But lately, someone with a less traditional political background is beginning to make the scene. And frankly, I’m intrigued.
Ambassador John Bolton says he’s not a traditional politician, and that’s certainly true. Bolton is known as the rather refreshing, non-traditional diplomat from the Bush 43 administration who actually had the stones to call out some of the abuses of the UN rather than to pay homage to tyrants and kleptocrats like the majority of American representatives at Turtle Bay have done. For his efforts he was rewarded with a Democrat filibuster of his nomination as UN ambassador, aided by RINO Senator George Voinovich’s taking to the floor, teary-eyed, in opposition to Bolton due to his gruff manner.
Bolton’s treatment was one of the more shameful episodes seen since another eminently qualified conservative, Robert Bork, was subjected to similar, though worse, character assassination by lesser men some 20 years prior. But he didn’t go away quietly; Bolton served as a recess appointment as America’s UN ambassador until the Democrats took control of the Senate in the 2006 elections, and since then he’s emerged as a highly thoughtful pundit on foreign-policy and national security issues and a cogent critic of Obama administration policy both on Fox News and in several print and internet publications.
Since beginning an exploration of a presidential run, Bolton’s views on domestic policy are becoming known. And though he says part of his interest in a campaign is to help drive the conversation to foreign and military issues which are likely to be far more important in 2012 than we currently appreciate given the looming threats on the horizon, his discussion of economic and fiscal matters in the video clip with National Review’s Robert Costa above makes him attractive on those issues as well. Bolton recognizes the size of the federal government is unsustainable and unsupportable, and he’d like to devolve power and money to state and local governments. He argues for lower taxes, less regulation and a more dynamic economy. He calls himself a “Goldwater Republican,” noting that he worked as a teenager for the 1964 GOP nominee.
If Bolton’s self-description is genuine and he can articulate economic and constitutional conservatism with the same flair as his foreign-policy expertise, he might find himself a dark horse candidate who catches lightning in a bottle. Typically, candidates who come from nowhere are weak on foreign policy; Bolton is the opposite. Television is often a problem for candidates who haven’t run for office often in the past; Bolton is a pro on TV. While he doesn’t cut the movie star figure that a Mitt Romney or John Thune does, Bolton’s scruffy moustache and professor glasses at least make him recognizable and give the public a persona to identify with.
But most of all, Bolton presents the public something they’ll be looking for in 2012 – an honest voice. You might not like what he has to say, but he’ll shoot straight and give you an unvarnished opinion. After 2008, when the nation was largely bamboozled into voting for a candidate who turned out to be very different than the post-racial, post-partisan, empathetic figure the media portrayed him to be, a bit of legitimacy such as Bolton seems to offer might go a long way with the American public.
Bolton, of course, has a long way to go before he’d be ready to claim the GOP nomination or take on the president in 2012. Whether he could raise money for a real run is a major question. The standard intrusive vetting of his candidacy could turn up almost anything – the accusations that he was ugly to his subordinates during his time in the State Department would certainly get a fresh round of scrutiny, for example. Developing a geographical base without having held elected office before is a problem.
But if what the GOP is looking for is a fresh, honest, conservative voice without any true big-government baggage and an ability to confidently engage the other side on the issues, the party could do a lot worse than the unconventional ambassador with the stones to tell it like it is.