The possibility of either Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton becoming secretary of state could dampen any hopes from the libertarian right that President-elect Donald Trump would prove less interventionist than his predecessor.
The neoconservative Bolton has served in three Republican administrations. The right-leaning National Review, whose editors months ago pounded Trump, on Monday praised Bolton as “an American internationalist who believes in the importance of American power.”
Bolton, the last Bush administration’s UN ambassador, was a full player in the 2003 Iraq invasion, pushing what turned out to be the false premise — later slammed by Trump — that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Unsurprisingly, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul called Bolton “a longtime member of the failed Washington elite that Trump vowed to oppose, hellbent on repeating virtually every foreign policy mistake the U.S. has made in the last 15 years — particularly those Trump promised to avoid as president.”
But Trump’s inner circle isn’t likely to care. Paul was something of a political outlier in multiway presidential debates during the GOP primaries.
One advantage for Giuliani, at least in a Senate confirmation, might be his relative inexperience in foreign affairs, thus less Washington, D.C., baggage.
At a Wall Street Journal CEO Council on Monday night, Giuliani already seemed to be displaying a working familiarity with where Trump’s priorities might lie.
CNN reported he suggested that reworking the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and denounced by Republicans could be a less urgent priority than combating the Islamic State group.
As he pushes for the job, the former New York mayor also carries a public record of statements favoring the old Bush agenda and a number of foreign contacts in the private sector.
In 2008, Paul’s father, ex-Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, butted heads most heatedly with Giuliani during the 2008 Republican debate.
When Paul called the 9/11 attacks the result of blowback from earlier American interventions, Giuliani called it an “extraordinary statement” and demanded he retract it.
The same year, Trump said Bush should have been impeached for the “lies” that led up to the Iraq invasion.
Asked about that in February during a Republican debate, Trump faulted Bush again and declared: “We have destabilized the Middle East.”
Then again, searching for consistency is often futile in political debate.
Giuliani, in private life since 2001, keeps warm relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has included among his firm’s foreign clientele exiles from Iran, Qatar and Venezuela.
As noted by Politico Tuesday: “In 2011, an exiled Iranian political party called the Mujahedin e-Khalq, known as the MEK, paid Giuliani to give a speech in Washington, calling on the State Department to remove the group from its list of terrorist organizations.”
Whether that draws critical attention might be up to the Senate if Giuliani is nominated.