Ambassador Bolton Interview



GLENN: We have Ambassador Bolton on the phone with us. Ambassador, welcome to the program, sir. Thank you so much for joining me.

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Oh, glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

GLENN: You bet. You've got a great book out. I just, I love the title alone, "Surrender is Not an Option." I wanted to take you through some of the points here on some of the things that are going on. You say that the Bush or the Bush administration that you knew just, you know, even a couple of months ago is changing, fundamentally changing and making some critical errors. What's going on?

Surrender Is Not an Option

By John Bolton

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the administration is essentially in freefall when it comes to foreign policy and it's a great tragedy because it essentially involves abandoning some of the President's fundamental precepts about how to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the growth of terrorism, and a shift away from some of the things he tried to do in the first term. People ascribe a different reason. Some say it's a concentration on Iraq, some say it's just lack of energy, some say it's a phenomenon of a lame duck presidency. But in any event it's a far cry from the Bush who was elected in 2000 in my view.

GLENN: Okay. I want to ask you something. I saw something yesterday in the New York Sun. It was on the front page of the Sun. I couldn't find it any place else and it was about the State Department ending an Iranian freedom project which sounded exactly like what we should be doing. It sounded exactly like we were funding some of the democracy movements inside. Why is the State Department stopping that?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, it's a phenomenon that I think has been running throughout the administration, but it's particularly acute now. And I talk about this in the book. You know, a lot of what I talk about in the book is what's wrong with the United Nations, what's wrong with the bureaucracy up there and how the membership operates. But another thing I try and focus on is the State Department. Because people have the view, you know, they think they elect the President and he gets to set foreign policy. Well, in the Constitution that may be the way it appears, but in fact the State Department over the years has come to the view that really it sets foreign policy, especially in Republican administrations. And what has happened is that the dominant culture of the bureaucracy, which is not hospitable to Republican or conservative Presidents, has been patiently wearing away at the President's policies and is now in places like Iran, North Korea, the Middle East, succeeding time and time again. And this one incident that you just mention is another brick in the wall of the State Department bureaucracy reasserting itself.

GLENN: Can I -- may I ask you, and I hate to take you down conspiracy lane here. I just, I'm just -- ambassador, honestly I'm just a regular American that didn't pay attention to the world, quite honestly, before September 11th. The whole damn place over in the Middle East could have fallen into a sinkhole in the center of the Earth and I wouldn't give a flying crap, and I know that was wrong but I didn't -- I just, I live my life here in America and I thought everything was great. Now I'm watching everything and I'm watching our sovereignty go to the United Nations. I'm seeing stuff and I've got to ask ya: How is it we seem to be going down this path that is so extreme left? When you talk about the State Department having all of this power and thinking that they dictate and it is not, you know, in a conservative point of view, et cetera, et cetera, honestly the things that McCarthy brought up come to mind. I mean, what happened? How was it infiltrated? What happened to us?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think this is a problem that has developed over decades because by and large secretaries of state don't pay much attention to the management of the State Department bureaucracy. And while there are many very fine civil servants there who know what the proper role of a civil servant is, there are a lot of other people very influenced by their European colleagues who think that the permanent bureaucracy basically runs foreign policy and these pesky political appointees who come in every once in a while have to be either tolerated or isolated or seduced in order to do the bureaucracy's bidding. And that's one of the reasons I think why the President now finds his policies being reversed because they are very smart, very canny, very patient and persistent bureaucracy.

GLENN: So how does a President or how does anybody fix this?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, the first thing you need is a Secretary of State in my view more like Jim Baker, and this may surprise some people, but I think Baker's just about the best Secretary of State we've had in the last half century. And the one critical point that Baker never forgot and that he always stressed was that he was the President's envoy to the State Department and not the other way around and I think both Secretary Powell and Secretary Rice and I think in the book either started out in Secretary Powell's case and Secretary rice's, they fell in the reverse role. They were the State Department's envoy to the White House and that has an effect and I think you can see it playing out now in the Middle East policy, this idea of holding a peace conference with Israelis and Palestinians, maybe this month, maybe next month, who knows anymore, our deference to the Europeans trying to negotiate with Iran, which is never going to give up its nuclear weapons voluntarily. And this belief that matches the belief in the Clinton administration that you can trust the North Koreans when they say, as they say repeatedly, "Sure, we'll give up our nuclear weapons." I mean, it's been a huge U-turn for the administration on so many fronts.

GLENN: Who does the State Department actually work for? Why can't the President just say, we're clearing you guys out?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, you know, Barry gold water who was the first presidential candidate that I worked for once said the solution to the State Department was to fire the first six floors, all the floors below the Secretary of State. I think that, as I said before, there are many, many strong people in the State Department, and we need an effective State Department. We need people who can advocate America's interests around the world. Today unfortunately too many of them are apologetic about our policies and about our interests, and it requires -- this is not a campaign bell-ringer issue. I understand that. But we have to have a President and a Secretary of State who are committed to changing this culture. Just as it was important to transform the defense department, and it remains important to transform our intelligence services, we need to do the same thing at the State.

GLENN: All right. Let me go to the United Nations. I am growing more and more concerned that, I mean, as you say, there is -- you know, there's an agenda at the State Department. I think there's an agenda in congress, I think there is an agenda in the White House and they are not necessarily a constitutional agenda in many cases. More importantly there is a global agenda that you see played out in the UN. We've seen it recently, and little things that most people will say is stupid but I think it's the indoctrination of our children. You've got the GI Joe doll no longer being a Marine but now answering to an international force, you have global warming that is going on, you have the Law of the Sea treaty happening in the Senate. I mean, there is a real selling of our sovereignty happening. Agree or disagree?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think we're at risk. I don't think there's any question about it. The Law of the Sea treaty is an excellent example. You know, the mainstream media have not pointed out that the entire Republican leadership in the Senate has come out against the Bush administration, has come out against the treaty, and thank goodness because I think if enough citizens get in touch with their senators and express their concern, we'll find the 1/3 plus 1 of the Senate we need to block that treaty.

We went through this in the 2004 election. Senator Kerry proposed, you may remember in the debates with President Bush, what he called the global test, that American policy had to get approval from around the world in all kinds of different countries, and if we didn't get it, if we didn't pass that global test, we shouldn't pursue that policy. Well, this is the -- the issues you mentioned, global warming among others, this is a global test playing itself out still more and that's why I think next year's election is so important. I don't think our policies should be subject to a global test. I think they should be subject to the tests of our Constitution and our own institutions and representative democracy and if we're satisfied with those policies, those are the ones we ought to pursue.

GLENN: How close do you think we are with the enemies within our own gates, the strength -- I mean, I hate to even phrase it that way. The strength of the United Nations, the growing call for internationalism, et cetera, et cetera, and the apathy of much of the American people? How close are we to losing our sovereignty, do you believe?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think it tends to dribble away over time and I think people get discouraged. I think this Law of the Sea treaty is an excellent example. It was negotiated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I frankly thought it was dead years and years ago, but like a bad penny, it keeps coming up because the people who advocate this sort of approach are very persistent, and it covers a wide range of issues that are fundamentally domestic as well because they see they can't advance their political agenda and inside congress at the state legislature. So they go international: Gun control, death penalty, abortion rights, all of these things that, look, we have legitimate Democratic debates over them and that's appropriate. But they try, many of the advocates of gun control, abolition of the death penalty, for example, try to push it to the UN or the international arena where they know they'll have more friends around the world, and I just don't think that's where the vast majority of the American people are and I think raising the salience of these kinds of issues in our presidential campaign is so important.

GLENN: John Bolton, U.S. ambassador. Book, "Surrender is Not an Option." Back in a second.  


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