Ted Cruz: Why not John Bolton for national security advisor?

Hugh Hewitt has been all over this idea lately.

Bolton was a candidate for Secretary of State during the transition period, then a candidate to be a key undersecretary at the Department under Rex Tillerson, and then more recently … nada. His name hadn’t been mentioned in connection lately with any major staffing positions, which is odd given that Trump reportedly came to admire him from his appearances on Fox News. (Also a key qualification for KT McFarland in landing her job as deputy NSA, apparently.) Bolton had two big problems in landing a job at State. One: Rex Tillerson allegedly had “misgivings” about him, whether because of Bolton’s ostentatious hawkishness or because a newbie diplomat at the head of the Department might fear being outmaneuvered by an ambitious, experienced old hand beneath him. And two, more importantly: Deputy positions at cabinet agencies require Senate confirmation, and Bolton has always been viewed as tough to confirm. The left despises him and might well be able to scare centrist Dems into voting lockstep against him; Rand Paul also despises Bolton for his hawkishness and has vowed to oppose him. That leaves a paper-thin majority of 51 votes to confirm him assuming zero other defections among the Senate GOP. And plenty of other Republicans, starting with Bob Corker, are said to have “misgivings” about Bolton. He might be unconfirmable.

But that’s the virtue of the NSA idea. The national security advisor isn’t subject to Senate confirmation. Because he’s merely an advisor, he can be on the job tomorrow if Trump merely says the word. And lo and behold:

Don’t get too excited, though. He’s not the only candidate:


Trump himself named Keith Kellogg as a fourth possibility this morning, but not until late this afternoon did anyone say anything about Bolton. How come? Why was he an afterthought in this?

The easy explanation is that it has to do with his hawkishness. He was always a weird foreign-policy fit for an Iraq critic like Trump; I think Trump appreciated Bolton’s interventionist bravado in his Fox appearances, but maybe as he’s thought more carefully about the direction of his administration, he realized that having a NATO booster and Russia skeptic as his right-hand man on national security is destined to lead to internal conflict and frustration over policy. On the other hand, Gen. Mattis is also a NATO booster and Russia skeptic and he appears to be one of Trump’s favorite aides. Maybe the deeper reason for Bolton’s afterthought status is that he’d insist on real power to shape policy as NSA and Trump’s inner circle doesn’t seem to be in the mood to share that power with outside advisors and department chiefs. The last thing Trump and Steve Bannon need as they discuss detente with Russia and woo pro-Putin nationalist parties in Europe is John Bolton staffing up with conventional Republican hawks and consolidating power over the National Security Council. Bolton’s personality may simply be too strong to be the sort of deputy that Team Trump is looking for.

And of course, there’s always that mustache. Yee-ikes.

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