Though John Bolton's credibility as a prominent voice on foreign policy was shredded years ago, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. is back -- Mitt Romney has brought Bolton as a leading campaign surrogate and advisor.
With that in mind, Bolton raised a few eyebrows this week with a Washington Times op-ed, celebrating the temporary halt to diplomatic talks with Iran. "Fortunately," he wrote, "the recently concluded Baghdad talks between Iran and the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members and Germany (P-5+1) produced no substantive agreement."
Time's Joe Klein, generally a mild-mannered political observer, described Bolton yesterday as a "nutjob," and characterized his op-ed as "a cut below his usual tripe."
For one thing, any sane, sentient human being wants these talks to succeed, so that Iran makes it excessively plain, in an irrevocable and transparent fashion, that it will not pursue nuclear weapons.... For another thing, if Bolton knew anything -- I mean the tiniest smidgeon -- about these negotiations, he'd understand that what happened in Baghdad was a sign of success, not failure. The Iranians were hoping that empty gestures would be enough to split the international alliance–that the Russians and Chinese were desperate for an excuse to jump ship. Guess what? The Russians and Chinese held firm. No concessions were made. The Iranians have had to go back to the drawing board. [...]
The idea that Mitt Romney would associate himself with this thoughtless goofball is as feckless as his embrace of Donald Trump, and considerably more dangerous. Romney has taken flak, rightly, from Republican realists for his overly aggressive, ill-informed foreign policy statements. He is making a fool of himself on the issues most central to the commander-in-chief function of the presidency. He needs to ditch John Bolton, and fast.
That last part is of particular interest. Bolton demanding a U.S. invasion of Iran is about as predictable as the sunrise. The fact, however, that this shameless warmonger has the ear of the Republicans' presidential nominee makes his warmongering much harder to dismiss.
Indeed, the Obama campaign released a statement from Michele Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the highest-ranking female in Pentagon history, who was also unimpressed with Bolton's screed.
"Bolton has made it clear that he's rooting for American diplomacy to fail and has repeatedly called for a rush to war with Iran. Gov. Romney needs to be clear with the American people: Does he believe there's still time for diplomacy to work? Or is he ready to take us to war, like his advisor John Bolton is advocating? If Romney wants to be Commander-in-Chief, he owes it to the American people to answer these crucial questions. [...]
"Today, because of [President Obama's] leadership, Iran is weaker and more isolated than at any time in history. If Gov. Romney shares his advisor John Bolton's views that it is time for the US to go to war with Iran, the American people deserve to know."
Michael Hirsh had a related item in National Journal, reporting that even most of George W. Bush's foreign policy team considered Bolton too extreme and unconstructive.
It would appear that Mitt Romney disagrees. Given that the former governor has no background or working understanding of foreign policy or national security issues, who he brings on as advisors is all the more significant. And in this case, he's listening to John Bolton.