Daniel W. Drezner

Why John Bolton Makes Me Jolly

Why John Bolton Makes Me Jolly

In Politico, Maggie Haberman reports about a possible new foreign policy super PAC on the scene: 

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is forming a super PAC to try to prod candidates on foreign policy issues during the 2014 midterm elections.

“I am going to test the hypothesis of the political operatives who say ‘Americans don’t care about foreign policy.’ ‘It doesn’t touch their daily lives.’ ‘They don’t care about it,’” Bolton told WABC radio host Aaron Klein.

“I don’t believe that,” he added. “I think it’s the political operatives who are wrong. I think it’s critically important we get more effective spokespeople for American national security in the House and the Senate. I want to find them. I want to support them. I want to get them elected. I want to strengthen their hand on the floor of the House and the Senate.”

Now, on the one hand, there is something very admirable about this.  John Bolton clearly has deeply-held beliefs about American foreign policy, and it’s clear that he’s willing to put other people’s money where his mouth it.  That’s what democracy is all about. 

On the other hand, this was pretty much my immediate reaction after reading Haberman’s story: 

Let’s list the ways in which I find this funny:

1)  There is zero, repeat zero evidence that Americans place a significant priority on foreign policy in their voting choices.  So either John Bolton is right and millions of Americans are lying to pollsters to cover their secret shame of really caring about foreign policy… or John Bolton is wrong. 

2)  Now, to be fair, there is a recent counterexample to this larger narrative, which was the extent to which Americans were interested in Syria as the Obama administration contemplated the use of force.  The thing is, any glance at the polling on that issue showed majority support for the anti-neoconservative position on Syria as possible.  [Doesn’t this mean Bolton is right to form a super PAC to counteract this public opinion trend?–ed.  Bolton’s comments suggest otherwise.  He thinks there’s this silent majority of super-interested foreign policy hawks in the United States.  That’s just nuts.]

3)  There are still rich people in the United States who think it’s a swell idea to give John Bolton large sums of money.  Now in some ways this isn’t surprising — as Chrystia Freeland noted over the weekend, "having your own policy-oriented think tank is a far more effective status symbol among the super-rich than the mere conspicuous consumption of yachts or private jets."  Still, there comes a point where I would imagine the super-rich would actually want, you know, results — and there’s no way John Bolton is going to deliver on that.

So, thanks to John Bolton — I needed a good laugh to start off the week.

Am I missing anything?