting major work into fund-raising for a super PAC that, along with a traditional PAC, raised some $7.5 million in the 2014 cycle. But it’s clear he’s as concerned about the substance of the debate of the GOP primary as he is about ever someday becoming president.
“I’m trying to basically get all of them to put national security at the top of the agenda and explain why they’re qualified to take it on. I don’t think it’s enough to have you know, your boilerplate two paragraphs in every speech where you mention the words international terrorism and counterproliferation and then you’ve checked the box and you’ve shown your foreign policy cred. That doesn’t cut it for me. This has gotta be much more important,” Bolton said.
In his Saturday speech in Iowa, Bolton will rip Obama’s foreign policy and warn of its perils.
“It is a near certainty that a so-called deal with Iran will be signed in March. The ultimate outcome of this is a smoking mushroom cloud,” Bolton will say, according to prepared remarks obtained by Breitbart News.
Regarding Obama’s state of the union address, Bolton tells me the president “was on a different planet, in a parallel universe.”
If you look at North Africa and the Middle East and don’t see that the entire region is descending into chaos, you need a better prescription for your glasses. We’ve just seen in the past 24 hours the government in Yemen has completely collapsed so that you have a Iranian-backed faction now on the back door of the Arabian peninsula threatening the oil producing monarchies. You’ve got al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula also based in what used to be Yemen. And so Yemen now joins the failed states of Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Syria – governments all over the Middle East are collapsing. Our influence is reduced.
Bolton also defended House Speaker John Boehner’s recent invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, even though Boehner didn’t check with Obama beforehand.
I don’t think he has to check with Obama. It’s his decision, it’s Netanyahu’s decision. Obama set this up when he had David Cameron calling around to individual senators lobbying against the various pieces of sanctions legislation against Iran that are being discussed. Once you get one foreign leader in on one side of the debate, why is anyone surprised that another foreign leader with actually a much higher stake in the outcome than David Cameron – why is anyone surprised that he wants to weigh in?
Regarding Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a leading 2016 contender whose foreign policy views have sometimes come under suspicion from GOP hawks, Bolton said his views aren’t in the mainstream of the party.
I don’t think he’s anywhere close to a big chunk of the Republican party in terms of foreign policy philosophy, but I think he’s an outstanding politician. He’s got all the skills his father didn’t have. He does appeal to a lot of people in the party on economic and fiscal issues and they might be attracted to him and not pay enough attention to his national security views such as they are. But there’s no doubt in my mind that neo-isolationism is a virus in the party. That’s why we need to have the debate. Because I think if people really thought about it as a party had a chance to debate it, it would be rejected overwhelmingly.
It’s still unclear whether foreign policy will soon become a larger part of the Republican 2016 debate. If it doesn’t, expect Bolton – who has demonstrated an ability to raise enough funds to build a credible political operation – to make a stir.
The chaos on the international scene shows “has to have an effect on getting the candidates to talk about national security. And even if they don’t, that’s what I’m here to do,” he said.