Home/Daniel Larison/The Bolton Test

The Bolton Test

There is some significant Republican resistance to having Bolton as Deputy Secretary of State:

Another impediment is that Mr. Tillerson has expressed misgivings about having Mr. Bolton as his deputy, according to a person who has spoken with Mr. Trump in recent days. But Mr. Bolton remains under consideration for the job. And he enjoys a powerful ally in Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and Republican megadonor who favors the kind of hard-nosed posture that Mr. Bolton would bring.

We can hope that the “misgivings” Tillerson and others have about Bolton derail his nomination from an important position in the State Department. It is a sorry state of affairs that his name is even in the mix, but if he is prevented from influencing the next administration’s foreign policy that will be a very good thing for the country and the world. It is to Tillerson’s credit that he is wary of Bolton. The fact that someone like Adelson is in favor of Bolton should be all the proof required that Bolton shouldn’t be allowed within a hundred miles of making decisions regarding our foreign policy. Nominating Bolton to be Tillerson’s deputy would be a huge mistake, and it would mean that Trump failed an important early test.

The good news about resistance to Bolton is offset by this:

Another name that has been mentioned as a possible deputy to Mr. Tillerson, according to two people with knowledge of the transition process, is Elliott Abrams, a former adviser to Mr. Bush who was part of the “Never Trump” movement during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Abrams, who also served in the State Department under President Ronald Reagan, has been discussed as a possible deputy secretary of defense, too, the two people said.

Trump should want nothing to do with Abrams, and he definitely shouldn’t be considering him for a major position in any department. The problem isn’t just that Abrams has worked overtime to oppose Trump, and so would have no problem undermining his policies. The real issue is that his foreign policy judgment is every bit as bad as Bolton’s, and he is implicated in some of the biggest foreign policy failures of this century. Selecting Abrams would produce much the same result as having Bolton in an important position, and it should be avoided for most of the same reasons.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment