September 12, 2019
John Bolton Gets the Boot
By Buck Sexton, Executive Editor
There has been no shortage of senior departures from the Trump White House. President Donald Trump has cycled through top positions like he’s still the head honcho of a reality TV show where the viewers await hearing, “You’re fired.”
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn? Toast, thanks to the FBI. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? Told to pack his bags. White House Director of Communications Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci? Arrivederci! (If you want a full tally of the rapidly departed from Trump’s inner circle, here’s a handy one.)
On Tuesday, we added John Bolton to that list. He is Trump’s third ex-National Security Advisor in as many years.
Bolton has a long career of foreign-policy service, including a stint as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the George W. Bush administration. He spent decades bouncing back and forth from elite policy circles to think tanks and cable news contributor deals.
Visually, he is best known to Americans for his highly memorable moustache. The man’s facial hair game is on par with Ben Bernanke’s beard. Trump, however, was reportedly not a fan, once passing him over for a cabinet position because “his moustache is a problem.”
As for what actually matters – Bolton’s foreign-policy philosophy – the man was a renowned super hawk. His defenders would say that Bolton merely believed in a strong American foreign policy that rewarded allies and punished enemies.
His critics would counter that Bolton is an unrepentant Iraq war agitator and Iran regime-change devotee. There are many on the Right and the Left who believe that Bolton’s ultimate desire is not to use soft diplomacy against enemy states, but to push them into a corner and then bomb them back into the Stone Age.
After President Trump tweeted that Bolton was out, oil prices dropped rapidly. The widespread perception was that Bolton was putting America on a collision course with Iran, and that such a war would result in major disruptions to global supply.
Those fears were rooted in reality. It wouldn’t take much for the Iranians to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway through which about 21% of the global oil output travels daily. Now that Bolton is no longer a voice in the room with Trump’s top foreign-policy decisionmakers, the likelihood of a war with Iran appears lower.
While the market impact of Bolton’s exit was immediately tied to the Iran question, it is by no means the only geopolitical conflict affected. The aborted Camp David meeting with the Taliban last week was apparently the last straw in the Trump-Bolton relationship. Bolton wanted to take a tougher hand in negotiations and increase our troop presence in Afghanistan. Trump just wants to end the damn war.
And here we have the root of Bolton’s departure. Trump isn’t a foreign-policy wonk. Nobody denies this. He does, however, have instincts for politics that go beyond national boundaries. Trump understands bullies and the bottom line. That can mean a go-with-his-gut approach in the international arena that is unpredictable, but it definitely doesn’t include starting new wars or bowing on trade. This is also one of the reasons his supporters turned out for him in 2016.
So, who will replace Bolton? And who will be the strongest foreign-policy voice in the final stages of Trump’s first term?
We will have to wait and see. National Security Advisor, unlike other senior posts, doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Perhaps Trump has learned to make better personnel choices at this stage of his presidency. Regardless, there are plenty of strong options to take the NSA role.
One thing is for sure: Those who are tired of a foreign-policy establishment they feel has gotten U.S. policy very wrong, are relieved. After losing thousands of American lives and spending trillions of dollars in two conflicts without end, the “Forever War” apparatus lost its strongest voice in the Trump administration.
For now, the world – and maybe the markets – are better off as a result.
Now here are some of the headlines we’re reading…
Bolton had been a reliable defender of the Trump agenda during television appearances and seemed to align with the president’s desire to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal… But it seemed an odd match at times.
U.S. consumer borrowing swelled in July by the most since late 2017 as Americans carried larger credit-card balances to fund both everyday and online purchases.
Doctors [recommend] people to stop vaping as they investigate six deaths, hundreds of potential cases of pulmonary illness… Some sort of chemical exposure related to vaping or e-cigarette use may be causing inflammation or injury in the lungs.
It’s called an “inverted yield curve.” And trust me, it’s big news… You’ve probably noticed the financial media has been eating this story up. But what you probably don’t realize is that they’ve got it all wrong…
And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].
Executive Editor, American Consequences
With P.J. O’Rourke and the Editorial Staff
September 12, 2019