By: Citizens Commission on National Security, July 9, 2020
Last year, the Citizens Commission on National Security (CCNS) was planning to present an award to John Bolton to honor his service to America’s national security. It was the “Admiral James ‘Ace’ Lyons Award for Distinguished Service to America.” The event was scheduled for August 16, which turned out to be the day that President Donald Trump called his national security team to New Jersey to discuss negotiations to remove most, or all, of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Bolton got the call the day before, and the National Security Council sent current Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger to accept the award and give the policy speech that Bolton had planned to deliver.
We were obviously admirers of Bolton’s career working for Presidents Reagan, both Bush presidents, and President Trump. His views on Iran were consistent with ours, meaning he understood that the JCPOA would have no impact on Iran’s becoming a more civil, less hostile country. Nor would it end Iran’s pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons. Yet they were able to collect more than $100 billion of previously frozen assets, which they used to promote jihad in the region and support a variety of terrorist and militant organizations. We also liked Bolton’s views on Israel, and his tough no-nonsense positions on North Korea and China as well.
But with the release last month of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened; A White House Memoir,” we have decided to retract the award, which was in fact never received by Bolton. He was gone from the administration before we could get it to him. We have read the published excerpts of the book and have seen most if not all of his TV interviews.
We find that Bolton’s actions toward President Trump, by releasing this very controversial book at this time, were deplorable for many reasons. Judge Royce Lamberth, in turning down a last-minute bid by the Trump administration to halt the release of the book, largely because it was already widely distributed at the time, said in his ruling that “Bolton could have sued the government and sought relief in court. Instead, he opted out of the review process before its conclusion.”
He added: “Unilateral fast-tracking carried the benefit of publicity and sales, and the cost of substantial risk exposure. This was Bolton’s bet: If he is right and the book does not contain classified information, he keeps the upside mentioned above; but if he is wrong, he stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security. Bolton was wrong.”
But Judge Lamberth made clear that he was convinced by the government, in a sealed hearing, that the book does contain classified information. He wrote, “the Court is persuaded that Defendant Bolton likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations.”
At least five members of Trump’s administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Fred Fleitz, former chief of staff to then-National Security Adviser Bolton, have pushed back on various Bolton assertions.
Bolton insists that Trump lacks “a guiding philosophy,” “principles,” that he’s “not fit to lead” and that nearly all of his decisions are based on what will help him politically, not what’s good for America. We certainly disagree with those accusations.
Even worse than all that, Bolton gave his interpretations of President Trump’s private conversations with world leaders, plus his views of other actions of President Trump’s that he found lacking in substance, accuracy, and wisdom.
Democrats and their allies in the media are upset with Bolton because they say he should have talked to the House or Senate during impeachment when it might have mattered. Bolton pushes back on that, saying that the Democrats were guilty of “impeachment malpractice” both by keeping it too narrow and by being so partisan. Bolton argues that doing what he is doing now will have a better chance of helping to get Trump out of office than the Democrats’ failed impeachment effort. Bolton has made himself a man without a country, or at least a political party.
When he says that the impeachment might have worked if they had investigated other matters, he doesn’t lay out any potentially impeachable offenses that could have possibly gained enough Republican support in the Senate to have mattered, in terms of convicting and removing Trump from office.
Caroline Glick, the Israeli journalist who considers herself a friend of Bolton’s, put it this way:
Bolton complained that Trump has no foreign policy strategy.
But this is simply not true. The consistency of Trump’s foreign policies across the board makes clear that the President has a clear and well thought out strategic vision and operational perspective.
Trump’s strategic goal is to make America stronger – first and foremost at home. Trump ventures into the world not to deter enemies or embrace allies per se. He goes out into the world to rebuild America’s industrial base by bringing back the factories and firms that decamped to China and Mexico and other foreign lands over the past 30 years and taken millions of American jobs with them. Trump doesn’t care about arms races for their own sakes. He cares about them because he wants America to be number one and because he wants more defense industries hiring more Americans in America. This “America First” perspective in turn has achieved the goals of deterrence and weakened America’s enemies more quickly and effectively than military-based deterrence strategies that seek deterrence for its own sake.
This then brings us to Trump’s operational perspective. Trump’s preferred tool for advancing his foreign policy agenda is economic power, not military might. The 45th president has wielded economic sanctions and offensive economic policies to bolster America’s global posture and advance its national interests more effectively and won greater success with them than anyone ever dreamed possible.
Bolton never understood what Trump was doing. And rather than respect the businessman who came out of his gilded tower in Manhattan to run for the presidency and won, rather than try to understand and align his thinking with his boss, Bolton belittled Trump and his achievements. Towards the end of his tenure at the White House, Bolton seemed to reject Trump’s very right to see the world in his own way.
On Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, Israel, NATO, and China, Trump’s instincts have been outstanding, in our opinion. Bolton and his book come across as pique and anger at the man who hired him as National Security Adviser for 18 months. When asked by ABC’s Martha Raddatz if money was the motive, Bolton snickered that it wasn’t about the money. But the Trump administration may come after him for the profits from his book if it can be proven that he broke protocol and released classified information.
People who have hated Bolton for being too hawkish, a neocon, or for failing to have come forward during the impeachment process, now quote him as if his words are coming from the burning bush.
For all of these reasons, the Citizens Commission on National Security is officially retracting from John Bolton the First Annual “Admiral James ‘Ace’ Lyons Award for Distinguished Service to America.”