In my reporting on John Bolton, the hardline former US Ambassador to the UN, I have noticed a trend. Bolton very clearly wants in. And he has a very specific way of going about it.
Some context: despite being a George W. Bush alum, Bolton has largely vociferously backed President Donald Trump. Bolton has been considered, alternatively, for Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. The world around former White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon favored him for Secretary of State at one point shortly after the 2016 election. But Bolton, these days beloved by much of the anti-Bush, Breitbart-type crowd, is now focused on one of those positions: National Security Adviser.
He lost out the last time there was a vacancy – in early 2017, when Michael Flynn was forced out, but replaced with H.R. McMaster. But as I was the first to report in January, McMaster’s days are now numbered and Bolton is the leading candidate to replace him.
Bolton met with POTUS on Tuesday. Another candidate is former Bush NSC official turned Ford executive Stephen Biegun , per NBC.
But it’s not as if Bolton can just waltz into the White House whenever.
Despite the administration publicly iterating that he is a ‘friend of the president,’ clearly forces in the upper echelons want to box him out. The Spectator’s own Cockburn reported that one of those is Jim Mattis, the powerful defense secretary.
But with a media-focused president and a press-savvy ally (Bannon), Bolton has adopted a clear tactic whenever he feels he’s being cut out.
In August, he publicly complained he couldn’t get a meeting or in direct contact with the President. Shortly thereafter, at the urging of Bannon, he published his plan to decertify and exit the Iran nuclear deal in conservative mainstay National Review (which, also, once backed him for Secretary of State). By autumn, the famously-mustachioed ex-diplomat was again holding court with the president in the White House.
Flash forward to last week when Bolton, a Yale law graduate, had penned “The Legal Case For Striking North Korea First” in The Wall Street Journal. The president has a noted preference for paper, over digital, when he reads articles (Twitter excepted!).
Moreover, the Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is famously close to the president’s daughter and son-in-law, the now-embattled foreign policy grandee Jared Kushner. And if Michael Wolff is to be believed, Trump cares deeply and intensely what Mr Murdoch thinks of him. Bolton’s Op-ed First Strategy seems to work. By Tuesday, he was back meeting with Trump in the White House.
If Bolton isn’t national security adviser soon, look for him to again take up the pen.