Former diplomat John Bolton distinguished himself from other prospective 2012 presidential candidates at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference by focusing almost entirely on foreign policy in a speech Saturday and slamming President Obama for his reaction to the crisis in Egypt.
Discussions of the uprising in Egypt have been minimal at the annual conference, where some of the nation’s most high-profile conservatives test the waters for presidential runs, but Bolton began his talk with immediate talk of how the U.S. should engage in the Middle East.
“We don’t have a leadership in the White House that can deal with it,” Bolton said, calling the White House’s reaction to protests in Egypt “hesitant, inconsistent, confused and just plain wrong.”
Bolton spoke forcefully about the White House’s general foreign policy strategy, and said that National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s recent statement that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular” was the “single most foolish statement any American Intelligence official has ever made.”
The former UN Ambassador, who is openly mulling a challenge to President Obama, dropped some heavy-handed hints about who he thinks should challenge the president in 2012, and the person he described sounded a lot like himself.
“This is a critical time where we need a president who understands the priorities of American national security and can implement them,” he said. “Not somebody who is worried about staying on top of the media spin cycle.”
If Bolton decides to run against Obama, he is expected to position himself as the “foreign policy” candidate, but whether the American people are interested in hearing more about “Islamic radicalism” across the world than a message focused on jobs is yet to be seen. Surveys of voters’ top issues almost always put jobs high on the list and foreign policy issues down near the bottom. Plus, Bolton’s calls for increasing federal spending on security while slashing it on domestic programs are likely not to resonate with a recession-ravaged country in the midst of a recovery.
But after hearing virtually nothing from the other possible candidates about how they would handle the recent events in the Middle East, Bolton is sure to stand out. Although Bolton did not officially announce his future plans, his speech at CPAC was delivered like someone who is thinking seriously of jumping in soon.
“Help make Barack Obama a one-term president!” he concluded, to a rush of applause.
It is perhaps only a matter of time before he adds, “by voting for me.”