Bolton is the right man at the right time
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Gen. H.R. McMaster characteristically performed a selfless service to his country, filling the gap left when Mike Flynn suddenly resigned as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE’s national security adviser in February 2017. The general excelled in a difficult job, as he did in tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf War.

I wish McMaster was rewarded with a fourth star and retained on active duty. But the blow of his loss is greatly softened by President Trump’s smart choice of a successor in John Bolton.


Bolton is the right man at the right time, for three reasons:

  1. National security advisers do best when everyone knows they speak for their presidents. Nobody doubted that Henry Kissinger spoke for Richard Nixon, Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke for Jimmy Carter, or Brent Scowcroft spoke for Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

McMaster and Trump had no relationship before they worked together in the White House. In contrast, Donald Trump reached out to John Bolton to persuade him to join his administration, on the basis of Bolton’s well-known policy views. This sends the word loud and clear: Bolton is Trump’s guy.

  1. Bolton needs that to be widely understood to be most effective. Because the president is having difficulty getting the government to implement policies that voters elected him to pursue. Fourteen months in, only 275 of the 640 Senate-confirmed posts in the Trump administration are filled. Without political appointees, these jobs are filled by career officials – outstanding public servants, but people who often do not share this president’s agenda. 

Bolton has served throughout the government, including at the Departments of Justice and State. He knows how to push a Republican president’s priorities past bureaucratic intransigence, as he skillfully did for Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes.

  1. Bolton’s foremost achievement was his establishment of the Proliferation Security Initiative. PSI includes over 100 countries, and was one of the few George W. Bush policies expanded upon by Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Obama spends Presidents Day at Ayesha Curry's San Francisco restaurant Government's misguided holiday to celebrate itself MORE, because it is so successful.

His experience fighting the spread of weapons of mass destruction is needed. The issues that will dominate the rest of this year and the remainder of this presidency, are North Korea and Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to threaten America. 

We soon face key decision points in our responses to Pyongyang and Tehran’s arms programs. It will be Bolton’s job to provide Trump with a range of realistic options — not using false choices to box the president into adopting a bland consensus position already arrived at by staff — and then make sure our whole government follows the commander in chief’s orders.

Much has been made in the press about the fact that Bolton supported the 2003 decision to invade Iraq (I did too), while the president is very critical of that decision. I think it speaks well of the two men that they are big enough to agree to disagree on that point. Other than pride in our troops, no American is entirely satisfied with the last 17 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope Bolton and Trump will use hard lessons learned on those campaigns to guide them to wise decisions about North Korea and Iran.

Beyond proliferation, I believe Bolton will take a very hard line on misbehavior by Russia, including any further attempts to interfere with U.S. elections. He will advocate for renewing American air, military and especially naval strength in the Pacific, to counter a rising China’s aggressive fleet. He will be blunt in telling Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism.

I predict that Bolton will be alarmed, as was his predecessor, to see the growing and dangerous connections between proliferation, terrorism and transnational organized crime, as represented by organizations such as Hezbollah and North Korea’s “Office 34.” He should urgently ask whether our government is as well organized against criminal threats, as we are on similarly important subjects to which we dedicate national mission management centers.

I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan as a boy, and am a Mets fan now. But to use a Yankee analogy, sometimes a Joe DiMaggio is followed by a Mickey Mantle. Thanks to H.R. McMaster for his distinguished career, and I am confident John Bolton will do at least as well in his new job.

King represents New York’s 2nd District. He is chairman of the Homeland Security’s Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee.