President Obama’s “kinetic military action” in Libya has thrust foreign policy and national defense back into the limelight. We are nearly a decade removed from 9/11. The constant talk of terrorist attacks and foreign wars has greatly diminished in recent years. National security was the dominant issue in the Bush vs. Kerry campaign of 2004. The financial meltdown in of 2008 eclipsed foreign policy in that race. Now that we are fighting three different wars in the Middle East, foreign affairs could once again become the number one issue in the presidential race.
Enter John Bolton. The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations is considering a run for the highest office in the land. His speech at Congressman King’s Conservative Principles Conference last Saturday focused exclusively on foreign policy. It was in great contrast to the other speeches of the day. Only Newt Gingrich devoted more than a fleeting moment to foreign affairs.
Bolton has never run for office before, but has plenty of reasons for considering it now. “When President Obama took the oath of office, he was not qualified to be President of the United States,” Bolton said. “Today, more than 2 years later, he’s still not qualified to be President of the United States.”
In particular, Ambassador Bolton takes offense to the Obama administration’s lack of focus on America’s defense. “He just doesn’t care much about national security,” Bolton said during his speech Saturday. “He’s the first president since Franklin Roosevelt woke up in the morning on December 7, 1941 that didn’t put national security at the top of his priorities.”
Should Bolton run, he would add a new dynamic to the Republican primary field. Except for Ron Paul, the other GOP candidates are likely take hawkish stances on national defense. However, Bolton can own the issue. No one else in the field is more schooled on foreign policy. Watching him mix it up with Ron Paul during a debate could provide great entertainment.
While the Obama administration cannot seem to settle on a term to describe our newest Middle East conflict, Bolton is very clear about the situation. “We are at war with Libya,” Bolton said. “You can call it anything you want. You can try to disguise it. You can try to hide it. The only people he’s fooling are his staff. And I think that’s part of the problem, part of the failure of leadership.”
President Obama has also sent mixed messages on the goal of the Libya operation. In early March, he clearly stated that Muammar Gaddafi must go. During his address to the nation Monday, Obama said U.S. forces would not remove Gaddafi from power. Bolton says Obama’s lack of decisiveness undermines the mission. “Once the president called on Gaddafi to be removed, he has to take steps to make it happen. Otherwise, you greatly impair America’s credibility at a time and in a region where we cannot afford to let that happen.”
Bolton says he might not make a decision on whether or not to run until late summer. That would seemingly be too late for him to gain any traction. He will also need to discuss other policy stances, to avoid being labeled a one-issue candidate. Bolton told the Conservative Principles Conference crowd that on secular issues, there is no greater authority than the U.S. Constitution. That stance is a winner. Where John Bolton falls on non-secular and domestic issues will determine if he is a legitimate candidate.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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