“[I]t is a very great honor that anybody would even think of asking. I’m obviously not a politician. I’ve never run for any federal elective office at all and, you know, it is something that would obviously require a great deal of effort,” he said. “What I do think, though, and what concerns me, is the lack of focus generally in the national debate about national security issues. Now, I understand the economy is in a ditch and people are concerned about it, but our adversaries overseas are not going to wait for us to get our economic house in order.”
When pressed as to whether that means he would consider a run, Bolton seemed to suggest that he might do it, at the very least to help put national security issues at the top of the debate agenda.
“In the sense that I want to make sure that not only in the Republican Party, but in the body politic as a whole, people are aware of threats that remain to the United States. You know, as somebody who writes op-eds and appears on the television, I appreciate as well as anybody that…there is a limit to what that accomplishes,” he said. “Whereas, some governor from some state in the middle of the country announces for president they get enormous coverage even if their views are utterly uninformed on major issues.”
When pressed a third time about running, he said that while “he is not going to do anything foolish,” he added, “you know, I see how the media works…you have to take that into account.”
He’s not saying he’d run to win, as I read him, rather that he’d run to make sure that foreign policy features prominently at the debates and to drag the big cheeses like Romney and Palin to the right. Although (a) I doubt there’s much daylight between the ‘Stache and the cheeses on most FP issues (his enthusiasm for attacking Iran’s nuclear program might be, shall we say, somewhat more robust than theirs), and (b) in theory Ron Paul’s presence at the debates last time should have forced the field a bit to the left on war and a bit to the right on spending and yet I can’t remember any of them saying or doing anything differently to pander to his followers. Where a neoconservative dark horse candidacy might become important (whether it’s Bolton or Liz Cheney or someone else) is if Afghanistan deteriorates further and the right starts to split on whether to stay or go. The fissures are already there per the dust-up between Bill Kristol and Ann Coulter over Michael Steele’s remarks on the war; another 18 months of stalemate in theater will open the rift wider, and then maybe you end up with strong hawks and doves jumping into the race in order to try to drive the party platform. (1968 redux, except on the GOP side this time?) That’ll be a nightmare for the party, as not only does it risk overwhelming the anti-statist message they plan to campaign on but, by driving a deep wedge between neocons and paleocons, it leaves someone feeling alienated and at risk of staying home — or even backing a third-party candidate. Presumably antipathy to Hopenchange on the right will be at such a fever pitch by 2012 that those differences will be put aside for the greater good by November, but who knows?
I hope PPP tosses him in as a wild card for their next 2012 snapshot poll of the GOP field, as I’m dying to know which frontrunner he’d draw the most support from. Oh — and do note in the Daily Caller piece that the ‘Stache is okay with gay marriage and with repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” so long as both are done with proper procedure. Which makes me wonder: Is there any member of Bush’s brain trust who still opposes both of those? Dubya himself is bound to be asked about them during his media tour to promote his memoir this fall. Anyone expecting two thumbs down from him?