Unless you are following the Republican presidential primary closely — very closely — you may not remember John Bolton. That’s all right; he’s not a major player. I certainly had never heard of him until a few weeks ago. But John Bolton, it turns out, may be worth discussing.
The field of GOP candidates is certainly a broad one. Among the major contenders is a smattering of governors, U.S. representatives, senators, a former Speaker of the House, a pizza executive and that “Rent is Too Damn High” guy. Yet doesn’t it feel like something is missing? That something is Yale. After all, three out of the last four presidents attended Yale, but not a single one of these Republican candidates, nor President Obama, went to Yale. Maybe the Republicans are wary of nominating another Yalie after the debacle that was the Bush presidency. (Did you know Cheney attended Yale too? That is, before flunking out.) But we should not write off Yale altogether. Someone in the Republican field, I hope, will be a Bulldog at heart.
Enter John Bolton.
Bolton, the splendidly mustachioed former U.N. ambassador, attended Yale College, Yale Law School, and was even raised in a Maryland town called Yale Heights. Certainly he is someone who can be called, in résumé at least, the Yale candidate. As recently as Aug. 30, Bolton strongly insinuated that he would seek the Republican nomination. A few days later, Bolton clarified that he had decided not to run for president. I, for one, hope he reconsiders.
Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t want John Bolton to win. I am about as politically liberal as a person can be, and John Bolton is quite a conservative Republican. But I want Bolton to run for probably the same reason he would’ve wanted to run: not to win (there’s little chance of that), but to shape the conversation.
You hear a lot of demagoguery among GOP candidates about economic issues. Jobs, taxes, Social Security, stimulus — these are fighting words that we hear every day. The economy is said to be the number one issue, and there is a good reason for that. But I want to hear more about this country’s foreign policy and national security. How do the Republican candidates — and President Obama, for that matter — feel about international issues?
None of the candidates for the presidency talk about Afghanistan or Iraq anymore, even though we still have troops on the ground. Iran just completed its first nuclear power plant a couple of weeks ago. A Chinese official just released the fact that China had been negotiating the sale of weapons to aid Muammar Qaddafi. Speaking of which, there is about to be a major restructuring of Libya’s government, to say nothing of Egypt or Tunisia. Saudi Arabia just raised oil prices. Mexico is still trafficking guns and Colombia is still trafficking drugs. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden recently gave an interview saying “we’re not truly safe” from the threat of terrorism. Clearly our foreign affairs are far from settled. So why aren’t the candidates talking about these things?
Once again, enter John Bolton.
Bolton had stated that he would want to get into the race for the important purpose of talking about national security — and I say let him! We need our candidates to frankly, and frequently, discuss international problems. As Bolton said, “What concerns me is the lack of focus generally in the national debate about national security issues. Now, I understand the economy is in a ditch and people are concerned about it, but our adversaries overseas are not going to wait for us to get our economic house in order.” Right on!
As a student at Yale, John Bolton led the conservative wing of the Yale Political Union. He stuck with what were in the radical 1960s and 1970s very unpopular views on foreign policy. Graduating summa cum laude, he gave a Commencement address about Vietnam amid frequent boos and catcalls. Later, as a decidedly controversial nominee for U.N. ambassador, he stuck with his very conservative views, making his own confirmation that much harder.
Bolton is certainly not the person I would want as president, but he is definitely the person I want as a candidate. Bolton would doggedly stick to his guns — as he did at Yale and throughout his career — and get the field talking about issues that are being ignored. I hope Bolton reconsiders his decision not to run. We need to talk about national security, not just the economy. Maybe we need someone with the tenacity of a Bulldog to make that happen.
Scott Stern is a freshman in Branford College.