Trump Choice of John Bolton Inspires Histrionics

‘Brilliant America-first move’ or ‘bellicose designs?’

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John Bolton/Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Maybe it’s the mustache.

Supporters and opponents of President Trump’s selection of the famously mustachioed John Bolton as his new national-security adviser are touting their positions with language that is histrionic even by current political standards.

To hear some of the pundits spout off, Bolton will be either the savior of civilization or the cause of the entire Earth’s destruction.

Bolton appears to be either archangel or devil – nothing in between.


“Bolton’s appointment is a brilliant America-first move,” writes Caroline Glick, most known as a writer on Israel. Bolton will help “provide an incredibly strong platform for the next seven years of ‘America first’ foreign policy,” writes Trump insider Sebastian Gorka at The Hill.

No, they’re wrong, fulminates the editorial board of the New York Times: “Yes, John Bolton really is that dangerous.”

Indeed, he and Trump apparently are almost treasonous: Former undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman posits (as the Times headlines summarizes it) that they actually plan to “isolate allies and encourage enemies.”

And on it goes: Bolton is “no bugaboo,” writes Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal.

That’s because he’s worse than that, answers the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, whose piece’s headline says Bolton “should terrify you.”

So let’s unpack the Left’s terror.

Sargent summarizes (and, arguably, significantly oversimplifies) Bolton’s issue stances thusly: “Bolton wants to bomb Iran… to push Trump more in the direction of his own bellicose designs…. [And] Bolton wants to go to war with North Korea.”

And he quotes Vox’s Zach Beauchamp (note the quoting of the media’s own echo chamber) averring that Bolton “seems to truly believe that war is the answer to the world’s most pressing problems.”

That’s what the New York Times says, too: “There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Mr. Trump has made.”

This is especially so, writes the Times, because Bolton will shut out the advice of anyone who doesn’t lust for bloodshed: “It is hard to see Mr. Bolton acting as an honest broker. He is known to play a ruthless inside game as he maneuvers to win bureaucratic battles and freezes out people he thinks have crossed him.”

Sober-minded analysts say this scaremongering is way over the top.

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Marco Rubio/Photo by Michael Vadon (CC)

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a conservative but hardly seen as a bomb-thrower, Tweeted this: “Ridiculous media freak out over John Bolton continues. It is a blatant lie to portray him as just some media pundit. With years of combined experience at DOJ & StateDept he is, by far, more qualified than Tom Donilon or Susan Rice were when they got the same job under Obama.”

And consider Mead’s column in the Journal.

Mead is no right-winger, but instead sometimes described as a “radical centrist” who was once the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations – the pinnacle of the international “establishment.”

Yet Mead explains that Trump and Bolton are trying to deal with a vexing and dangerous problem of nuclear proliferation, and that they “are right that the conventional methods are not working. Something in American policy needs to change.”


Prominent NeverTrumper David French of National Review also backs the president on this one, arguing that Bolton is “squarely in the mainstream of conservative foreign-policy thought. He’s not extreme. The reaction against him, however, is. Moreover, the reaction betrays a sad reality: The foreign-policy Left still hasn’t learned the lessons of the recent past…. It turns out that American inaction helped destabilize the Middle East and dramatically elevated the jihadist threat.”

Because, French writes (agreeing with Mead), what Bolton knows is that “a quarter-century of American nonproliferation policy has failed.”

And as French reminds us, “A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous than John Bolton. A North Korea capable of incinerating American cities is far more dangerous than John Bolton. The question is how we prevent those truly ‘horrifying’ risks.”

When the smoke clears, it might actually be the aggressiveness of Bolton’s facial hair that scares the Left more than anything.

As Mead quipped, “[N]ot since Groucho Marx’s heyday has an American mustache enjoyed this much attention.”