Four Cheers for John Bolton

We’ve always been fans of former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. I had the good fortune to spend some time with him on Thursday, first at a private lunch, then at the Center of the American Experiment’s annual dinner, at which Bolton was the featured speaker and I was the master of ceremonies (Being an MC is a great job; it makes you seem vaguely important but requires hardly any real work.) On television, Bolton can seem remote and forbidding. In person, he couldn’t have been friendlier or more approachable. Even his mustache, in person, didn’t seem so bristling.

Bolton’s speech at the Center dinner was among the best I’ve heard, ever. He reviewed the foreign policy challenges facing American policy makers, some of which are daunting, and placed them in the context of the battle now raging over the wisdom of relying exclusively on talk as an instrument of foreign policy. Bolton’s command of the facts and his balanced judgments on them were deeply impressive.

With hindsight, the Democrats’ filibustering of Bolton’s nomination to the U.N. post–he served only via a recess appointment–was one of their most shameful acts. The fact that nonentities like Madeline Albright can slide through the Senate without opposition, while the appointment of John Bolton, who combines a towering intellect with unflagging devotion to his country’s interests, is blocked on political grounds, illustrates as well as anything which party is “politicizing foreign policy,” as Barack Obama likes to say.

Speaking of Obama, the contrast between Bolton’s substance-packed review of the world’s hot spots and Obama’s vacuous speeches, which, when he refers to facts at all, often betray a surprising ignorance of both American history and international affairs, could not be greater.

Most observers expect large numbers of Republicans and conservative-leaning independents to stay home in November out of dissatisfaction, of one kind or another, with the Bush administration or the (formerly) Republican Congress. If this happens, it will clear the way to total control of the federal government by the Democrats. Anyone who believes that this is somehow a matter of little concern should contemplate the difference between an administration that entrusts our foreign policy to men like John Bolton, and an administration that relies on advisers like Samantha Power and Robert Malley.

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