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Europe’s elections

This article appeared in the Tribune Live on May 13, 2017. Click here to view the original article.

By John Bolton
May 13, 2017

Recent elections in France and the United Kingdom, with more to come in the next few months, bring important consequences for the United States. Unfortunately, press coverage here has either been scarce or inadequate, leaving Americans in the dark about what is really going on across the Atlantic.

While France’s presidential election (the second round of voting was May 7) received coverage, it was highly superficial, providing little insight regarding the equally important parliamentary elections scheduled for June 11 and 18.

And the outcome of Great Britain’s stunning local elections on May 4 went almost unnoticed despite their clear implications for the U.K.’s June 8 nationwide vote for the House of Commons.

Moreover, German national elections fall on Sept. 24, and Italy could hold elections later this year or in early 2018.

The European Union remains in serious trouble, suffering from widespread voter discontent across the continent for its remoteness and lack of democratic accountability. Troublesome, divisive issues like international terrorism, migration from the Middle East, the faltering common currency and increasing Russian assertiveness in Eastern and Central Europe have sapped Europe’s energy and willingness to work effectively with America on global threats.

In France’s election, Marine Le Pen’s Front National party lost the second round by a substantial, larger-than-expected margin. The FN suffered from earlier, unrealistically high predictions from many commentators that she could conceivably win the presidential runoff against former socialist cabinet member Emmanuel Macron. Nonetheless, she nearly doubled the vote her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, received in the 2002 runoff when he lost to President Jacques Chirac by an 82- to 18-percent margin.

EXPECTATIONS OVERSTATED

The commentators’ expectations (fears, really) that Le Pen could win were overstated to begin with. Similarly, the elation of the same commentators and pro-EU political elites that Le Pen’s defeat means that her issues and supporters can now be disregarded is equally misplaced.

Despite the entire French establishment uniting against her, Le Pen’s appeal to voters reached across the political spectrum. While much of Le Pen’s platform is highly objectionable (not least, her traditionally French dirigiste economic policy), her improvement on her father’s performance shows that the FN (even if now renamed) has not only not faded, it has become a major player in French politics.

In the crucial upcoming parliamentary elections, Le Pen faces a critical test to translate her support at the presidential level into seats in France’s parliament. FN candidates often do well in the first round of voting, but they rarely obtain second-round majorities. Le Pen’s sizeable vote could indicate that voters are prepared to vote for her parliamentary candidates in the second round, thereby significantly increasing the FN’s parliamentary representation.

Macron may thus have won the presidency but be unable to govern without a clear parliamentary majority. France’s future direction is still far from certain.

In Britain, by contrast, Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap House of Commons election in June is increasingly likely to be vindicated. In the just-concluded local council elections, the extent of the Tory victory is hard to overstate. Conservatives gained 563 local council seats, an increase of over 40 percent, to a total of 1,899. U.K. Independence Party supporters returned to the Conservatives in droves, reducing UKIP’s council seats from 146 to 1. Labour was hammered, dropping 382 seats, 25 percent of its pre-election total. The Scottish Nationalist Party, hoping to build momentum for a second independence referendum, did the opposite, losing seats. And the Liberal-Democrats, praying for a post-Brexit resurgence, lost ground, giving up nearly 10 percent of their council seats.

Thus, with nearly a month until the general election, all signs indicate a decisive win for Prime Minister May. Labour is fragmented and effectively leaderless, and Tory support in the local elections grew nationwide, gaining seats in Wales and Scotland in numbers unseen in decades.

Domestically, May will be free from parliamentary harassment and obstruction, assuming she can keep a large Conservative majority moving in the same direction. Labour and the Liberal-Democrats have proven feckless opponents, and UKIP may be on the verge of extinction. And if the Scottish Nationalist Party’s performance declines or even remains steady, momentum toward Scottish independence could be blunted permanently.

The United States needs a strong Europe. But that is far from the same thing as a strong European Union. France’s presidential election will not rescue the EU from its problems and may simply camouflage them, giving false hopes looking ahead. The U.K.’s election, by contrast, signals a confident Britain that knows it wants out of the EU swamp — and knows who it wants to lead the U.K. to full independence. We will know more by the end of June.

John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and, previously, the undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.

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White House pushing FBI, DOJ is a fantasy

Amb. John Bolton on what led President Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey:

“My only criticism of the Trump administration decision was that they should have fired [James Comey] on January the 20th.”

“The substance of this firing is absolutely correct.”

“James Comey severely damaged the credibility of the F.B.I. He endangered 300 million individual Americans by his commentary on Hillary Clinton.”

“This fantasy that the Justice Department, career prosecutors, and the F.B.I. career investigators are being pushed around by this White House or any other is just false.”

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Trump’s Only Mistake Was Not Firing Comey on January the 20th

Amb. John Bolton on the President’s decision to fire F.B.I. Director James Comey:

“My only criticism of the Trump administration decision was that they should have fired [James Comey] on January the 20th.”

“James Comey disgraced the FBI by his conduct of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and many, many other things that have never become public, but that agents talk about in private conversations.”

“Substantively, it was right to fire Comey for the protection of 300 million presumed innocent until proven guilty Americans, that investigators and prosecutors don’t get to dish on you in public if they feel they can’t indict.”

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Was Comey’s firing a long time coming?

Amb. John Bolton on why FBI Director James Comey was fired:

“If you read the Deputy Attorney General’s memo it makes it very clear how many times and in what significant ways Comey departed from long-established Department of Justice principles in terms of discussing the Hillary Clinton investigation.”

“It’s a sad day in Washington when something that these Democrats know is the right thing to do, and who basically thought it and many of them said it when they thought Hillary Clinton had been victimized by James Comey, turn around in a purely partisan fashion and try and make this Watergate comparison.”

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Another American snatched

Amb. John Bolton to the U.N. on Kim Jong Un’s latest hostage:

“[Kim Jong Un] is obviously collecting bargaining chips. This is the second American seized from the faculty of that same university within the past two weeks.”

“Any American who’s in North Korea today is subject to being seized as well.”

“You can deal with these people all you want, you can make all the agreement you want, but they are not going to comply.”

“This is the time once again to make it clear to North Korea, to terrorist groups, to state sponsors of terrorism that we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

“This is the mark of barbarians and that is consistent with the way the Kim family dictatorship rule North Korea these many years.”

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Should Susan Rice testify?

Amb. John Bolton to the U.N. on Susan Rice refusing to testify before a Senate subcommittee about Russian activities during the 2016 election campaign:

“If she didn’t do anything other than a national security job she should say so and explain why.”

“Everything that she’s said publicly so far and what we know from other reported sources tends to show she asked for names for political purposes, which is illegitimate.”

“If there’s no problem here, it’s to her own interest to reestablish her credibility.”

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Comey ‘Should Have Been Fired’; He Should Bring Clinton Indictment or Be Silent

Amb. John Bolton to the U.N. the latest revelations from FBI Director James Comey, China and North Korea, and the upcoming French election:

“The rule for prosecutors and investigators, alike, should be you either bring an indictment against somebody, or you remain silent publicly.”

“[FBI Director James Comey’s] press conference in July where he talked about the Clinton email case was inappropriate, contrary to Department of Justice guidelines. He shouldn’t have done that.”

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No ‘Definitive Evidence’ That China Is Pressuring North Korea

Amb. John Bolton on China’s role in the mounting conflict with North Korea:

“…China is likely, unfortunately, doing the same thing it’s done for 25 years which is give with one hand and take away with the other.”

“The United States cannot tolerate a North Korea capable of hitting targets in the United States with nuclear weapons. This is a terrorist threat we can’t live with.”

“If there’s a real change, which is possible, it’s because of Trump’s hard line after eight years of passivity.”

“If they don’t reign North Korea in, or help us dismantle it, the possibility of an America military strike grows day by day.”

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China’s choice on North Korea

This article appeared in USA Today on April 28, 2017. Click here to view the original article.

By John Bolton
April 28, 2017

For 25 years, U.S. presidents, Republican and Democratic alike, have tried persuasion (through diplomacy) and coercion (through economic sanctions) to induce North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs. All these efforts have failed. Pyongyang happily commits to denuclearize in exchange for economic benefits, but never honors its commitments.

A 26th year will also fail. North Korea sees deliverable nuclear weapons as its ace in the hole, synonymous with regime survival. When we say “give up your nukes,” Kim Jung Un and his generals hear “give up your regime (and your lives).” They won’t do it.

Barack Obama’s gutting of our nascent missile-defense capabilities has made pre-emptive action more likely. More robust detection and missile systems, although far from perfect, would provide more time and confidence that we could protect innocent American civilians from a terrorist nuclear strike by Pyongyang.

Only one non-military alternative now exists: convincing China that reuniting Korea, essentially by the South peacefully absorbing the North, is in both of our best interests.

China fears that truly applying its enormous economic leverage would collapse the Pyongyang regime, resulting in millions of refugees flowing into China, and American troops positioned on the Yalu River. Washington can assure Beijing that we (and Seoul) also fear massive refugee flows, and would work with China to stabilize the North’s population as its government disintegrated, and provide humanitarian assistance. And China can rest assured we don’t want U.S. forces on the Yalu, but instead want them near Pusan, available for rapid deployment across Asia.

There is a deal here, not based on Pyongyang renouncing its nuclear program, but on China and America ending the North’s threat by peacefully ending the North.

Ironically, a pre-emptive U.S. attack would likely have the consequences Beijing fears: regime collapse, huge refugee flows and U.S. flags flying along the Yalu River. China can do it the easier way or the harder way: It’s their choice. Time is growing short.

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The threat from North Korea is real

Amb. John Bolton on on the North Korean nuclear threat:

“If military action has to be taken, everybody ought to know just how serious this threat is.”

“It’s not simply what North Korea can do or what we expect they will be able to do in a very short time, which is miniaturize a nuclear weapon, put it on top of an ICBM and hit targets in the United States.”

“Whatever North Korea can do, Iran because of its close relationship with North Korea, can do the next day through a wire transfer.”

“The tip of the spear is North Korea and its capabilities, but they can be shared with anybody, which is why this is such a serious moment.”

“The administration is exactly correct to reject what the Obama administration called ‘strategic patience’ with North Korea, which is a synonym for doing nothing.”

ABOUT JOHN BOLTON

Ambassador John Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. He served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2005-2006. He was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001 to 2005. In the Reagan Administration, he was an Assistant Attorney General.