Trump brings a Bush-era hawk back into the foreign policy fray

WASHINGTON — In 2015, John Bolton penned an op-ed for the New York Times with a simple, startling headline: "To Stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran."

A former State Department official and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, Bolton has earned a reputation in Washington and around the world as an ultra-hawkish figure whose unapologetic brand of foreign policy has led him to clash even with fellow Republicans.

"The logic is straight forward," Bolton's op-ed began. "The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what's necessary," to destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

He may be one of the architects of the war in Iraq — a conflict President Donald Trump spent most of his campaign decrying — but his sentiments on Iran and other critical foreign policy issues echo many of the beliefs of the current president, who on Thursday named Bolton as his new national security adviser. Bolton will be the third man to hold the job under Trump, replacing H.R. McMaster, an active duty three-star general who filled the role following the abrupt and controversial exit of retired Gen. Michael Flynn last year.

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White House National Security Advisor John Bolton
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White House National Security Advisor John Bolton
John Bolton, national security advisor, speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. Russian efforts to interfere in upcoming U.S. midterm elections have yet to reach the intensity of the Kremlin's campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential vote, but they're only 'a keyboard click away' from a more serious attack, Director of National Intelligence�Dan Coats�said. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
OXON HILL, MD, UNITED STATES - 2018/02/22: John Bolton, Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) sponsored by the American Conservative Union held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: US Ambassador to United Nations John Bolton speaks at the National Oversight and Government Reform Committee on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Capitol Hill on November 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The annual conference is a meeting of politically conservatives Americans. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
NASHUA, NH - APRIL 17: Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit April 17, 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Summit brought together local and national Republicans and was attended by all the Republicans candidates as well as those eyeing a run for the nomination. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 29: Former United States ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on March 29, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Republican Jewish Coalition began its annual meeting with potential Republican presidential candidates in attendance, along with Republican super donor Sheldon Adelson. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 24: Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on January 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The summit is hosting a group of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates to discuss core conservative principles ahead of the January 2016 Iowa Caucuses. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 4: US President George W. Bush (R) and Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (L) meet in the Oval Office of the White House December 4, 2006 in Washington, DC. Bush accepted Bolton's resignation as Ambassador to the United Nations when his term is up in January 2007. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 03: Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas. More than 70,000 peope are expected to attend the NRA's 3-day annual meeting that features nearly 550 exhibitors, gun trade show and a political rally. The Show runs from May 3-5. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations (R) and Aaron Abramovitch, Director-General of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs attend a panel during the eighth annual Herzliya Conference in Herzliya, 22 January 2008. The eight annual Herzliya Conference, entitled Balance of Israel's National Security, and coordinated by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya's Lauder School of Government, started yesterday and lasts for 3 days. The theme for this year's conference is 'Israel at 60: Tests of Endurance.' AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton addresses the Security Council after it unanimously voted in favor of the resolution for sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations headquarters October 14, 2006 in New York City. The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution which demands that North Korea destroy all of its nuclear weapons and bans the import and export of materials used for the creation of weapons of mass destruction. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)
(FILES) A file picture dated 10 October 2006 shows former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaking to the media after a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and United States) plus Japan, where they discussed a resolution on the North Korea nuclear situation at the UN headquarters in New York. Bolton said 21 January 2008 that Israel may have to take military action to prevent its archfoe Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb. Bolton also said that further UN sanctions against the Islamic republic will be ineffective in stopping Iran's controversial nuclear programme which Israel and the US believe is aimed at developing a bomb -- a claim denied by Tehran. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED NATIONS, UNITED NATIONS: John Bolton (C), United States Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media 13 October 2006 before a Security Council meeting about Georgia, to be followed by discussions on the North Korea resolution at UN headquarters in New York. The UN Security Council on Friday was set to consider a compromise draft resolution mandating wide-ranging sanctions against North Korea over its declared nuclear test but specifically ruling out the use of force. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media after a meeting with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany concerning Iran at the French Mission to the UN November 13, 2006 in New York City. Bolton received a controversial recess appointment to the post by President Bush in August 2005 and was renominated last week, but would face confirmation from a new Democrat-controlled Senate if not voted on by the current Congress' recess in January. Democrats oppose the nomination. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, arrive to attend a briefing on election security in the White House press briefing room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
HELSINKI, FINLAND JULY 16, 2018: US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr (C) and US National Security Adviser John Bolton (R) talking as Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump meet at the Presidential Palace. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Nikolsky\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: National Security Advisor John Bolton, briefs the media on election interference, at the White House, on August 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. The administration's top security officials briefed the media on election interference. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Security Advisor John Bolton (R) attends a joint press conference of the US and Russian Presidents after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. - The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an 'extraordinary relationship' and Vladimir Putin saying it was high time to thrash out disputes around the world. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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In Bolton, Trump selects yet another controversial figure for a senior adviser — a lightning rod even within in his own party. The position does not require Senate confirmation, a sore spot for Bolton who resigned from his unconfirmed recess appointment at the United Nations in 2006 after it became clear he could not win Senate confirmation — even from a chamber controlled by his own party.

With the help of Trump's newly-appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Bolton will work to recast Trump's foreign policy, absent some of the more moderate figures who had thus-far counseled Trump, a foreign policy novice, through his first year in office.

"He's very, very smart and very aggressive," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told NBC News. "A national security team made up of him and Pompeo is sure to be aggressive and get things done."

Bolton earned his reputation as a hardliner dating back to the days of the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq war, which began 15 years ago this week. In a 2007 speech to the American Conservative Union Political Action Conference, he said that the quantity of weapons of mass destruction possessed by deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "was never the issue." (No weapons of mass destruction were found following the invasion.)

"What President Bush did in overthrowing Saddam Hussein was to defend the critical national security interests of the United States," he said then. "The real issue was the threat was Saddam Hussein himself and the decision to eliminate that threat to our security and the peace and security of our friends and allies was the right decision."

Bolton, a native of Baltimore, has worked as a political contributor to Fox News — of which Trump is an avid viewer. He also runs a conservative super PAC in Washington, ironically housed in the same corporate office building as the Office of the Special Counsel, which is currently investigating contacts officials with the Trump campaign had with Russia.

Bolton attended law school at Yale University the same time as former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and attended classes with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

His book, "Surrender Is Not An Option," details his journey into the political sphere as a volunteer for conservative firebrand Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign.

Bolton wrote, "Although Lyndon Johnson seemed to have a large lead going into the election, I remained optimistic that Barry Goldwater would run well, and might even pull off an upset. So much for the early signs of a promising political career."

"If the United States was in such parlous condition that people who showed off their appendectomy scars in public and held up beagles by their ears could get elected president, something had to be done," he added, inspired by Johnson's victory.

That experience would color his view of politics and foster his belief that America would never maintain its status as a superpower if it complied with nations that don't play by America's rules.

Beyond Iran, Bolton has long been highly skeptical of the North Korean regime, and assumes the role of Trump's national security adviser less than two weeks after the administration announced Trump's intention to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But Bolton himself is no stranger to venturing off on his own, no matter how unpopular his views. He wrote the foreword for "The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America," a book by conservative blogger Pamela Geller that urges Americans to reclaim their sovereignty following the Obama presidency.

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Reaction to John Bolton replacing H.R. McMaster
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Reaction to John Bolton replacing H.R. McMaster

**Click through the follow slides to see how politicians and others reacted to President Trump replacing H.R. McMaster with John Bolton as his national security adviser.**

  (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Thank you to Lieutenant General HR McMaster for your service and loyalty to our country. Your selfless courage and… https://t.co/0Gi3SkFk7g
This is the new National Security Advisor? Disqualified by horrible judgment and dangerous for America and the worl… https://t.co/IeptDjdCJM
I know John Bolton well, he is an excellent choice who will do an great job as National Security Advisor. General M… https://t.co/L4IQ0rARHI
Replacing Tillerson with Pompeo and McMaster with Bolton could have a profound impact on U.S. foreign policy, start… https://t.co/xEr9rn3Toc
Another step backwards for an administration already going full throttle in reverse. If you’re worried about our na… https://t.co/kGqW57Q9Tp
I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very… https://t.co/dlRJSb9xW1
Now HR McMaster is out. Instead firing his entire staff one by one, Trump should cut to the chase and fire himself already.
Exciting news. BZ @AmbJohnBolton https://t.co/LlUIY3q3Li
Amb John Bolton will be great National Security Adviser for @realDonaldTrump. Ridiculously knowledgable. Leaks from… https://t.co/oYH0HI6K2Z
John Bolton is a dangerous radical. He has spent his career pushing fringe conspiracy theories and undermining key… https://t.co/dPDfjmyCBk
POTUS has just destroyed rational policy-making in selecting reactionary John Bolton as the National Security Advisor.
With the appointments of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, @realDonaldTrump is successfully lining up his war cabinet. B… https://t.co/ENxgUMjvTW
General McMaster has served our nation incredibly well for 34 years, and I thank him for the work he has done in le… https://t.co/LqEPzJXY7H
I will always be grateful to my friend Gen. H.R. McMaster for his service as @POTUS' Nat Sec Adv & congratulate him… https://t.co/Xd2JUcT14p
Congratulations to new National Security Advisor John Bolton. @AmbJohnBolton is a highly respected American patriot… https://t.co/gnFUmHQt6s
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Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative were behind a campaign to place a controversial advertisement series in New York City's subways that declared, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad."

Bolton himself has also long been skeptical about Palestinian sincerity toward achieving lasting peace with Israel, and has characterized Palestinian statehood efforts as "a ploy."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement Thursday urging against Bolton's appointment, because of "his promotion of extremist views that will inevitably harm our nation and that could lead to unnecessary and counterproductive international conflicts."

Bolton had met with Trump numerous times since 2016, including during the transition period, when Trump was still forming his initial national security team. However, he was repeatedly overlooked.

Still, his constant willingness to take on a role in the administration was apparent, and he would periodically visit the White House to share his views on various foreign policy issues — namely Iran — with the president.

"Selecting John Bolton as national security adviser is good news for America's allies and bad news for America's enemies," said Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. "He has a firm understanding of the threats we face from North Korea, Iran, and radical Islam."

Democrats were quick to condemn the selection.

"Mr. Bolton's tendency to try to solve every geopolitical problem with the American military first is a troubling one," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "I hope he will temper his instinct to commit the men and women of our armed forces to conflicts around the globe, when we need to be focused on building the middle class here at home."

Bolton officially takes on the job next month, according to a tweet by Trump earlier Thursday. He comes into the role as U.S. relations with some of its closest foreign allies have been weakened amid Trump's threats of tariffs and his refusal to take a tougher stance on Russia for its patterns of disruptive behavior, both in the U.S. and across Europe. But Bolton appeared ready to embrace the role.

"It is an honor to be asked by President Trump to serve as his national security adviser. I humbly accept his offer," Bolton said in a Thursday night statement. "The United States faces a wide array of issues and I look forward to working with President Trump and his leadership team in addressing these complex challenges in an effort to make our country safer at home and stronger abroad."

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