Is John Bolton Too Tough on Russia for Donald Trump?


John Bolton, reportedly under consideration to replace National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, was memorably characterized by one State Department official who knew him as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy."

In other words, said State Department intelligence chief Carl Ford, Bolton (and his fabulous mustache) was always ready to please those who had authority over him, while trashing the people working under him.

Bolton’s mastery of this tried-and-true technique for bureaucratic success is probably why he is now on the short-list to become President’s Trump’s national security adviser. Bolton certainly aspires to running America’s seven ongoing wars and challenging North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Kissing up: Bolton called Trump’s speech at the United Nations last September the "best of his presidency."

Kicking down: Bolton blasted a Wall Street Journal op-ed on North Korea written by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis. “We should not continue twenty-five years of failed policies under a different slogan,” he tweeted.

Factually Challenged Bluster

Bolton emerged as a neoconservative foreign policy ideologue in the first Bush administration. He supported pre-emptive war on Iraq as early as 1998.

In the second Bush administration, he endorsed and promoted the bogus intelligence reports on Iraq’s (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction that were used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. When the invasion failed to find any WMD, failed to establish a democracy, killed a million civilians, and wound up costing U.S. taxpayers $2 trillion over a decade, Bolton thoughtfully disclosed that he had "no regrets."

Bolton’s reputation for factually challenged bluster prompted even the Republican-controlled Senate to reject his nomination to be U.N. ambassador in 2005. President Bush gave him a recess appointment instead, which didn't require confirmation. Bolton served two years in which he dedicated himself to making sure the International Criminal Court never gets its multilateral mitts on any suspected American war criminals.

After Trump’s election, the National Review endorsed Bolton for Secretary of State. He was considered, though not chosen for the position, reportedly because his walrus mustache did not live up to Trump's aesthetic standards.

Last week CBS News reported that, while Bolton’s bristle is a "sensitive subject" with Trump, the mustache would not automatically disqualify him from the national security adviser job.

Facial Hair or Russia?

Bolton’s biggest problem with Trump is not his facial hair; it's that he is hawkish on Russia, just like he is hawkish on every other issue—and he is way more hawkish than his would-be boss.

While Bolton’s tweets on North Korea and calls for war on Iran are sure to warm Trump’s cardiac organ, his tweets on Russia are out of step with the president.

When Trump joined the crickets about the alleged attempted assassination of a critic of Vladimir Putin in Great Britain, Bolton called for “strong measures.”

While Trump says special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictments are evidence of a “witch hunt,” Bolton said last month they expose Putin’s perfidy.

While Trump soft-pedals Putin’s abuses of power, Bolton believes “Russia’s assault on the American idea” will enable Trump to take "tough action."

When Fox News asked Bolton about the possibility of Russia disrupting the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, he replied as many Democrats might: "The notion of spreading false information, of getting people to turn on one another, to undermine faith in law enforcement & intelligence institutions, that all plays right into Russia's hands," he said.

But does President Trump want to listen to such aspersions being cast on his pal Putin in his meetings with his national security adviser? Probably not.

Trump believes Putin deserves congratulations for his rigged re-election. He hopes to meet with the Russian president soon. And he has always thought U.S. policy toward Russia should be less aggressive than whatever his advisers and Congress propose. Bolton is not with the Trump program on Putin.

Trump wants the public to believe that allegations of Russian wrongdoing are a smokescreen concocted by that supposed den of liberals known as the FBI. Bolton's observations about Russia could bolster Trump's critics. It is no surprise that conspiracy theorist Joe diGenova has landed a job with Trump, while uber-hawk Bolton is still waiting at the altar.

When it comes to Russia, Bolton needs to improve his kissing-up skills. Otherwise, he's going to miss out on his dream job again.

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