Romney’s Bolton-ish Stench

25 May

Dan Drezner and Heather Hurlburt share a pained laugh over the amateurish state of the Romney campaign’s foreign policy statements.

Campaign statements on foreign policy are broken pretty easily, and campaign rhetoric melts quickly in the face of foreign policy realities.  I suppose one could argue that the Romney campaign’s disorganization on these questions do not speak well about the campaign’s discipline and management.  That said, I seriously doubt that one’s ability to run an efficient campaign translates into the ability to run foreign policy.  Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign  was not exactly the most disciplined of the bunch — but she’s been a very capable Secretary of State.

The one way in which this might be interesting is whether someone like John Bolton winds up as Secretary of State.  Based on his United Nations ambassador days, and based on the near-delusional level of megalomaniacal egotism displayed in Bolton’s memoirs, I’d argue that his appointment would make a difference in foreign policy outcomes.

The loudest signal emerging from the noise of Romney’s foreign policy team is that Bolton’s influence might be larger than I would have suspected.  The fact that Grenell was Bolton’s spokesman at the UN, and that his Russia views sound like Bolton, are distressing signals.  The fact that one of Romney’s concrete budgetary criticisms of the Obama administration this week was that, “[i]n 2010, 17 federal government agencies gave $7.7 billion to more than 25 United Nations programs, billions of it voluntarily,” sounds… Boltonish. The fact that all of Romney’s foreign policy factions are gabbing to the press and, er, people like me further suggests that the divisions run deep.

It’s still May, and so I suspect that these kerfuffles are noise that will eventually dissipate.  Still, consider this to be a marker if, a year from now, you see post after post entitled, “Yes, I’m Afraid Secretary Bolton Did Say a Dumbass Thing Today.”

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A megalomaniacal egotist as the nation’s chief diplomat? Both Drezner and Hurlburt forget, that the Norquist master plan for the Federal government involves shrinking and depriving the state of just enough tax-provided life support, to drown the carcass in a bathtub. Bolton’s big-moustachioed ego might just convince Americans to get rid of the State Department for good.

That the Obama administration might have succeeded where Bush 2, second term might have failed is probably something most conservatives – not all – would rather not mention.

Back when John Bolton was at the U.N., the Security Council was passing tough and potentially effective resolutions against North Korea. People bitched that Bolton said mean things and hurt people’s feelings, but none of those people bother to mention that Bolton wrote — and got the Security Council to pass — the same resolutions that Susan Rice is trying — and failing — to get China to comply with today, six years later. The irony here is that Bolton showed us that the U.N. might have moments of effectiveness. Nothing John Bolton said has denigrated the U.N. quite so effectively as what Susan Rice can’t get the U.N. to do.

John Bolton is just too high a price to pay, to get Americans to care about foreign policy.


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