A couple of major news outlets got egg on their faces last week after reporting that John Bolton had officially entered the Republican presidential primary. Alas, that isn’t quite true. What Bolton actually said is that he’d run if he thought he had a chance of beating Donald Trump. “I wouldn’t run as a vanity candidate,” Bolton told Good Morning Britain. “If I didn’t think I could run seriously, then I wouldn’t get in the race.”
I don’t blame reporters for jumping the gun. The story is too good to pass up. Even Trump’s enemies would enjoy watching him savage Bolton on the campaign trail: “We booked out this big, beautiful arena, folks. You know where Ambassador Lorax is having his rally? The high school down the street. Guys with that kind of mustache — they’re usually supposed to stay 500 feet away from schools, right?”
But while the interview was hilarious, it was also a little frightening. Not to be rude, but can you imagine how utterly delusional Bolton must be if he thinks there’s even a snowball’s chance in hell that he — John Bolton — will be the next president of the United States?
Now, if this was June 2016, and Jeb Bush was still leading the field with 16 percent of the vote, it would be one thing. But if it’s January 2023, and you’re John Bolton, and someone asks, “Do you think you could beat Donald Trump in the Republican primary?” and you do anything but sob bitterly into your manila folder, then you’ve totally lost the plot.
Imagine if Velma said, “I might enter the bikini contest, but only if I have a real shot at beating Daphne.” No — imagine it was Shaggy. To 99.98 percent of folks, that’s roughly how delusional Bolton sounds. The trouble is, he only ever rubs elbows with the 0.02 percent. That elite remainder is made up of donors, think-tankers, staffers, government contractors, retired generals, and so on.
Bolton imagines himself polling well with the folks you might bump into at a Brookings fundraiser. He also assumes that sample is more or less representative of the American voting public. That’s insane, of course. But it also explains a lot about our government.
If Bolton is a failure as a pollster, he’s still somehow even worse at his real job. His job title changes fairly often but basically he’s paid to feel very strongly that we should invade every country except Canada, France, and the United Kingdom. (No, Northern Ireland doesn’t count.)
Bolton is the war hawk par excellence. He has held positions of significant influence in the last three Republican presidents’ foreign-policy apparatuses. And his record is catastrophic.
As a senior official in Bush Jr.’s State Department, Bolton championed the theory that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction — a claim we now know to be categorically false. He has argued that NATO should invade and partition both Iraq and Syria. Yet he’s best known for his longstanding conviction that the United States should launch a “preemptive war” on Iran.
Seriously, Bolton is like something out of an old 9/11 truther blog. Under Bush II, he coached the Israeli government on how to undermine Condoleezza Rice, his own boss at the State Department, who was seen as less pro-Israel than the rest of the administration. He would call his Israeli counterpart Danny Gillerman and say, “Danny, you’ve got to call the prime minister right now” and tell him to “phone the president so he’ll stop this.”
How do we know that Bolton was passing information to Tel Aviv? Why, Gillerman told us. He said that Bolton had a penchant for “direct fire on his own forces” — meaning he undermined his own colleagues in the US government to advance the interests of a foreign power.
With all due respect, John Bolton embodies everything the American people hate about our government. He has risen to the top of his field despite having a 0 percent success rate, and hopes to keep failing upwards until he becomes Leader of the Free World. What’s more, he thinks the American people will agree with him. Amazing.
I hope he does run, just for the memes. (“Lindsey, are they booing me?” “No, they’re saying, ‘Boo-olton, Boo-olton!’”) Still, it’s disturbing how Beltway hacks manage to insulate themselves completely from the real world.
Remember, these are the people who run our lives. They’re making all the decisions about Russia and China. It’s a miracle we’re still here at all. And I find that oddly comforting. Still, God helps those who helps themselves. So I will vote for any candidate — from any party — who promises to exile John Bolton and his chums to one of the Earth’s magnetic poles. Then, if they want to play soldier, they can march with the penguins.