July 10, 2020

John Bolton

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton says President Trump, his ex-boss, is unfit for a second term and he will not vote for him. Bolton discusses why he stayed silent during impeachment and his scathing new book about the White House.

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HE’S THE HIGHEST RANKING EXMEMBER OF THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE TO WRITE A TELL-ALL ABOUT THE PRESIDENT.
THIS WEEK ON ‘FIRING LINE.’

ONLY QUESTION TO THE UNITED STATES IS WHAT’S IN OUR NATIONAL INTEREST.

FAMOUS FOR BEING A FOREIGN POLICY HAWK.

OUR GOAL SHOULD BE REGIME CHANGE IN IRAN.

JOHN BOLTON SAYS IT WAS HIS TELEVISION CAREER.

THE OBAMA ERA FOR AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY IS CLEARLY OVER.

THAT CAUGHT PRESIDENT TRUMP’S ATTENTION.

HE’S HIGHLY RESPECTED BY EVERYBODY IN THIS ROOM.

LANDING HIM A JOB AS PRESIDENT TRUMP’S THIRD NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER.

I ACTUALLY TEMPER JOHN, WHICH IS PRETTY AMAZING ISN’T IT.

BY THE PRESIDENT’S SIDE FOR 17 TURBULENT MONTHS, THEN OUT.
DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING DURING IMPEACHMENT.
WHAT DOES AMBASSADOR JOHN BOLTON SAY NOW?

‘FIRING LINE,’ WITH MARGARET HOOVER IS MADE POSSIBLE IN PART BY CHARLES R. SCHAUB AND BY CORPORATE FUNDING IS PROVIDED BY STEVENS, INC.

AMBASSADOR JOHN BOLTON, WELCOME TO ‘FIRING LINE’! WELL, THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
GLAD TO BE HERE.

YOU WERE PRESIDENT TRUMP’S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, AND NOW YOU ARE THE HIGHEST RANKING FORMER ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TO HAVE PUBLISHED A BOOK ABOUT YOUR TIME IN THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE.
IT’S BEEN TWO WEEKS SINCE YOUR BOOK, ‘THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED’ WAS RELEASED AND PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS CALLED YOU QUOTE DISGRUNTLED, BORING FOOL, AND CALLED YOUR BOOK PURE FICTION.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF SAID THAT YOU LACKED THE BASIC COURAGE AND PATRIOTISM AND SPEAKER PELOSI CALLED THE BOOK QUOTE A SUBSTITUTE TO TESTIFYING FOR CONGRESS ABOUT THE WELL BEING OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
IS THIS ABOUT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

IT’S ABOUT WHAT I EXPECTED FROM BOTH DONALD TRUMP, WHOSE REACTION WAS AS JUVENILE AS IT OFTEN IS.
IT DEMEANS THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY, AND I REALLY AM NOT GOING TO RESPOND TO IT, AND AS FOR ADAM SCHIFF, IF I HAD MADE AS MANY MISTAKES AS HE AND HIS COLLEAGUES DID IN THE IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS, I WOULD BE LOOKING FOR SOMEBODY ELSE TO BLAME, TOO.

LISTEN, I’D LIKE TO STEP BACK FOR PEOPLE WHO MAY BE NOT AS FAMILIAR WITH YOUR WORK.
CAN YOU, FOR THE AUDIENCE, CHARACTERIZE YOUR APPROACH TO AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY?

RIGHT.
WELL, I’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN POLITICS FOR A LONG TIME.
I FUNDAMENTALLY BELIEVE IN THE REAGAN APPROACH OF PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH.
I HAVE BEEN A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN AS LONG AS I THOUGHT ABOUT POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
I WAS A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN WHEN I WENT INTO THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.
I FOUND HE WAS NOT A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN, AND I’M A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN TODAY.

YOUR BOOK, AND I’VE READ EVERY WORD OF IT, ILLUSTRATES A VERY DETAILED AND A VERY DAMMING PORTRAIT OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT AND HIS BASIC LACK OF KNOWLEDGE AND SENSE OF GEOPOLITICS, BASIC, GEOPOLITICS.
DID YOU TAKE THE JOB IN THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IN PART BELIEVING THAT YOU COULD HELP EDUCATE PRESIDENT TRUMP AND HELP, PERHAPS, LEAD HIM TOWARDS VIEWS CLOSER TO YOUR OWN?

WELL, I FELT AND I TRY AND LAY OUT IN THE BOOK THE LONG MARCH TO THE NSA JOB IN THE WEST WING, WHICH INCLUDED A SUBSTANTIAL NUMBER OF CONVERSATIONS WITH DONALD TRUMP WHERE I WENT THROUGH WHAT MY VIEWS WERE.
HE TOLD ME MANY TIMES HOW HE HAD WATCHED ME ON FOX NEWS SINCE I LEFT THE UN JOB, SO I ASSUMED THAT BOTH IN WATCHING ON FOX AND IN MEETINGS THAT WE HAD, HE WAS LISTENING TO WHAT I WAS SAYING AND UNDERSTOOD.
HE OFFERED ME THE JOB.
NOBODY PUT A GUN TO HIS HEAD, AND I ACCEPTED, AND NOBODY PUT A GUN TO MY HEAD EITHER.
I THINK WE BOTH THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD WORK OUT, AND I BELIEVE THAT MUCH OF WHAT THE CRITICISM THAT HAD BEEN VOICED OF TRUMP, IT COULDN’T BE THAT BAD.
I GUESS THAT’S THE WAY I’D SUMMARIZE IT.
IT COULDN’T BE THAT BAD, AND THE BOOK IN MANY RESPECTS IS THE RECAP PITCHLATION OF HOW MY ASSESSMENT WAS NOT WARRANTED.

I MEAN, DO YOU THINK YOU WERE NAIVE IN ESTIMATING THAT YOU COULD HELP GUIDE THE PRESIDENT TOWARDS GOOD POLICIES?

WELL, IT’S PRETTY RARE THAT I’M CALLED NAIVE.
MAYBE I SHOULD BE COMPLIMENTED BY THAT, BUT, NO, AS I SAY, I DIDN’T THINK THAT THE CRITICISMS THAT WERE VOICED OF HIS LACK OF ATTENTIVENESS, HIS LACK OF INTEREST IN LEARNING, HIS LACK OF PHILOSOPHY, HIS LACK OF INTEREST IN POLICY, I JUST DIDN’T THINK IT COULD BE AS TRUE AS IT TURNED OUT TO BE, BUT, YOU KNOW, ONE OF MY CONCLUSIONS IS THAT TRUMP IS NOT A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN.
NOW, I DON’T MEAN BY THAT TO SAY HE’S A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT.
HE’S NOT THAT EITHER.
HE’S NOT PHILOSOPHICALLY AND I DON’T THINK THAT’S GOOD FOR THE REPUBLIC.

IT COULDN’T HAVE COME AS A SURPRISE TO YOU WHEN YOU TOOK THE JOB THAT HE WASN’T A CONSERVATIVE PUBLIC.
HE UNLIKE YOU DIDN’T SPEND HIS LIFE STEEPED IN THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT, HE HADN’T SERVED IN THREE REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION, FRANKLY, HE HAD BEEN A DEMOCRAT, SO YOU WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SURPRISED THAT HE DIDN’T ADHERE TO THE CONSERVATIVE PHILOSOPHY.
IT STRIKES ME FROM THE OUTSIDE THAT YOU BELIEVE THERE WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE HIM IN A CONSERVATIVE DIRECTION?

SURE.
LOOK.
NO ADVISER COMES IN THINKING THAT HE OR SHE IS GOING TO AGREE WITH THE PRESIDENT 100% OF THE TIME, THAT NEVER HAPPENS AND IN FACT, YOU DON’T WANT THAT, AND DURING THE CAMPAIGN, AND AS I SAID THIS IN INTERVIEWS ON FOX AND ELSEWHERE, THE SPEECHES HE GAVE, THE PREPARED SPEECHES THAT HE GAVE DID PUT HIM IN THE MAINSTREAM OF REPUBLICAN PARTY FOREIGN POLICY THINKING.
AND I THOUGHT THAT THAT KIND OF STRUCTURE PROVIDED IN EFFECT A WAY THAT WE COULD TRANSFORM WHAT WAS SAID IN THE CAMPAIGN INTO SERIOUS POLICIES GOING FORWARD, BUT I WAS DISAPPOINTED OVER TIME THAT WE COULDN’T HAVE MORE CONSISTENCY, MORE PERSISTENCE IN THE PURSUIT OF POLICIES.
YOU CAN’T HAVE NATIONAL SECURITY DECISIONS MADE ONE MORNING, CHANGED THAT AFTERNOON, AND THEN CHANGE THE NEXT DAY.
YOU CAN’T HAVE A SYSTEM WHERE THE LAST PERSON IN THE ROOM MAY BE THE MOST INFLUENTIAL IN THE DECISION.
YOU CAN’T HAVE A FOREIGN AND DEFENSE POLICY BASED ON GUT INSTINCTS.
WHEN IT HAPPENS, YOU’RE GOING TO CAUSE RISK AND UNCERTAINTY FOR THE COUNTRY, AND THAT IS NOT A GOOD THING.

WHEN YOU SAY — AND YOU DO DETAIL IN THE BOOK, THE PRESIDENT HAD WATCHED YOU ON FOX NEWS FOR YEARS.
EVERYBODY KNOWS WHAT YOUR VIEWS WERE, IT WAS NO SECRET.
BUT PEOPLE REALLY NOW WHAT PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY INSTINCTS WERE, GOING IN 1987 WHEN HE TOOK A FULL PAGE AD OUT IN THE ‘NEW YORK TIMES,’ ARGUING FOR ISOLATION, AND AGAINST RONALD REAGAN, WE KNEW HE HAD INSTINCTS THAT WERE ISOLATIONIST AND YOU WRITE THAT IN YOUR BOOK THAT HE WANTS TO WITHDRAW FROM AFGHANISTAN, FROM SOUTH KOREA, FROM SYRIA, FROM IRAQ, EVEN NATO, AND YOU SUSPECT THAT TAIWAN IS RIGHT NEAR THE TOP OF THE LIST OF WHO PRESIDENT TRUMP WILL ABANDON NEXT, SO HOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT INSTINCT TOWARDS ISOLATIONISM?

WHEN I BEGAN AS NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, I FELT THAT SURELY AS TRUMP BECAME MORE FAMILIAR WITH THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND THE FACTS AND THE STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT THAT WE FACED THAT HE WOULD SEE THE MERITS OF THE POSITIONS THAT I AND PLENTY OF OTHERS WERE ADVOCATING.
BUT IT WAS THE LACK OF INTEREST IN LEARNING, THE FACT THAT HE DIDN’T PAY MUCH ATTENTION TO THE INTELLIGENCE, THAT HE DIDN’T KNOW MUCH HISTORY, AND THAT HE DIDN’T REALLY SEEK TO ACQUIRE NEW KNOWLEDGE THAT PREVENTED US FROM MAKING PROGRESS.
NOW, LOOK, NO PRESIDENT COMES TO OFFICE WITH ALL THE KNOWLEDGE THAT HE NEEDS.
IT’S A FACT.
IT’S A HUGE JOB.
BUT THE PRESIDENT DIDN’T COME WITH MUCH BACKGROUND OR HISTORY IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, AND HE FELT THAT HE DIDN’T REALLY NEED OF LEARNING PROCESS THAT OTHER PRESIDENTS ENGAGED IN.
I THINK THAT’S A MISTAKE.
I THINK IF HE HAD LEARNED MORE HISTORY, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER SERVED.

I MEAN, YOU SAID YOU THOUGHT THAT HE WOULD COME TO SEE THE MERITS OF, YOU KNOW, THE POINT OF VIEW, AND THE INFORMATION THAT WAS OUT FOR HIM BY YOU AND OTHERS, AND HE DIDN’T.
IT DOES SOUND LIKE MAYBE — I KNOW YOU DON’T LIKE TO CALL YOURSELF NAIVE — BUT THERE WAS A LITTLE BIT OF NAIVETY OF HOW THIS PRESIDENT COULD BE SHAPED.

OR STUBBORNISM ON HIS PART.

SOME PEOPLE SPECULATE THAT HE’S CONSTANTLY LOOKING AT THE BOTTOM LINE, AND LOOKING AT EXPENDITURES VERSUS THE AMOUNT THAT WE’RE GETTING BACK GENERATING RETURNS.
DO YOU THINK THERE’S SOMETHING TO THAT?
DOES THAT HELP EXPLAIN WHY HE WAS INSTINCTIVELY ISOLATIONIST FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

I DON’T THINK THAT’S A PHILOSOPHICAL BASIS.
MANY PEOPLE HAVE DESCRIBED THAT APPROACH AS PURELY TRANSACTIONAL, WHICH IS I THINK CORRECT.
YOU KNOW, I HAVE TO SAY I DON’T KNOW WHAT GRAND STRATEGY IS FOR MANHATTAN REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER.
IT’S NEVER BEEN MY JOB.
I DON’T HAVE ANY ASPIRATIONS TO DO IT.
I SUSPECT IT’S MAKE MONEY ON THIS PARCEL OF LAND, AND THEN MAKE MONEY ON THE NEXT PARCEL OF LAND, AND YOU KNOW SOME PEOPLE ARE GOOD AT IT, AND GOD BLESS THEM, BUT THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS.
AND IT’S CERTAINLY ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE TO SAY, FOR EXAMPLE, I THINK THE MEMBERS OF NATO OUGHT TO SPEND MORE ON OUR COLLECTIVE SELF-DEFENSE ALLIANCE, WHICH THEY COMMITTED TO DO RECENTLY IN 2014, AND TRUMP SAID LIVE UP TO YOUR COMMITMENT THAT YOU VOLUNTARILY MADE TO SPEND 2% OF YOUR GDP ON DEFENSE.
I COMPLETELY SUPPORTED THAT.
BUT BECAUSE I FELT THAT THAT WOULD HELP STRENGTHEN THE NATO ALLIANCE, THE PRESIDENT’S VIEW IS EITHER DO IT OR I MIGHT GET OUT OF THE NATO ALLIANCE.
IT’S 180 DEGREES THE OPPOSITE APPROACH.

THAT GETS ME TO ONE OF YOUR SUCCESSES AND ONE OF YOUR EARLIER SUCCESSES WHICH YOU WRITE ABOUT IN THE BOOK, HELPING PRESIDENT TRUMP NOT TO PULL OUT OF NATO IN JULY OF 2018.
AND IT WAS ACTUALLY THE KAVANAUGH CONFIRMATION HEARING COMING UP THAT YOU SAID MIGHT BE DERAILED SHOULD HE PULL OUT OF NATO.
DOES THAT TYPIFY, I MEAN, DID YOU FEEL AFTER THAT EXPERIENCE THAT YOU KIND OF HAD THE KEY TO HOW TO PERSUADE PRESIDENT TRUMP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION ON FOREIGN POLICY BY MAKING POLITICAL ARGUMENTS.

IT WAS MIKE POMPEO WHO CAME UP WITH THAT ARGUMENT, AND I THINK IT TURNED OUT TO BE THE RIGHT ONE, AND IT DID BECOME OBVIOUS THAT THE ULTIMATE ARGUMENT WAS AVOIDING A REVOLT WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

YOU WERE THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER IN THE UNITED STATES, AND YOU EXPRESSED INTEREST AT ONE POINT IN ALSO BEING SECRETARY OF STATE.
OF COURSE THERE IS ONE PERSON WHO HELD BOTH OF THOSE JOBS SIMULTANEOUSLY, AND THAT WAS HENRY KISSINGER.
HERE IS SOMETHING HENRY KISSINGER SAID ON THIS PROGRAM WITH WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR. IN 1993.
TAKE A LOOK.

DON’T WE NEED TO BEGIN BY DESERTING THE EGALITARIAN MYTH THAT ALL COUNTRIES ARE THE SAME.

BUT THERE ARE SOME COUNTRIES THAT GIVE US A PARTICULAR PROBLEM BECAUSE THEY’RE A THREAT TO THE PEACE OF THE WORLD AND TO OUR OWN SECURITY, OR TO THE STABILITY OF THE AREA, SUCH AS NORTH KOREA, SUCH AS IRAN.
AND WE WOULD BE PREPARED TO TAKE STRONGER AND PREEMPIVE MEASURES.

DOES PRESIDENT TRUMP UNDERSTAND THAT BASIC IDEA.

I DON’T THINK HE DOES, BUT I’M GLAD TO SEE HENRY KISSINGER ADD COE — ADVOCATING.

PRESIDENT TRUMP IS WILLING TO NEGOTIATE WITH ADVERSARIES THAN ALLIES, HIS CONVERSATIONS WITH JUSTIN TRUDEAU WERE FAR FROM AMICABLE, AND CLEAR HE DIDN’T LIKE THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN, AND YOU DESCRIBED THE RELATIONSHIP HE HAD WITH KIM JONG UN AND PRESIDENT ERDOGAN AS A BROMANCE.
WHO IS PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FAVORITE AUTHORITARIAN.

I THINK IT’S XI JINPING, AND THAT FILLS ME WITH GREAT CONCERN.
IF YOU WATCH, ON A NUMBER OF OCCASIONS, DONALD TRUMP ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE TABLE OF XI JINPING, VLADIMIR PUTIN, KIM JONG UN, IT’S NOT A FAIR FIGHT.
THEY ARE EXTRAORDINARILY FOCUSED, HARD HEADED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, EXPERIENCED AND THOROUGHLY RUTHLESS, SO THEY SEE DONALD TRUMP ON THE OTHER SIDE, AND IT’S NOT A FAIR FIGHT.
SO IF YOU’RE ON THE PRO-AMERICAN SIDE, IT’S SOMETHING TO BE WORRIED ABOUT.

WHY DOES HE HAVE A BLIND SPOT TO WHEN IT COMES TO AUTHORITARIAN LEADERS?

YOU KNOW, I CAN’T EXPLAIN IT.
I’M NOT A SHRINK MYSELF.
I’M NOT GOING TO ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN IT IN TERMS OF HIS EARLY YEARS OR THAT SORT OF THING.
I THINK IN PART, YOU KNOW, HE WANTS TO BE A BIG GUY WITH THE REAL BIG GUYS AND THE BIG GUYS ARE XI JINPING AND VLADIMIR PUTIN, LAW ENFORCEMENT SYSTEMS, CONCERN FOR TRIVIAL DEMOCRATIC CONSTRAINTS.
IT DOESN’T BOTHER XI JINPING AND VLADIMIR PUTIN.
DONALD TRUMP DOESN’T WANT TO BE BOTHERED BY THAT SORT OF THING EITHER.
BIG GUYS GET TOGETHER AND TALK ABOUT BIG GUYS THINGS AND IT MAKES HIM FEEL LIKE A BIG GUY.
THAT’S THE BEST I CAN DO.
I THINK IT’S A REFLECTION OF HIS SHORTSIGHTEDNESS AND REALLY HIS INABILITY TO APPRECIATE OR CARE ABOUT THE COMPLEXITIES OF RELATIONS WITH ADVERSARIES LIKE THOSE.

LOOK, BULLIES ONLY RESPECT STRENGTH, DO YOU THINK PRESIDENT TRUMP BELIEVES THAT DEMOCRACY IS LIKE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ARE WEAK?

NOW, I THINK HE SEES DEMOCRATIC LEADERS AS FUNDAMENTALLY WEAKER, AND I THINK HE SEES HIMSELF AS SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER DEMOCRATIC LEADERS.
WHEN YOU TAKE A TRANSACTIONAL APPROACH TO ALLIES WHO DON’T SEEM TO LIVE UP TO YOUR EXPECTATION, IT SEEMS TO BE EASIER TO DEAL WITH THE AUTHORITARIAN LEADERS.
THE PRESIDENCY AND NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY ARE WORLDS APART FROM THE BUSINESS EXPERIENCE THAT HE HAD.
AND HIS UNWILLINGNESS OR INABILITY TO LEARN, TO SAY, YOU KNOW, I’M IN A NEW JOB HERE.
I’M DEALING WITH A DIFFERENT LEAGUE OF PEOPLE, XI JINPING IS NOT ANOTHER MANHATTAN REAL ESTATE DEALER, AND THAT IS THE SORT OF THING THAT LEAVES HIM VULNERABLE TO THE VIEW, FOR EXAMPLE, HE EXPRESSED ON IRAN, THAT IF HE COULD SIT DOWN WITH THE AYATOLLAH, IT COULD WRAP UP A DEAL ON THE IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM IN A DAY.
DONALD TRUMP SITTING DOWN TO NEGOTIATE WITH VLADIMIR PUTIN ON STRATEGIC WEAPONS HAS ME GREATLY CONCERNED IF HE’S REELECTED.

ONE OTHER THING YOU SAY HAS YOU CONCERNED IF HE’S REELECTED IS THE EXAMPLE OF TAIWAN WHICH IS OF COURSE THE OUTSTANDING EXAMPLE OF CHINESE DEMOCRACY, AND YOU PAINT A VERY BLEAK PICTURE FOR THE FUTURE OF TAIWAN.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN?

THAT’S ONE OF THE REASONS I DON’T WANT TO SEE A SECOND TRUMP TERM.
AS I SAY IN THE BOOK, HE HAD PICKED UP FROM SOMEBODY, HE’D TAKE UP ONE OF HIS FAMOUS SHARPIE PENS AND POINT TO THE END OF IT, THE POINT, THAT’S TAIWAN, THEN HE WOULD POINT TO THE RESOLUTE DESK, THE HUGE DESK IN HIS OFFICE, THAT’S CHINA.
NUMBER ONE, THAT COMPARISON IS NOT RIGHT.
NUMBER TWO, TAIWAN IS AN ALLY OF THE UNITED STATES, A DEMOCRACY, A FORCE FOR STABILITY IN THE REGION.
AND WE SEE NOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DISMISS PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY ASPIRE TO GOVERN THEMSELVES IN HONG KONG.
WHERE TODAY HIS RHETORIC IS TOUGH BECAUSE OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC AND CHINA’S OBVIOUS CULPABILITY IN ALLOWING THE DISEASE TO SPREAD.
SO RHETORICALLY, HE’S TOUCH ON CHINA BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY’RE DOING IN HONG KONG.
HE’S TOUGH ON CHINA RHETORICALLY BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY’RE DOING TO THE UYGHURS IN THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS, BUT IF HE WINS ON NOVEMBER THE 3rd, IT’S ENTIRELY POSSIBLE THE NEXT DAY HE’LL CALL HIS BUDDY XI JINPING AND SAY LET’S TALK ABOUT THE TRADE DEAL.

YOU JUST MENTIONED THE UYGHURS WHICH TO ME WAS ONE OF THE MOST HORRIFYING REVELATIONS IN YOUR BOOK, THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP VERBALLY CONDONED TO XI JINPING THE CONTINUATION AND CONSTRUCTION OF MODERN DAY CONCENTRATION CAMPS FOR MUSLIM MINORITY, THE UYGHURS.
WHAT HAPPENS, AMBASSADOR BOLTON WHEN THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS SO DISMISSIVE AND FRANKLY, CONDONES DESI MAGS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA.

I THINK XI JINPING CAN DO AS HE WANTS.
AND I’M SURE THAT’S EXACTLY THE WAY HE TOOK IT.
I DON’T THINK HUMAN RIGHTS IS THE ONLY VALUE IN HUMAN POLICY BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION.
IT’S OFTEN NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT VALUE WHEN YOU LOOK AT AMERICAN STRATEGIC INTERESTS AROUND THE WORLD.
IT’S PART OF WHO WE ARE AS A COUNTRY, AND YOU HAVE TO TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT.
BUT THE TRUMP APPROACH IS JUST TO TAKE IT OFF THE TABLE AND GIVE THE AUTHORITARIANS A FREE PASS, AND I THINK THAT’S A BIG MISTAKE BECAUSE IT SIGNALS TO OUR FRIENDS THAT AFTER HAVING TOLD THEM FOR DECADES YOU SHOULD ASPIRE TO BE A MARKET ORIENTED DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY.
WE’RE BASICALLY NOW SAYING WE DON’T CARE THAT MUCH.

THIS IS A QUOTE, THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT’S GOAL IS TO WEAKEN OUR COUNTRY, TO DIMINISH AMERICAN’S GLOBAL GLOEL AND NEUTRALIZE A PERCEIVED AMERICAN THREAT TO RUSSIAN INTERESTS.
DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT STATEMENT?
.
I THINK THAT’S LARGELY A STATEMENT OF THEIR PERCEPTION, YEAH.

THAT WAS, OF COURSE, YOU PROBABLY RECOGNIZE THE QUOTE IT WAS FROM DR. FIONA HILL FROM HER TESTIMONY FROM HOUSE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS AND SHE OF COURSE WORKED FOR YOU AT THE NFC, WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT HER DECISION TO TESTIFY?

WELL, I THINK SHE DID WHAT SHE THOUGHT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO, AND I AGREE THAT IN HER POSITION, IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
OTHERS ON THE NSE STAFF ALSO TESTIFIED.
WE’VE JUST LEARNED THAT ALEX VINDMAN WHO WAS IN FIONA’S DIRECTERATE, HAS RETIRED FROM THE MILITARY.
I THINK THAT’S A GREAT TRAGEDY.
HIS LAWYER HAS WRITTEN A STATEMENT CRITICIZING THE PRESIDENT AND THE WHITE HOUSE FOR BULLYING AND INTIMIDATION.
THIS IS NOT A QUESTION OF THE PRESIDENT’S AUTHORITY.
OF COURSE THE PRESIDENT RUNS THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH.
IT’S A QUESTION OF JUDGMENT, AND HIS INABILITY OR UNWILLINGNESS TO SEE DISAGREEMENT AS BEING DIRECTED AT SOMETHING NOT AT HIM PERSONALLY, BUT AT A DESIRE PEOPLE HAVE TO POINT THE COUNTRY’S POLICY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
IT’S PART OF HIS INABILITY TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN AMERICAN NATIONAL INTERESTS AND DONALD TRUMP’S PERSONAL INTERESTS.
HE SEES THEM AS FUSED TOGETHER.
AND I THINK THAT LEADS TO THINGS LIKE THE UKRAINE SCENARIO THAT WAS THE SUBJECT OF THEIR TESTIMONY.

YOU SAID IN A RECENT INTERVIEW THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP IS QUOTE DANGEROUS ENOUGH THAT HE SHOULDN’T GET A SECOND TERM.
YOU HAVE ALLUDED TO THAT IN OUR CONVERSATION HERE.
DANGEROUS IS A STRONG WORD.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY DANGEROUS?

I DON’T THINK HE UNDERSTANDS ENOUGH ABOUT INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS TO BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE THREATS TO AMERICA UNLESS AND UNTIL THEY HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT ON HIS PERSONAL POLITICAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
I THINK THE DAMAGE THAT AT LEAST DONE IN ONE TERM CAN BE CORRECTED.
I’M VERY CONFIDENT IN THAT.
I DON’T THINK WE’LL HAVE ANY TROUBLE BOUNCING BACK.
A SECOND TERM, THOUGH, IS WHAT WORRIES ME BECAUSE OVER TIME, HIS WEAKNESSES VIS-A-VIS, THE AUTHORITARIAN LEADERS WHO DO REPRESENT OUR PRINCIPAL ADVERSARIES WILL ENABLE THEM TO PLAY HIM IN WAYS THAT IT WILL BE INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO RECOVER, AND BECAUSE IF HE’S REELECTED, THE CONSTRAINT OF HAVING TO KEEP THAT PESKY REPUBLICAN PARTY ON SIDE AND TO WORRY ABOUT THE VOTERS WILL BE REMOVED.

DOES YOUR PORTRAIT OF HIM AND ESTIMATION OF HIM LEAD YOU TO BELIEVE THAT HE IS UNFIT TO SERVE A SECOND TERM?

YES, I THINK HE IS UNFIT.
I THINK TWO THINGS, HE’S NOT A CONSERVATIVE, AND HE’S NOT COMPETENT ENOUGH TO BE PRESIDENT.

DO YOU THINK HE’S EXISTENTIAL THREAT?

YOU KNOW, I DON’T LIKE TO USE THE WORD EXISTENTIAL ABOUT DONALD TRUMP.
I DON’T SEE IT IN THAT LIGHT.
I DO THINK IT’S VERY IMPORTANT, SPEAKING TO SOMEONE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS ADULT LIFE IS NOT GOING TO VOTE FOR A REPUBLICAN NOMINEE TO BE PRESIDENT, THAT REPUBLICANS KEEP A MAJORITY IN THE SENATE.

IT STRIKES ME THAT WHEN IT COMES TO GEOPOLITICS, YOUR APPROACH, WHEN RESPONDING TO THREATS TO THE UNITED STATES IS TO RESPOND WITH STRENGTH.
SO WHAT YOU’RE SAYING TO ME IS THAT YOU DON’T WANT HIM REELECTED.
WHAT ELSE ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO ENSURE THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN?

WELL, I THINK I’VE LAID THIS BOOK BEFORE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
THERE’S A LOT OF CRITICISM THAT I SHOULD HAVE SOMEHOW DONE IT IN CONGRESS, AND I WOULD SAY, IF YOU CAN’T TALK ABOUT A PRESIDENT’S COMPETENCE AND CHARACTER IN THE MIDDLE OF A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, I DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU CAN TALK ABOUT IT.
AND REALLY, AT THE REAL BOTTOM, BOTTOM LINE, IS THAT THE PROTECTERS OF AMERICA ARE NOT SENATORS AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
THE REAL GUARDIANS OF OUR LIBERTY ARE THE PEOPLE.
THE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO MAKE UP THEIR MIND THIS NOVEMBER.

I MEAN, YOU SAY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS A DANGER TO THE PUBLIC AND HE’S UNFIT FOR OFFICE.
IS A BOOK YOUR BEST WEAPON TO ENSURE THAT HE DOESN’T REMAIN PRESIDENT?

WELL, I’M ON TV AS YOU CAN TELL RIGHT NOW, AND PEOPLE CAN MAKE UP THEIR MINDS ABOUT THAT AS WELL.

THERE’S A CRITICISM OF THE BOOK OF COURSE THAT IS, IF YOU DEEPLY BELIEVED HE WAS A DANGER AND UNFIT THAT THE PRINCIPLE THING TO DO WOULD BE MORE THAN JUST WRITE A BOOK, THAT YOU PERHAPS JOIN THE ADMINISTRATION TO FURTHER A WORLD VIEW THAT YOU HAVE THAT WHEN YOUR INFLUENCE RAN OUT, YOU KNOW, YOU LEFT THE JOB, AND THAT YOU WROTE A BOOK THAT’S FULL OF ANECDOTES THAT HELPS SELL A BOOK TO PEOPLE WHO ALREADY DON’T LIKE THE PRESIDENT.
HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT CRITICISM?

WELL, IF I WERE REALLY CONCERNED ABOUT FINANCIAL ISSUES, I WOULD HAVE JOINED THE GOVERNMENT TO BEGIN WITH.
I THINK THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO IS PUT THE FACTS IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.
YOU CANNOT DO THAT IN TWEETS.
YOU CAN’T DO IT IN OP-EDS.
YOU CAN’T DO IT IN TWO-PAGE STATEMENTS.
I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE LOOK AT THIS AS AN EXERCISE IN VIRTUE SIGNALING.
I’M AGAINST DONALD TRUMP.
GREAT.
SO WHAT.
THE ISSUE IS CAN YOU PERSUADE OTHER PEOPLE, AND THE BOOK, YOU KNOW, IS MAYBE OF MORE INTEREST TO PEOPLE ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE SPECTRUM, BUT I REALLY WROTE IT THINKING MORE ABOUT CONSERVATIVES, TO SAY DON’T MISUNDERSTAND THAT WHEN YOU GET SOME THINGS THAT YOU AGREE WITH THAT THAT REFLECTS A PHILOSOPHY THAT YOU’LL SEE IN A SECOND TERM.

IF YOU BELIEVE IN RESPONDING TO THREATS WITH STRENGTH AND WITH FORCE, ARE THERE ANY OTHER IDEAS YOU HAVE ABOUT HOW TO RESPOND THE THREAT THE PRESIDENT POSES TO THE UNITED STATES?

WELL, IF YOU BELIEVE IN OUR CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM, THEN YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT ULTIMATELY THE REPOSITORY OF SOVEREIGNTY, THE DEFENSE OF THAT SYSTEM, THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM IT’S DESIGNED, WE THE PEOPLE, CAN MAKE UP THEIR MINDS AND DO THE RIGHT THING.
IF YOU THINK THEY’RE GOING TO MAKE A MISTAKE, THEN YOU LOOK AT ALTERNATIVES LIKE IMPEACHMENT AS THE MAIN EFFORT.
I THINK THE DEMOCRATS BLEW THEIR OPPORTUNITY.
WE KNOW HOW TO CONDUCT A BIPARTISAN IMPEACHMENT.
IT HAPPENED IN WATERGATE, BUT THE DEMOCRATS THIS TIME MADE NO EFFORT TO REACH OUT TO REPUBLICANS, AND MAYBE THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN UNSUCCESSFUL.
THEY NEVER TRIED.
THEY WANTED A PARTISAN INQUIRY IN THE HOUSE.
THEY GOT IT.
AND THAT PRODUCED A PARTISAN INQUIRY AND RESULT IN THE SENATE.
SO NOW THEY’VE TAKEN IMPEACHMENT OFF THE TABLE THEMSELVES BY THEIR OWN MALPRACTICE, AND IT IS DOWN TO A QUESTION OF WHAT THE PEOPLE DECIDE.

YOU HAVE BEEN A CONSERVATIVE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, AND ONE OF YOUR LAMENTS IS THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP IS NOT A CONSERVATIVE.
HOW DO YOU REFLECT ON THE CURRENT STATE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, WHICH, YOU KNOW, I CERTAINLY THOUGHT WAS A CONSERVATIVE PARTY, AND MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE FLOCK TO THE REPUBLICAN BANNER BECAUSE OF THE IDEAS BEHIND IT.
HOW DO YOU REFLECT ON THAT MOVEMENT AND ITS BEING OVERTAKEN BY TRIBALISM AND DONALD TRUMP?

I THINK ON NOVEMBER 4th, WHETHER TRUMP WINS OR LOSES, WE NEED TO HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT WHERE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS GOING.
I DO NOT THINK THAT IF TRUMP LOSES IT’S A DEFEAT FOR CONSERVATIVES.
AND I THINK IF HE WINS IT’S NOT A VICTORY FOR CONSERVATISM.
IT’S ALL ABOUT TRUMP.
AND MY OBJECTIVE BEGINNING ON NOVEMBER THE 4th, WILL BE TO FIND A WAY TO CUT THIS ALBATROSS OFF FROM THE NECK OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND ALLOW US IN VICTORY OR DEFEAT TO TRY AND REGAIN THE PRINCIPLES THAT CERTAINLY ATTRACTED ME TO THE PARTY TO BEGIN WITH, BECAUSE THOSE PRINCIPLES DON’T CHANGE WITH DIFFERENT SOCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
THEY ARE PRINCIPLES WHICH LAST OVER TIME.
AND THEY ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR.
I AM NOT GOING TO ABANDON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY BECAUSE OF DONALD TRUMP.
I’M GOING TO STAY IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND FIGHT FOR IT.

AMBASSADOR BOLDEN, THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME ON ‘FIRING LINE.’

WELL, THANKS SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

‘FIRING LINE’ WITH MARGARET HOOVER IS MADE POSSIBLE IN PART BY CHARLES R. SCHAUB AND CORPORATE FUNDINGS PROVIDED BY STEPHENS, INC.