WASHINGTON ― Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the GOP’s most cautious voices on foreign intervention, is warning President-elect Donald Trump not to choose John Bolton as his secretary of state, saying it would betray the values he campaigned upon.
“No man is more out of touch with the situation in the Middle East or more dangerous to our national security than Bolton,” Paul wrote in an op-ed on the website Rare on Tuesday.
Bolton was one of the most hawkish members of the hawkish George W. Bush administration. He served for two years as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations until Democrats blocked his long-term appointment. He was openly disdainful of the world body, once saying, “There’s no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly boasted that he immediately opposed the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq ― even though there is absolutely no evidence that he did so. But that position became part of his appeal for voters weary of foreign entanglements.
That’s why choosing Bolton would represent such a break with Trump’s campaign positions, as Paul notes. Bolton was in favor of invading Iraq as early as 1998. In the Bush administration, as under secretary of state for arms control, he was one of the officials who peddled false information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program. Even after it became clear that the former Iraqi dictator did not possess such weapons, Bolton maintained that the war was a good idea.
“I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct,” he said last year.
In his op-ed Tuesday, Paul said Bolton is a “menace”:
Woodrow Wilson would be proud, but the parents of our soldiers should be mortified. War should be the last resort, never the first. War should be understood to be a hell no one wishes for. Dwight Eisenhower understood this when he wrote, “I hate war like only a soldier can, the stupidity, the banality, the futility.”
Bolton would not understand this because, like many of his generation, he used every privilege to avoid serving himself. Bolton said, with the threat of the Vietnam draft over his head, that “he had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy.” But he’s seems to be okay with your son or daughter dying wherever his neoconservative impulse leads us: “Even before the Iraq War, John Bolton was a leading brain behind the neoconservatives’ war-and-conquest agenda,” notes The American Conservative’s Jon Utley.
At a time when Americans thirst for change and new thinking, Bolton is an old hand at failed foreign policy.
The man is a menace. [...]
President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on changing our disastrous foreign policy. To appoint John Bolton would be a major first step toward breaking that promise.
Paul also says he doesn’t support former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), another oft-mentioned secretary of state candidate, because he, too, has made it clear he favors bombing Iran.
“I’m hoping that if there’s a public discussion of this before it happens, people in the incoming administration realize that regime change made us less safe and the Iraq War made us less safe,” Paul told The Washington Post. “We don’t need, as our chief diplomat, someone whose idea of diplomacy is dropping bombs.”
Paul is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will get a vote on Trump’s secretary of state.
“Rand Paul is proving to be a Republican of conscience and principle,” said a senior Democratic Senate aide who asked not to be named to speak openly. “Hopefully, he will be a critical vote to help block some of Trump’s worst appointments.”
Trump is reportedly considering Ric Grenell, Bolton’s combative former spokesman, as U.N. ambassador.
This story has been updated with comment from Rand Paul on Rudy Giuliani.