What I most admire about John Bolton is his steely demeanor and moral clarity. His spectacular fortitude in the face of scoundrels, liars, and internationally sanctioned criminals never fails to surprise and delight me. What was completely unexpected was the other side of Bolton. He was funny, thoughtful, deliberate. I really enjoyed the chat.
Atlas: If I could I'd like to talk about you. [he is looking at me askance, laughing here] What formed you..........what is your favorite book?
JB: That's a good question actually. I'd say one of the things that made a big impression on me was Edmund Burke's book Reflections on the Revolution in France and I've read a lot of John Locke and that had a big impact on me and Ayn Rand.
Atlas: You're just saying that to make me feel better........
JB: No it's true.
Atlas: Growing up, were you one of many?
JB: No, I had one sister, nine years younger.
Atlas: So you were the oldest. Your parents were tough? Encouraging? Non approving?.
Trying to figure out where you developed that spine of yours........I find that quality rare. There's a lot of it in that administration.
JB: My father was a firefighter in the city of Baltimore, my mother was a housewife.
Atlas: YAY, the great American story.
JB: When the President announced my appointment he talked about my father, he talked about how my mother took me to the library when I was a little boy and said go in there and read, stuff like that. Regular American family and I was the first person in my family to go to college and what that says is they did push me, they did encourage me.
Atlas: And did you always want to do this? Did you always want public service?
JB: I thought about it a lot, I thought when I was in high school I might go into foreign service, but I didn't do that. I ended up in law school and when I was in law school I never thought I would join the government until the Reagan administration.
I was practicing law in Washington at a firm there, although I was politically active. I represented Jim Buckley in a suit against the post Watergate campaign finance reform bill to get it declared unconstitutional because it put restrictions on what candidates could raise and spend on political campaigns. I was active in politics but mostly I was practicing law until the Reagan campaign and then I went into government.
Atlas: And it was satisfying? You were getting things done?
JB: Yeah yeah, first at the AID and then in the Justice Department and then when Bush 41 was elected I worked with Jim Baker at the State Department.
Atlas: Do you find it is less difficult, more difficult getting things done in this political climate?
JB: When I was in earlier administrations I was in assistant secretary level positions working hard on my issues and I didn't pay as much attention to the broader.......
Atlas: the big picture? [Atlas interrupting? WTF?]
JB: So when I see it now, it's probably more discouraging how much there is to do.
Atlas: Discouraging how? Discouraging how much there is to do? Or discouraging as in --is it do-able?
JB: Oh its do-able, under the right circumstances. I'm not so naive that I would be doing it if I didn't think there was a chance which makes it in some senses more frustrating. You can see sometimes how close you can get and yet you can't finish a particular thing. Like Iran, I've been working on this for three and a half years
Atlas: And you'll be working on it for three and half more.
JOB: I hope not, I hope not because now that it's in the Security Council, now is the time to say this is their chance that either they give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons or we go to what the President said, we do something else.
Atlas: We do something else? That's a little vague, don't you think? Deliberately vague?
JB: Yeah, sure absolutely. The President said I never take options off the table. And you've got to be that way. Look this has happened to me enough times before .... if I said, well -- I'll give you an example......after the invasion of Iraq, after Saddam was overthrown I said something in a BBC interview like I hope the governments of Syria and Iran take notice of what's just happened and I got into enormous trouble for that because it sounded like I was threatening the invasion of Iran and Syria.
Atlas: yeah but you get in enormous trouble for waking up in the morning
JB: Well that's true too.
to be continued
More to come guys, but right now I am going to take a break, head downstairs, meet up with some AIPAC folks, and have me a glass of pinot noir............I've had it. Long day. But great.
Part II tomorrow.
Update 1:43 am: Will try to finish this tomorrow/today and get to the Panel discussion as well, video egg will not accept a video upload larger than 5 minutes (if I had only known). The transcribing takes an enormous amount of time, laborious -- particularly for the two fingered typist.
UPDATE: MARCH 6TH PART II
Atlas: As a tangential aside, does that stuff get to you?
JB: The criticism, you mean?
Atlas: Yeah, the intense unfair vilification ......... You don't want to know what they call me on the left side of the sphere I am your whatever because I am such a staunch supporter. After awhile, does it sting less? Were you born with a thick skin? The derision is incredible.
JB: Well nobody likes to go through it.I think there's no question about that. But I think there is an [intelligible] effect over time so I don't think I pay much attention to it.
Atlas: Don't [how funny am i?]
JB: It doesn't affect my behavior, it's just a question of..........
Atlas: [interrupting again] there is that silent majority that supports you
Back to Iran.............
Atlas: I think we've moved too slowly and they've gotten too far. It is frightening to me because Israel is such a small country, it would just take one, to get one off
JB: Well, the President has used this phrase enough times, I don't know if he ever used it in a speech, but he talks about his concern about a Nuclear Holocaust -- that's his phrase.
Atlas: He's right
JB: He's got Iran specifically in mind. That's why I am confident over time that whatever happens at the State Department, the President knows what he needs to do.
Atlas: You're clear on that.
JB: Yeah, he's got that, he's got North Korea which he calls a prison camp. He said to Kofi Annan last September - it's a disgrace that during our administrations this regime still keeps its entire population in a prison camp -- which Kofi didn't know what to say. There are things he's got in his mind that are very clearly fixed.
Atlas: Do you think the UN is more of a detriment, than it is helpful? Look I do but it doesn't matter what I think, -- the UN, a benefit or a disadvantage to the world? It's sort of an enabling arm.
JB: I think from a cost benefit point of view the point of the reform effort that we are engaged in is to see if we can get it to a point where it's actually effective. You know I went through -- in the Bush 41 administration -- getting the resolutions condemning Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, getting the sanctions in place, getting the authorization to use force to throw the Iraqis out, and we used to say that vote to the Security Council was November of 1990 [after the invasion], Congress didn't vote in favor of the authorization to use force until December so we used to say we got Finland to vote in favor of the authorization to use force before we got Congress.
Atlas: Chuckling here
JB: I've seen it in cases where it's helped us.
JB: So I don't take the view that there is no good that can come of it. But it's now so encrusted in this management and corruption. It is so out of our control. That's what this reform effort is all about, you can see it now, if you follow-- and I think you have -- this debate over the human rights commission, the so called reform is so bad even The New York Times and The Washington Post support our position to vote against it.
Atlas: Which is shocking.
JB" Which is amazing
Atlas: [More laughter]
Alright guys, I have got to get back to the convention center. I will try to post Part III later.
Do you not love that Bolton reads the blog. I mean, how cool is that?
JB: But the point is, that's an example where you can make a clear argument that an institution is broken and we've convinced everybody in the existing human rights commission that it is clearly broken. It has zero credibility. Now what it's replaced with is going to make a difference and we're not happy with the result.
Atlas: Yeah, yeah, I know you're not. Listen I don't understand how oil-for food didn't shake up the world.
JB: Look, we just had Security Council meetings this month on fraud, waste, abuse, peacekeeping, procurement. We did a separate meeting on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. It did get some attention.
Atlas: Yeah, scant, what got the level of attention was when they said it was not an admissible level, so the turn around was -- what level is admissible when it comes to that [UN peackeepers' sex crimes]?
JB: Yeah, so you can have one day of meetings on these things and then the pressure disappears. And that's what we just fundamentally have to change. Over the next four months, the real battle on getting rid of the unnecessary, outdated, ineffective, counter productive programs, the three Palestinian offices that have been set up by the secretary and all the rest of the waste and abuse that goes on. This is, I mean a lot of it frankly is gonna be my eyes-glaze-over kind of stuff - this is the management program and really not very interesting. But this is where the critical battle is. If we can reshape the organization - at least starting in the next four months, then that's one thing, but if run into the kind of opposition on all that, that we faced on the human rights commission then we are not going to get anywhere.
Atlas: What makes you think you're not going to face it?
JB: Oh I'm sure we will. I mean that's why, you have to do this, you have to view what we're trying to do as a test. And you know, we'll succeed or we'll fail. And the big advantage I have is that I'm not afraid to say that we didn't succeed. If we don't get the reform that we need I am going to say that, and I'm not going to -- like this human rights commission -- say what we want is a butterfly, and then put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success. I'm not going to do it.
Atlas: But it might be pretty...........um. Let me ask you something else about Hamas. I see the election of Hamas for what it is. I think they knew exactly what they were doing -- I understand about the social services but they knew what they were doing. They know the Hamas mission statement and to me it's a declaration of war. I know [the world] wants us to try to hold their hand but I don't understand how you can make a silk purse out of Hamas. How is the US going to give humanitarian aid now? Explain.
JB: This a big question on how you avoid supporting a terrorist
led organization while still giving the humanitarian assistance. And I
think it's going to be hard. We just had Alvaro de Soto who is the
Secretary General's coordinator for Middle East peace, talking to the
security council and his position was you have to keep funding the
Palestinian Authority no matter what. And he said -- "so what are we going to do about health care for the Palestinians, because it's all through the Palestinian authority ?" What are you going to do about education for
Palestinian children because it's all through Palestinian Authority."
So we build schools and give [money] to the Palestinian Authority for Hamas to put its teachers in the schools? And this is something that --you know -- the Europeans have already given 130 million to tide them over. This is going to be a real test to see what we're, how we're going to come out [on it].
Atlas: Did you grow up in a Jewish neighborhood?
Atlas: Did you know many Jews growing up?
Atlas: It seems to me you like Jews.
JB: Hysterical laughter
Atlas: Seriously folks. I'm just asking you because I find it's refreshing, and it's unique, and it's not the everyday, so I mean, did you -- was your first love a Jewish girl? I'm just curious........ where'd it come from? C'mon John.
JB: Actually she was, but she wasn't religious.
Both laughing now. I am clapping .............
Atlas: Thank you for that, so much appreciate it. A couple of other things just because I want to know. I know you have no free time but when you do, what do you like to do? Do you like to go to the movies? Do you like to cook?
JB: Just about
Atlas: Do you like to go bowling? Oh c''mon ............
JB: (Laughing) I take care of my daughter
Atlas: Awwwwww..................that's lovely.
Bolton is a fine man. Great. We're lucky to have him. While taking enormous risks...... he is, in a word, unafraid.
UPDATE March 7th : U.S. Envoy Bolton Expects Security Council To Meet on Iran
U.S. Department of State
The 15-nation U.N. Security Council will take up the issue of Iran's nuclear program after the International Atomic Energy Agency board meets March 6, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton says. Describing the matter as a test for the Security Council, he says that if the permanent members of the council agree “an Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable and that it is appropriate to have Iran in the Security Council -- which all five permanent members have said -- then you have to ask what is the council going to do about it,"
"Looking at the lack of Iranian cooperation, looking at the affirmative efforts Iran made to conceal its nuclear activities and difficulties the IAEA has had pulling information out of them. … There is simply no escaping the conclusion based on the evidence that the Iranians are pursuing a nuclear weapons capability," the ambassador said.
IRAN’S AMBITION “A TEST FOR THE SECURITY COUNCIL,” BOLTON SAYS
"With all due respect to the IAEA, with all due respect, the Charter of the United Nations says that the Security Council is responsible for threats to international peace and security. The Security Council doesn't need a report from the IAEA," he said.