April 9, 2018, was John Bolton’s first day on the job as National Security Advisor (NSA) facing among other things, Syria’s (Russia supported) chemical-weapons attack against its own people (Douma, east of Damascus), and what to do about it. As a retired, 77-year-old, 30 year – Marine sergeant major, Vietnam combat veteran, I have a few things to say in regards to the Bolton selection.
Talk about being “shocked”: When I first heard that President Trump had replaced his National Security Advisor (NSA), Lt. General H. R. McMaster, with former UN Ambassador John Bolton, I felt overwhelmed with shock and grief.
Yes, Trump can choose anyone he wants as NSA, but at times like these and with what faces the nation (Middle East, North Korea, China, Russia, Syria, Afghanistan, etc.), we need competent leadership and capable governance at home and abroad. Also, the NSA position needs stability and permanence. In Trump’s 14 months, this is the third NSA: (1) Lt. General Michael Flynn; and (2) Lt. General H. R. McMaster.
Bolton has been around for several decades. He is a neo-conservative, interventionist, regime changer, war hawk, WMD-Iraq-Iran War(s)-advocate, UN denier of long standing. He has been a regular FOX-News contributor and extreme supporter of Trump. (Supposedly, Trump likes his “television persona” and support of his policies on FOX-News, and other Conservative outlets.)
Just who is John Bolton? Well, Bolton is 69-years-old, born in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Yale University, earning a B.A., graduating summa cum laude in 1970. Thereafter, Bolton earned a J.D. at Yale Law School, in 1974. At Yale, Bolton was a contemporary of such political figures as Clarence Thomas, Bill and Hillary Clinton, among illustrious others.
Among Bolton’s many (early) political jobs, appointments and positions were: (1) Summer intern for Vice President Spiro Agnew (1972); (2) protégé of conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms; (3) assistant attorney general (DOJ) opposing financial reparation to Japanese-Americans held in WWII – era internment camps; (4) participant in the Iran-Contra affair; and (5) subject of an article in The Economist, which called him “the most controversial ambassador ever sent by America to the United Nations.”
Recently, notwithstanding his past actions and comments, Bolton was in the news pushing back against Russian involvement in the recent presidential election. He feels that the CIA might have “fabricated” this ongoing investigation to tarnish the election of Trump.
Over the years, Bolton has been accused of being a “bully, serial abuser, doing bad things to good people … quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.” Many contemporaries and peers say that Bolton creates chaos and disruption in the workplace.
His abrasive personality and confrontational leadership style will cause more harm and damage than good and positive things to occur on his watch. In the past, Bolton’s critics strongly suspected him of gathering information to use against others, seniors and subordinates, who may have disagreed with him over various intelligence and foreign policy issues. And, it is alleged by some that former Secretary of State Colin Powell was once among Bolton’s “inquiries.”
Bolton was so controversial in his political views that a Republican-majority Senate would not confirm him as UN Ambassador. Eventually, President George W. Bush had to make a “recess appointment,” which allowed Bolton to hold the job on a temporary basis for 17 months (August 2005 – December 2006), without Senate confirmation.
Among Bolton’s many “controversial” comments and writings in recent years:
• “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First,” Wall Street Journal (February 28, 2018)
• “Iran Nuclear Deal Exit Strategy,” National Review (August 28, 2017)
• “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” New York Times (March 26, 2015)
Moreover, there are Bolton’s personal connections and professional relationships that some find vexing and disturbing such as: Steve Bannon, the Mercer family, and Cambridge Analytica. (OMG! What could possibly go wrong?)
In my humble opinion, Bolton is not the “right” NSA for this political season. As a nation, we can do much better. What confronts us, nationally and internationally, demands that we give this challenging job and indefatigable task to the very best and brightest and balanced that our great nation has to offer. To not do so would be borderline deleterious and profoundly myopic.
John L. Horton resides in Norfolk and is a frequent contributor to this newspaper.
By John L. Horton
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