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Ambassador John Bolton On Joe Biden’s Foreign Policy Speech

Friday, April 27, 2012
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HH: Joined now by Ambassador John Bolton. Ambassador Bolton, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.

JB: Well, thank you very much, glad to be with you again.

HH: Vice President Biden made a sweeping defense of President Obama’s foreign policy and critique of Governor Romney’s approach to foreign policy. I’d like to play some clips of that for you, Mr. Ambassador, and have your comments. This is the first one on President Obama’s foreign policy accomplishments.

JB: The result was something that the general and others before him sought time and time again but rarely achieved – genuine burden-sharing, and an end to the Gaddafi regime that had murdered so many, including hundreds of his fellow citizens. Now we’re ratcheting up the pressure on other brutalizers, people who brutalize their citizens like Bashir al-Assad in Syria, while engaging the forces of change in the Arab Spring, and putting America firmly on the side of freedom around the world. We made the G-20 a new forum for international economic coordination, recognizing again the realities of the 21st Century. We opened new markets around the world for American businesses, and we’ve refocused our development policy on building the capacity of other nations on major global health and food security initiatives, and steadily, steadily combating climate change.

HH: Ambassador Bolton, how about that list of achievements?

JB: Well, you know, that’s a very selective reading of history, staring with what they did in Libya, which was the original formulation of the leading from behind style for Obama. You know, the administration basically got dragged into that because Britain and France said that they were going to go ahead, and the U.S. did it under Obama only because the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League and NATO all agreed to do it. And even when we did, it tested NATO to the very limits. It was really quite disturbing, I think, from the point of view anybody looking at NATO capabilities. And by the way, while we’re on this subject, even though Gaddafi’s dead, Libya’s on the verge of chaos as a result. The President’s off doing something else, not paying attention to it. And it goes on from there. I thought the speech overall was nearly incoherent, which is probably consistent with the administration’s policy.

HH: Here’s another clip, this time the Vice President is criticizing Governor Romney for what Governor Romney thinks he can do.

JB: That’s the essence of our record. And the question is where does Governor Romney stand? How would he keep our citizens safe and our nation secure in the face of the challenges we now understand are ahead of us? What would Governor Romney do? Well, the truth is, we don’t know for certain. But we know where the Governor starts. He starts with a profound, a profound misunderstanding of the responsibilities of a president and the commander-in-chief. Here’s what he said, and I want to quote him exactly. Now I quote, if we want someone who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department. He went on to say, and I quote, but that’s not how we choose a president. A president is not a foreign policy expert, end of quote. In my view, that last thing we need is a president who believes that he can subcontract our foreign policy to experts at the State Department, or for that matter, any other department or agency.

HH: Ambassador Bolton, did he accurately state Governor Romney’s position vis-à-vis foreign policy? And do we in fact know what Governor Romney will do?

JB: Well, you know, Romney and the campaign have put out any number of very extensive statements on his positions on national security issues, so I think it’s wholly inaccurate to say we don’t know what the Governor’s positions are. And I found it quite interesting to listen to this administration dissing the State Department. So much for Secretary Clinton. I guess she doesn’t need to bother to report to work tomorrow. You know, it is in fact the administration of a president whose entire experience in national security policy consisted of two years of being a Senator before he started campaigning for the presidency. So I think this is a kind of jujitsu that’s entirely political in nature, and once again, very consistent with the way the administration has governed on the whole range of issues, foreign and domestic. It’s very hard to distinguish their campaign from their government.

HH: Vice President Biden held up the President’s ability to make tough decisions versus Mitt Romney’s corporate mentality. Here’s that clip.

JB: I respectfully suggest President Obama has made those hard calls with strength and steadiness. And the reason he’s been able to is because he had clear goals and a clear strategy how to achieve those goals. He had a clear vision and has a clear vision for America’s place in the world. He seeks all the help he can get from experts, just how to realize that vision. But ultimately, he makes the decision. So it seems to me Governor Romney’s fundamental thinking about the role of the president in foreign policy is fundamentally wrong.

HH: Ambassador Bolton?

JB: Well, here we have the Vice…this is a good example of incoherence. He talks about how the President seeks opinions from all the experts. Maybe he’s talking about those experts at the State Department they don’t pay any attention to. I don’t know. We’ll have to leave that up to him. I am worried that Biden may have finally gotten one right, that the President does have a clear vision of America’s role in the world, but it’s a vision that not many Americans who think about it really share. It’s a vision of a diminished America, a withdrawing America, an America that doesn’t protect its interests and its friends and allies around the world, and that for that reason, becomes increasingly vulnerable to threats from adversaries, from terrorists, from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, from an increasingly assertive Russia and China, that we have no policy in response for.

HH: The Vice President also chastised Governor Romney for not making foreign policy an issue in the election in these terms.

JB: Thus far, Governor Romney has not made many foreign policy-focused decisions or pronouncements. Foreign policy has not been a focus of his campaign. Now if you excuse me a point of personal privilege, given President Obama’s record, the strongest foreign policy in decades, I can understand why Governor Romney doesn’t want to make it a focus of his campaign. But it is. These are critical issues.

HH: The strongest foreign policy in decades, Ambassador Bolton?

JB: Well, I’m sure that warmed the heart of Jimmy Carter, who’s the only one out there who could believe it, basically. You know, this is an example of the administration selectively deciding what they want to talk about, and that’s typical of politics. But it goes again to what I think their fundamental point is, that they can’t distinguish between what sells politically and what really constitutes a foreign policy. The fact is the President is extraordinarily inattentive to national security. He deals with it only when he has to, only when external factors make it impossible for him to avoid it. And that’s why we really don’t have an overall grand strategy other than being entirely comfortable with American decline.

HH: One last clip from today’s speech at NYU by Vice President Joe Biden.

JB: Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt – Speak softly and carry a big stick. End of quote. I promise you, the President has a big stick. I promise you.

HH: Now Ambassador Bolton, putting aside the audience’s nervous sheepish laughter, does the President have a policy that Teddy Roosevelt would recognize?

JB: Absolutely not, and that really, I mean, I’ve got to give the audience credit for not being able to keep a straight face at that line. This is another in a long line of Republican presidents that Obama’s tried to expropriate to be his support, from Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. And you know, the President’s policy is, half copies what Roosevelt’s was. He certainly does speak softly, but his ability to understand the use of American force, and to apply it where we really need it, is entirely absent. The withdrawal from Iraq has put all of our achievements there since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in question. It has unnerved our Arab allies in the region. It has emboldened Iran. The President’s withdrawal, giving a fixed date to pull out of Afghanistan, has simply left the door open for Taliban and al Qaeda there. The idea that somehow the death of bin Laden ends the al Qaeda threat worldwide is just another excuse, a way of declaring victory so that the withdrawal becomes more palatable. It really, it will leave whoever takes office on January 20th next year in a much more difficult position. Our adversaries have sized up this administration. If Obama is reelected, I would predict that the scope and the pace of threats to U.S. interests around the world are going to increase.

HH: 30 seconds, Mr. Ambassador. You appeared a lot before Joe Biden on the Foreign Relations Committee when you were a witness and a nominee. Is today’s speech consistent with his grasp of the obvious from all those years?

JB: Well, I thought it was a typical Biden performance. He could barely restrain himself, and it wandered all over the lot. But it’s a political speech, and we should expect more of that.

HH: Ambassador John Bolton, always a pleasure, thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

End of interview.

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