John Bolton's critics have called him a warmonger, an Islamophobist, and a quasi-dissembler. But a label alerts them most about President Donald Trump's incoming national security adviser: savvy bureaucrat.
While political knife fights do not provoke the same anxiety as the talk of a preemptive strike against North Korea, foreign insiders who consider Bolton's views dangerously restrictive consider his longstanding track record in the government too effective.
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"If you disagree with Bolton's political preferences, he is dangerous for three reasons: he is not afraid to lead a political fight in public, he knows how to leverage bureaucratic leverage when it's comfortable, if not avoiding bureaucratic barriers, "said Loren DeJonge Schulman, a top adviser to the former White House Security Advisor, Susan Rice.
Conservatives who share Bolton's views say that these qualities are an asset that has long been complaining that his instincts over issues of the Iranian nuclear program on the war in Afghanistan are watered down by dissident subordinates.
"He really knows how to make the system work," said Elliott Abrams, who served as Deputy National Security Advisor under George W. Bush. "One of the key tasks of the National Security Advisor is to ensure that the bureaucracy implements the president's decisions, and John knows exactly how to do it."
Bolton has told President Donald Trump that he needs a National Security Advisor with more internal power. His predecessor, H. R. McMaster, believed in a well-organized political process. But the three-star Army General and former tank commander came to the job with little background in bureaucratic politics and never established a strong reputation for effectiveness.
While McMaster was more sympathetic to the President than, say, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he did not manage to tackle leaks and use his will against career officials who opposed Trump's agenda. Bolton's success at work may depend on his ability to subdue a largely hostile bureaucracy to his will – and that of the president.
Among three Republican presidents serving in the judiciary and government departments, and as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton has decades of experience with colleagues who found his views too harsh – and often tricked them. At a 2005 hearing, then-Sen. Joe Biden told Bolton he was "too competent".
"I'd rather you were stupid and not very effective," Biden added.
Bolton also sees himself as the protege of one of Washington's most famous bureaucrats: the former Secretary of State James A. Baker, under whom Bolton served in the George HW Bush administration. Baker valued Bolton's legal status in Florida to help with the controversial mention of 2000. ("I can still draw a floor plan of the Emergency Operations Center in West Palm," Bolton recalled in 2016).
"John is an exceptionally bright guy," Baker told MSNBC on Wednesday, calling him "a highly capable official."
Bolton has publicly boasted of his internal struggles against bureaucrats, whom he considers squishy internationalists. His 2007 book "Surrender Is not a Option" is peppered with contemptuous references to the State Department's "High Minded Accomodationists" and "Crusaders of Compromise", with which he spoke during the George W in global trouble spots from North Korea to Iran fought Bush administration
A case in point is his crusade against the International Criminal Court.
Bolton, then Undersecretary for International Organizations, reached bilateral agreements with over 100 countries to ensure that Americans are not handed over to the US court, which was signed in a contract by President Bill Clinton.
His efforts culminated in the American Servicemembers Protection Act, which was enacted in 2002 by George W. Bush. The Act, also known as the "Hague Invasion Act", authorizes the President to use all means to secure the release of Americans. ICC based in The Hague on the coast of the Netherlands
As Bolton put it later, his goal was to give Clinton's signature on the deal "a bottle of Wite-Out."
"It was a problem that he owned and really drove US policy, not just in a radically dull way, but in a very sophisticated way," said Matthew Waxman, chairman of the National Security Program at Columbia University and a State Department and NSC veteran.
Waxman said Bolton has overrun State Department officials, usually defending the bilateral agreements Bolton has killed. "Bolton has just dominated the bureaucratic process," Waxman said.
Former colleagues also cite his victory at the United Nations over North Korea, against which the Security Council imposed trade and travel sanctions in October 2006, as an example of his strategic sensitivity.
The Bush administration, which initiated the six-party talks, was initially skeptical about China's veto on the North Korean Security Council.
A former colleague said Bolton "fought like mad to lower expectations just to put it on the agenda," to schedule briefings for the Security Council and then make sure the briefings were alarming enough to cause concern.
"He first convinced everyone that this was just a briefing, then he provided the briefing" We were tough and showed the UN Security Council what we were dealing with. Then he relocated the Security Council to make a statement that [North Korea’s behavior] was unacceptable, "said the former colleague.
Even Bolton's appointment to national advisor security, the Trump against the advice of the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, and Defense Secretary James Mattis required some of these cunning maneuvers, including his sharp medi-instinct.
Before Kelly arrived at the White House last July, Bolton had regular access to Trump and former chief strategist Steve Bannon and, at Bannon's request, wrote down a plan for a possible US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, following Bannon's dismissal, Bolton's request to hand over the memo to Trump was denied – he went public with it; published it in the National Review and wrote that "personnel changes" in the White House would keep him from becoming the president
"The idea was, I would visit him and, you know, the timing of the certification decision and the shooting of Reince Priebus were not far apart," Bolton told POLITICO last August after Trump's compliance Iran's nuclear agreement certified for the second time before finally refusing to certify itself 90 days later.
Rattling Kelly's cage through the news media was enough to restore his access to the president – and finally, seven months later, for the president to bring him to the White House
It was this kind of relentlessness that Bolton Trump told in the following talks to get his National Security Council in shape.
Although Bolton's appointment to the post has been rumored for weeks, it was struck down 24 hours earlier by a damaging leak in the White House: a Washington Post report that Trump had ignored an explicit warning over postcards, not to Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate his last re-election victory during a call between the men. The leak most likely came from his national security team.
A second former Bolton colleague predicted his success in the job for another reason that Bolton was detested by his opponents: his former job as Fox News analyst, where he has been writing pithy statements and bombastic rhetoric for years to a number of questions of national security.
The former colleague said: "At these NSC meetings he is very smart and very articulate, and he will not bore Trump – because he knows how to set the tone for television." 19659037] This item tagged under: