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One Word Keeps Popping Up in Stories About John Bolton

New national security adviser is 'hawkish,' or perhaps 'ultra-hawkish'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2018 9:34 AM CDT
One Word Keeps Popping Up in Stories About John Bolton
John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, arrives at Trump Tower for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in New York.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – President Trump made a big change in his foreign policy team Thursday by announcing that John Bolton would replace HR McMaster as his national security adviser. One word turning up in virtually every profile of Bolton is "hawkish," or sometimes "ultra-hawkish." Specifically, Bolton has argued for a hard-line approach to North Korea (he wrote that a pre-emptive strike would be justified) and Iran (he wrote that Trump should abandon the nuclear deal struck by President Obama). Here's a look at the fallout:

  • Huge deal: "We can't overstate how dramatic a change it is for Trump," writes Jonathan Swan at Axios. With Bolton on board, the president will likely ditch the Iran deal in May, and the proposed summit with North Korea is now looking "shaky." Bolton isn't just hawkish, he's adept at bureaucracy and "won't take anybody's crap," writes Swan. Expect him to clash with defense chief James Mattis.
  • His views: BuzzFeed collects 11 "remarkable statements" from Bolton that reflect his world view. "There's no such thing as the United Nations," he said in 1994. "If the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference." Bolton served as US ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006, and he declared in 2013 that the US was too often "acting like a well-bred doormat" there.
  • His mustache: "Will Bolton shave the stache?" wonders Phil Kerpen of American Commitment. He might be only half-joking. Politico notes that Trump reportedly passed over Bolton for a State Department post last year because the president wasn't a fan of the 69-year-old's bushy mustache.

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  • Worry in Asia: The New York Times reports that the selection of Bolton is raising worries in Asia that Trump's foreign policy positions will harden and raise the risk of conflict in the region. South Korea, for example, had established a close working relationship with the departing McMaster.
  • Oh, no: Fred Kaplan at Slate thinks "it's time to push the panic button" because Bolton's appointment "puts the United States on a path to war." And Trump evidently "wants us on that path." A similar sentiment from Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff: "It’s hard to escape the disquieting conclusion that the mass exodus of the 'adults' from this Administration is putting our nation's security at risk," he writes. "Ambassador Bolton’s hawkish and conspiratorial thinking will only make matters dangerously worse."
  • Oh, yes: Bolton has plenty of supporters on the right, however. Marco Rubio called him an "excellent choice who will do a great job." The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal praised the "solid and experienced choice," adding that "the charge that Mr. Bolton can be an unguided missile misconstrues his ideas and experience." Twitchy rounds up more praise, including from Saagar Enjeti of the Daily Caller, who writes that this "not a great day in Pyongyang or Tehran right now."
  • More from the right: Another voice on the right, Mark Davis of Townhall, makes the case that Bolton's selection will result in a safer world. "Ronald Reagan famously said that no war in his lifetime ever started because America was too strong," he writes. "If that is instructive, war is in fact less likely with a president unafraid to give voice to such strength, and a National Security Advisor willing to inform it."

  • Iraq War: NPR has a backgrounder on Bolton, noting that he was a prominent advocate of the Iraq War while serving in the administration of George W. Bush. In the Washington Post, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough has a scathing assessment of Bolton's role in what he deems the "worst US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam." Bolton, he writes, "pleads innocence on all counts while shamelessly calling Barack Obama’s 2011 decision to bring American troops home 'the worst decision' made in that debacle."
  • Snap decision: Bolton himself seemed surprised that Trump gave him the job on the same day he visited the White House, reports Politico, which noted the men did have some prior conversations by phone. "The unexpectedly quick personnel change is the latest example of Trump’s mercurial nature and his newfound confidence to follow his gut instincts."
(Read more John Bolton stories.)

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