John Bolton: Obama Is Right That ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’ Isn’t ‘Magic Words’; It’s a Reality He Can’t Deal With

Former United States ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on March 29, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“I don’t think there’s any question that the media don’t want to focus on the terrorist origins” of the Orlando attack, former U.N. Ambassador and senior American Enterprise Institute fellow John Bolton told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily.

“But what really is driving it, even more than the media–God knows, I’m not defending the media–but what’s driving it even more is the relentless politicization of every aspect of American life, by people like Obama, and Clinton, and the interest groups,” Bolton continued. “There’s not a single thing that happens in this country that they don’t try to bend to their political advantage.”

“I think it shows, in the reaction to this terrible attack in Orlando, just how unpresidential Barack Obama is, and how unqualified Hillary Clinton is to succeed him,” he said. “This is not a time to be talking about how tragic it is, that it was 49 gays and lesbians who were killed. Your previous speaker was right on the mark: it was 49 Americans.

“The President’s job now is to bring the country together, not tell us how we’re different. Bring the country together, and discuss what he’s going to do to prevent future innocent Americans from getting killed, not attack his political opponents,” Bolton urged. “Not to try and take advantage of this tragedy to advance his political agenda: gun control. Or what the Senate Democrats did. Or what Hillary Clinton is doing.”

He said this should be a “time of reflection” for American citizens, “to ask ourselves: is this really what we want from our political leaders?”

“Other political leaders who take up that theme will find it resonates,” Bolton said. “I think one of the worst legacies of Barack Obama is that we’ve moved away from one America, e pluribus unum, ‘out of many, one,’ to what Al Gore once translated it as: ‘out of one, many.’ That’s the wrong direction.”

Bolton criticized Donald Trump for claiming that President Obama seems more angry at him [Trump] than at the shooter.

“This is not about Donald Trump any more than about Barack Obama,” he said, explaining:

It’s how America is gonna respond to this. I think Obama is as cynical as they come, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s learned a few media lessons from Donald Trump in the past several months, so he decided to make this about a dispute between him and Trump. And what are we talking about? We’re not talking about Islamic terrorism, are we?

“Don’t sell Obama short in the propaganda department. He’s actually very good at it,” Bolton advised, agreeing with Marlow’s point that for all his faults, Obama is a “better leader than Hillary Clinton.”

To conservatives and Republicans who think Clinton is more “hawkish” than Obama, Bolton said that “there’s no evidence of that. There’s no real evidence of that in her memoir. Very hard to find a distinction between her and Obama.”

“It’s one thing to sit in a National Security Council meeting and offer an opinion on what to do in Syria or Libya. It’s quite another to make the decision to do it,” he pointed out, adding:

Obama has made consistently wrong decisions, but I think Hillary Clinton’s career shows that she’s a very poor decision-maker, and that indecision and caution and uncertainty are going to be far more typical of a Clinton presidency, which, in an age of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism, can bode very poorly for the innocent civilians of the United States.

Bolton cited the list terrorist attacks like the Orlando shooting that made bloody headlines, along with many other attacks the intelligence and law enforcement communities have thankfully prevented, to argue that we are facing “a radical ideology that despises the American way of life, and everything we stand for.”

He warned:

When leaders like President Obama try to separate these, and say, well, this is a lone wolf over here, this a self-radicalizing person over here, this is a person with psychological problems over here–these are straw men, and they serve to dilute the focus on the problem. And if you don’t understand the problem, then you can’t deal with it.

Bolton said this goes beyond simply using terminology like “radical Islamic terrorism,” saying President Obama was correct that they’re not “magic words”–because they’re reality, and “when you can’t say the reality, ultimately you’re going to impair your ability to deal with it.”

A real presidential contender, in Bolton’s view, would be talking about the military actions necessary to smash foes like ISIS and the Taliban–which may have the potential of retaking Afghanistan on Obama’s watch–and seriously discussing the measures needed for security on the home front.  

“We are in a war,” Bolton declared. He continued:

Barack Obama thinks this is a law enforcement matter. That’s the same attitude that the Clinton administration followed in the 1990s, and it brought us 9/11. We’re in a war. If we don’t act like that, if we don’t have a president who summons us to this challenge, we’re just gonna face more and more tragedies like this as the years go forward.

He allowed that a comprehensive strategy for fighting this war would involve “risks and sacrifices” from Americans, so our political leaders should focus on devising an effective strategy, to ensure those sacrifices are not in vain.

“We can either try and defend ourselves with metal detectors at airports, and bouncers at nightclubs and restaurants, and shopping malls, and hope that that does the trick,” Bolton offered, “or we can, as the phrase goes, defend at a distance, what the British used to call forward defense, and destroy the terrorist bases before they destroy us.”

When Marlow noted that solid information about terrorists like Omar Mateen is trickling out to the public very slowly, Bolton said he was not bothered by the speed, but by the inaccuracy.

“The larger problem is that the media have the same worldview as the Obama administration, and since they don’t think there’s a threat from international terrorism, they’re not gonna report things that have the unfortunate consequence of helping prove that,” he said, adding:

So what, to them, doesn’t seem important isn’t going to get reported, and people aren’t going to focus on it. That’s why you need leadership at the political level, to help pull this together, to explain to the American people what the nature of the threat is, and then justify what you think the response ought to be.

“That is certainly something Barack Obama is not doing,” he added.

Bolton said that tightening immigration procedures and border security were an important step the current administration has been reluctant to take.

“Clearly, the visa system is broken, the asylum application system is broken, and our ability to make intelligent decisions about who to let in, and who not to let in, has been completely immobilized,” he said. “This is something that we collectively have not paid enough attention to. It sounds so boring, in calm times, that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”

He said that “the strength of America is the people that we’ve attracted from around the world.”

“We are a great country for many reasons, but our exceptionalism rests because we’ve succeeded with the melting pot, in a way no other country in human history ever has,” he declared. “I think it’s important to preserve the melting pot. I think it’s important to preserve bringing people into this country who have a contribution to make.”

“Real judgment and leadership is being able to distinguish between the people we want and the people we don’t want,” he said. Elaborating, he asserted:

It’s not enough to say, “Let everybody in,” and it’s not enough to say, “Don’t let anybody in.” You’ve got to work your way through this with some principles in mind. I think we’re going to benefit–I hope we benefit–from a national debate over that, rather than the kind of thing John Kerry said a few weeks ago, where he said we just have to get used to a world with no borders.

“Maybe you do, John Kerry, but I don’t think that’s where the American people are,” Bolton added.

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