John Bolton

Appointing John Bolton as National Security Advisor could lead to war, according to one of George W. Bush’s former ethics advisors.

After President Trump fired H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor, Bolton’s name emerged as a possible contender to replace him. The position of National Security Advisor doesn’t require senate confirmation, meaning whomever Trump appoints for the job would assume duties as the White House’s top national security official immediately.

Given that Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un are slated to meet this Spring, Bolton’s appointment could potentially endanger any hope of North Korean denuclearization, given his hawkish positions toward the reclusive autocracy. Last month, Bolton published an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal advocating for a preemptive strike against North Korea.

“In 1837 Britain unleashed pre-emptive ‘fire and fury’ against a wooden steamboat. It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton wrote.

On Friday, Painter tweeted that should Trump give the job to Bolton, it would be “an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war.”

In a phone interview, Painter referred to Bolton as a “hothead” and “an extreme hawk” when he served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. Bush appointed Bolton temporarily in 2005 when the Senate was in recess, only to have Bolton resign from the post in late 2006 following a wave midterm election that saw Democrats re-take control of Congress.

“[Bolton] was about the most un-diplomatic person that you could imagine, other than Donald Trump,” Painter told Grit Post. “He had no desire to work with the UN. He was not the right fit for that job… A lot of people were very happy to see him go.”

“He looks at military action as a first resort rather than a last resort,” Painter continued. “He’s not going to want to try and work things out first or attempt to negotiate a solution. He’s going to want to go in there and blow things away.”

Painter’s assessment of John Bolton’s attitude toward the UN as overly combative was an opinion shared by other Republicans during the Bush administration, including then-Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island), who fervently opposed Bolton’s confirmation. Bolton eventually resigned in December of 2006, announcing he would not seek senate confirmation.

During his short time as UN Ambassador, John Bolton communicated an open disdain for the organization.

“There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along,” Bolton said in June of 2006. “The United States makes the UN work when it wants to work. And that is exactly the way it should be because the only question, the only question for the United States, is what’s in our national interest.”

According to the Washington Post, Trump has praised John Bolton as “good on television” when the former UN ambassador goes on Fox News to defend the president. Another contender for the job is National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg, whom Trump occasionally travels with on domestic trips. Trump has not yet indicated whether he is leaning more toward Bolton or Kellogg.


Carl Gibson is co-publisher of Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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