Tuesday’s interviews with John Bolton (transcript here) and E.J. Dionne (audio and transcript here) underscored just how central to the 2016 presidential race the foreign policy fiascos of the past few years will be. The GOP will be talking about them, and Hillary will be unable to defend her record, just as E.J. Dionne was unable to do so in our conversation. (E.J. joins a line of show guests who have tripped over the same very low bar of “Tell me what she accomplished during her four years at state.”)
This morning’s news of the “10,000 troops or none” debate about Afghanistan is just the latest act in the long running tragi-comedy of President Obama’s foreign policy. Look for the president the pick the zip option, as he has in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, worst of all with Iran and with military spending generally. He has overseen our refusal to play the role of superpower and guarantor of stability. Chaos has followed wherever his attention briefly turned and his policies established.
Ambassador Bolton did a very good thing in establishing BoltonPac an a related 527 “Super Pac” to rally national security conservatives and to support like-minded candidates in the fall. He will also be a prompt to other would-be GOP presidential candidates to talk seriously about America’s role in the world and rebuilding its position post January 2017. Bolton’s firm denuciation of the cuts to th career military retirement pay –worked by the House GOP leadership last week– was also refreshing and gives the military community the assurance of at least one national figure willing to blast that incredibly short-sighted, unjust and self-defeating move.
At a dinner for Bolton last night chaired by former California Governor Pete Wilson –himself a Reagan-era hawk (not surprising for an old Marine and senator on the Armed Services Committee)– one of the 40 guests asked Bolton if he would run for president, eliciting very strong applause from the table made up primarily of business people whose view of the world and America’s retreat from it is sharper than most. I didn’t applaud that question since I am a neutral in the GOP presidential battles under way and will remain that way. But it would be a very good thing to see the national security agenda returned to the center of the GOP’s agenda, not its periphery.