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June 18th, 2018

Insight

Bolton's back

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published March 29,2018

Bolton's back

At last the president of these all-too-divided United States of America has found a national security adviser whose top priority, sure enough, is the security of this country. His name will be well known to those who follow televised news and opinion, for he's been around for what seems like forever, and brings to the job a well-honed set of skills.

He's so well known that his selection will please his fans even while alarming his critics. He can deliver well-worn cliches with the best -- or worst -- of diplomats when called upon, as on this occasion. He declared it was an "honor" to accept his latest appointment and was looking "forward to working with President Trump and his leadership team" to "make our country safer at home and stronger abroad."

Happily, he won't need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, for what goes on in the Oval Office between a president and his national security adviser should stay in the Oval Office.

There's no doubt that Bolton knows the ropes. He should by now, having served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and as a lawyer, advocate and strategist during the bitterly contested recount in Florida during the wild presidential election of 2000.

Let's just say he's no stranger to Washington's intrigues. And the controversies that come with them. The most assuring reaction to John Bolton's re-entry on the official American scene came from South Carolina's sage senator Lindsey Graham. "Selecting John Bolton as national security adviser," he says, "is good news for America's allies and bad news for America's enemies."

Another sure guide in these matters, though in the opposite direction, is the Democratic senator from Delaware, Christopher Coons, who says Bolton's positions on how to handle both those present and ever-clearer dangers, Iran and North Korea, "are overly aggressive at best and downright dangerous at worst."


Ambassador Bolton has called lengthy talks with North Korea a waste of time, though he has softened his stance now that this president has opened the door to the possibility of American envoys and North Korean ones sitting down together. But he still believes any talk with Pyongyang should be short but sour.

He says our president's decision to meet with the North Korean leader is the diplomatic equivalent of "shock and awe" tactics. He envisions President Trump's message to his North Korean counterpart as simple: "Tell me you have begun total denuclearization because we're not going to have protracted negotiations. You can tell me right now or we'll start thinking of something else."

When it comes to Iran, that breeding ground for terrorism throughout the Middle East, Bolton says he would advise the president to cancel any current deal with Tehran and work for the overthrow of that regime. "There's a lot we can do," he points out, "and we should do it. Our goal should be regime change in Iran." Period. End of message.

"I've never been shy about what my views are," Bolton notes, "but frankly, what I've said in private now is behind me, at least effective April 9," which is when he's officially due to become the president's adviser on matters of national security, "and the important thing is what the president says and what advice I give him."

As on all things diplomatic, John Bolton comes right to the point. For as long as he lasts in this feverish merry-go-round called the Trump administration, he'll remain a man well worth listening to.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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