Of all the Republicans who may run for president, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has probably known Bill and Hillary Clinton the longest.
In the 1970s, Bolton — who will announce his decision about entering the 2016 race Thursday — overlapped several years with the Clintons at Yale Law School.
“We were not exactly drinking buddies in law school, but you know it was a small enough place,” the Republican recalled in an interview with The Daily Caller this week.
What does he remember about Hillary Clinton?
“Even back then it was pretty clear to me that Hillary was a radical,” Bolton said. “And my view is the way you are at that time of your life in law school or grad school or whatever it is, that’s pretty much the way you turn out to be.”
He added: “So when you read about how she is moving to get to the left of Elizabeth Warren, she didn’t have to move to the left. She was already there.”
Bolton says Bill was different.
“I don’t remember Bill that way at all,” he said. “I remember him being a liberal among almost everyone else at Yale Law School, but very affable and friendly and, you know, very much the politician-kind-of-person. But certainly not a radical.”
“My recollection of Bill is that he rarely went to class and that he was always kind of shooting the breeze with people, and networking and that kind of thing,” Bolton added. “But that he studied very hard right before exams and got through that way.”
Much is known about Bolton’s life in Washington and New York as a lawyer, diplomat, think-tank scholar, foreign policy hawk and Fox News commentator.
But ahead of his Thursday announcement, Bolton agreed to discuss his lesser-known formative years, growing up in Baltimore, Md. in the sixties as the son of a firefighter and housewife. “You know, Baltimore at that time was a manufacturing port city,” he said. “Very blue collared kind of town. And that’s the environment I grew up in.”
“I had a chance to look at the statistics in light of the riots recently in Baltimore. It’s pretty stunning,” Bolton said. “When I was a boy, Baltimore was the sixth largest city in the country. And I remember this very well. Had just under a million in population and it was the second largest port on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, second only to New York.”
“Today, it’s just amazing,” he went on. “Baltimore is the 26th largest city and its population is gone from just under a million to just over 600,000 and it’s the 8th largest port on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. So, it’s been a steady downhill progression, but when I was there, when I was growing up, it was a working class, blue collar, industrial port kind of place.”
(As for whether he has seen HBO’s The Wire about Baltimore, Bolton said: “You know, I never watched it. I never really had much interest in it honestly.”)
As a student at the McDonogh School, Bolton read Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative,” going on to run the school’s “Students for Goldwater” campaign in 1964.
“My parents were probably Reagan Democrats before anybody knew what Reagan Democrats were,” he said. “My father was a union man. He was a shop steward in the International Association of Fire Fighters. But they were very patriotic. My father served in World War II. He’d been in the Coast Guard. He was wounded on D-Day, and they believed in things like hard work and persistence and integrity.”
The recent unrest in Baltimore hit close to home for Bolton, who remembers his dad as a city firefighter during the riots in the sixties.
“I remember during the Martin Luther King riots in 1968 — I was in college then — but the firefighters were out there 24 hours at a time,” he said. “I mean there weren’t any shifts anymore. Everybody was on duty to prevent the city from burning down. And you know, there were times when my father told my mother that there were snipers on roofs shooting at the firefighters.”
“Just incredible,” Bolton added. “They were trying to prevent the black neighborhoods from being burnt down by the rioters, rescuing people out of the buildings and all the rest of it. So, when the pictures of the people hassling the fire fighters this time, cutting the fire hoses, for God sake, it just is like, people haven’t learned anything in 40-plus years.”