The former Ambassador to the United Nations for George W. Bush was a guest on the show today, and covered a lot of ground.
HH: Well, yesterday Hillary Clinton announced for president. Last hour, Marco Rubio announced for president. I don’t know if John Bolton has announced today, but we can ask the former United Nations Ambassador, because he joins me now. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back, it’s always good to have Ambassador Bolton on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JB: Great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
HH: Have you declared anything today that we need to know about?
JB: (laughing) It’s kind of crowded today and yesterday. Maybe we’ll let it go for a little bit longer here.
HH: Okay, when do you, with all these announcements rolling out, Rand Paul last week, Hillary on Sunday, Marco Rubio this afternoon, when do you decide?
JB: Well, I don’t think I have to decide along the conventional time frame of other candidates. Obviously, I’m not a conventional candidate, if I were to get in. So I don’t feel as constrained. I understand why everybody’s jumping in, so they can spend millions of money and probably cancel each other out. I’m doing my due diligence. I will be in New Hampshire this weekend for the First in the Nation Conference, where a lot of other non-candidates will be. So I’m just going to follow my own time table on this, marching to the beat of my own drummer.
HH: All right, Mr. Ambassador, let’s go, then, to the substance. Hillary Clinton announced yesterday in maybe the dullest rollout ever in the history of presidential campaigns. And she’s reinvented the Scooby Doo van, which is rolling over the place. What do you make of that rollout? And does she have anything new to tell America?
JB: Well, I think she basically wanted to get the campaign started, because you can’t do a lot of things without registering with the Federal Election Commission. I know that sounds very boring, but once she presses that button, she can do a lot of things – renting campaign space, hiring people, getting ready. I just think her strategy is to lay low, is not to say anything that could be deemed controversial, and basically to ramp up the machine. From her perspective, she doesn’t want this campaign to be about issues. She wants it to be about strength and power, that is to say the strength and power of the money, some say $2.5 billion dollars she wants to raise.
HH: And do you think you can successfully buy an election in America in 2016, John Bolton?
JB: No, I don’t think so, because I think money has a marginal utility, just like anything else, a diminishing marginal utility. And even if she raises all that money, as she did in 2008 where she raised a substantial amount, she’ll waste it, because she’s hired every consultant in the world of Democratic Party politics. I think that effective campaigns by the opposition certainly can defeat her in the general election. But they have to be effective, and to do that, it seems to me, the Republican nominee, whoever that turns out to be, has got to focus on the issues. If it’s simply a campaign of competing advertisements and get out the vote drives, I think her money could overwhelm us. But I don’t think that’s what the American people want. I think they’re worried about their future, especially their future economically and internationally, and they want the candidates to speak to that.
HH: Now Mr. Ambassador, later this evening, I’m going to see my law partner, your former colleague at the U.N., Robert O’Brien. And we have been talking over the weekend via emails about the fact that last week on this show, John McCain said John Kerry was delusional. The President got mad at John McCain for saying that on my show on Friday. Then yesterday, the President shows up with Raul Castro and doesn’t say anything about the human rights record, who is in essence, he’s a killer, right? He’s an evil man. Who’s delusional here – John McCain, John Kerry, President Obama, or are we all falling through the looking glass?
JB: Well, I think the President really, in his comments about what Senator McCain said on your show, really went over the edge. He said this has got to stop. You know, I am the czar, and it’s just simply not permissible to criticize me or my minions. You know, this is a very bad deal, and if Senator McCain used a word that the president didn’t like, that’s just too bad. I thought he was being polite. I think this deal is a severe threat to the national security of the United States, and if Senator Kerry really believes what he’s saying, he’s been, you know, back in his college days smoking that funny stuff. The Iranians have taken us to the cleaners. And if that weren’t enough, today, today, Vladimir Putin signed a decree in Moscow that lifts the ban that had been imposed five years ago now on the sale of what are called S-300 air defense systems to Iran. It’s one of the most sophisticated air defense systems the Russians make. It can defeat all aircraft that we know about other than stealth aircraft, which by the way Israel does not have, so that this peaceful nuclear program the Iranians have will now be protected by the S-300 air defense system, if the Russians go ahead with the sale. This is just enormous news, a thumb in the eye of the United States by Vladimir Putin, who knows exactly why the Iranians want the S-300, and he’s now prepared to sell it.
HH: You anticipated my next question. This is the Wall Street Journal report on that very issue. Russia has lifted a ban on supplying Iran with a sophisticated air defense missile system, the Kremlin has said. The delivery of the S-300 was cancelled in 2010 after the U.N. imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. But the Russian president gave the go ahead after Tehran struck an interim deal with world powers to curb nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. Despite the sanctions, Russia and Iran have remained close allies. The $800 million dollar contract to deliver the system was heavily criticized at the time by Israel and the U.S., who feared it could be used to protect Iranian nuclear sites from air strikes. When it was cancelled, Iran filed a lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in damages. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said in a statement that the sale was put on hold “entirely voluntarily” to aid the talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Now Ambassador Bolton, that is clearly duplicity on the part of Russia. It is also duplicity, to a large extent, on the part of our own national security team, because they say there is no deal. But Russia is now saying there’s a deal, a deal that allows them to do this.
JB: Yeah, look, the Russians actually on this point are correct, and the administration admitted it back in 2010 when Resolution 1929 was adopted. The resolution precludes the sale to Iran of missile systems as defined in the United Nations register of conventional arms. And that register specifically excludes ground to air missiles, which is what this missile defense system is. And so what the Russians did by five years ago by putting this moratorium on, I think they were having a price dispute with Iran back then. But what they’re signaling, and there are other deals they’ve announced today, barter trade for various commodities in substantial amounts, is they are signaling to everybody else that it’s open season. And it’s really that political signal, I think, that’s most damaging.
HH: Israel’s intelligence minister is quoted as saying this is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran has obtained from the emerging nuclear deal. He said it was proof that Iran planned to use relief from sanctions for arms rather than the welfare of the Iranians people. Now earlier today, Harry Kazianas, who’s the managing editor of the National Interest, put out a piece on if in a terrible situation we had to attack Iran, how would we go about doing it. And it’s mostly an air campaign, and it involves the denial of their access to denial systems, etc. Doesn’t the sale of this system accelerate the need for the United States and Israel to decide whether or not they’re going to use military force?
JB: Well, it accelerates Israel’s need. As I say, we have stealth aircraft. We can defeat the S-300. If the United States attacked Iran, we would take out basically their entire air defense system. That’s the way we’d do it. The Israelis don’t have that luxury. But with the S-300 in place, Iran would be essentially immune to Israeli attack. And they know it, the Russians know it, we know it, the Israelis know it. Everybody knows it. And so in that case, I think the pressure is really on Israel now. There have been reports for five, six, seven years that Iranians were already being trained by Russians on S-300’s in Russia, in Belarus, and elsewhere, so that if those systems were moved quickly, or if, for example, Russian “advisors” were still there, the systems could be operational in Iran very, very speedily. I think it’s Israel’s time horizon now has diminished significantly.
HH: Let me go back to a last question, then, to the politics of this. Secretary of State Clinton running for president, and we’ve got the Senate considering the Corker-Menendez bill. Whether or not this passes, this will be proven to be a bad deal. You know that and I know that. And it’s going to prove to be our Munich moment. Can Hillary Clinton get away from this? Or is it tattooed on her campaign?
JB: Look, she is responsible for this deal just as much as if she were still at the State Department. She tried to do this, she worked on it during her tenure as Secretary of State. A lot of concessions were made them. Critically, the idea that Iran could continue enrichment for its so-called peaceful nuclear program, she is merged at the hip with Obama on foreign policy. And I think to let her get away with separating herself from Obama on it now would be a huge political mistake. This is her policy, not just Obama’s, not just Kerry’s we see unfolding now.
HH: We will post this conversation over at HughHewitt.com, Mr. Ambassador. Where is your PAC found? What’s the URL for the BoltonPAC?
HH: It’s www.boltonpac.com, and we’re actually up already with some material on Hillary’s announcement, and I can assure you on this Iran deal over the next month as it unfolds, we’ll be on it constantly.
HH: www.boltonpac.com is a great place to invest if you are worried about this Iran deal and you want good, factual information. And I think America’s best spokesman on it, Ambassador John Bolton, to get out there and keep it going, Mr. Ambassador, thanks, always a pleasure.
End of interview.