Tillerson on His Way Out and Bolton on a Come Back?
US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is likely on his way out and John Bolton, former UN Ambassador and former Ambassador for Disarmament, a long-shot by most accounts, looks like a potential successor.
In a salacious revelation it was reported that at a July 20th meeting of key military and foreign policy advisers reviewing America’s defense posture that US President, Donald Trump, demanded what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal. In the aftermath of what was reportedly a tense meeting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to the President as a moron. Since then, and the leak of the comments that made mention of the Secretary of States frustration with President Trump and his advisers, Trump has challenged Tillerson to an IQ test and overruled him on further talks with North Korea. For most observers, the writing is on the wall, that Tillerson is on his way out. Right or wrong, the Secretary of State cannot call the President and Commander-in-Chief a “moron.” Cabinet members must to be loyal or leave. Yesterday it seems that President Trump was visited by the Republican foreign policy ‘godfather’ legendary former Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, and Ambassador John Bolton reportedly to talk about North Korea, Iran and China. Ambassador Bolton made the point to the press that cabinet members had to loyally get with the President’s program or get packing. Ambassador John Bolton has many detractors, that view him as a plain-talking, aggressive, hawk on military and foreign policy issues, even a bully. He was reportedly a favored choice to serve as Deputy Secretary of State to Tillerson but fear of a bloody confirmation battle side-lined his candidacy.
But with the biggest foreign policy challenges to Trump being North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs, Russian adventurism, and Chinese expansion, Bolton would seem to be a good fit for President Trump’s next Secretary of State. First, Bolton is knowledgeable, loyal, and likely closer in thinking to the President and his national security team than Tillerson or other potential contenders. Bolton is despised by Democrats, but served in the Bush administration, was a Romney adviser in 2012, is close to Senator McCain, not close to Senator Corker, and brings the Republican Party foreign policy conservatives and brain trust together around the President when he needs them most. Second, Bolton has a reputation of being very tough on North Korea and Iran at a time when policy must change about both powers bent on obtaining nuclear arsenals at any cost and little hesitation in using those weapons to destroy their opponents including the US. On China, Bolton has been pragmatic but also pushed the view that China must do more on North Korea and more on Pakistan in the war on terror. Lastly, Bolton has the reputation of viewing Russia as an enemy and Vladimir Putin as the devil incarnate which saw him locked out in the early part of the Trump administration due to his anti-Russian views that were at odds with the President. But now that Trump’s inner circle is under investigation for being too close to the Russians, Bolton’s appointment as Secretary of State would serve as a communications counter-point to the view that the Trump administration is under the Russian thumb. At the end of the day, Tillerson looks like dead man walking, and rightly or wrongly, John Bolton looks like the potential ‘cheer leader’ tough guy that is prepared to go bare knuckles with Kim Jong-un, Iran’s mullahs and Russia’s Putin on terms that the President would support.
The big question is can John Bolton get through a Republican dominated confirmation hearing process that eluded him in the past?