Hairy Hang-Up: New York Times Reporter Revels in Shallow John Bolton Bashing

June 19th, 2014 10:04 AM

As Iraq descends once more into chaos in the wake of Obama's withdrawal of U.S. troops, New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer took a lazy, snarky tone in a Thursday news profile  of "neoconservative" John Bolton, he of the "sea-otter mustache" (and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) who has been outspoken against Obama's foreign policy: "Former Envoy Pipes Up in Conservative Chorus of ‘Told You So’ on Iraq."

Steinhauer's lead priorities were revealing:

The only thing that John R. Bolton has tamed is his mustache.

Mr. Bolton, the opinionated, galvanic former United States ambassador to the United Nations -- whose public service career appeared to sunset at the end of the George W. Bush administration -- is among the cavalcade of neoconservatives newly emerged on cable television and in hawkish policy seminars to say “We told you so” on Iraq.

But Mr. Bolton is unique among Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and the others in that he has two political action committees and is flirting with an all-but-hopeless campaign for president, which seems to be fueling him in what amounts to a homecoming week for the Bush administration, minus the tailgating.

Steinhauer also quoted Iraq War "architect" Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, founder of the (of course) "conservative Weekly Standard," and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute.

For Mr. Bolton, a regular contributor to Fox News, the current crisis is a new opportunity to criticize Mr. Obama’s foreign policy as feckless, with an extemporaneous recitation of facts on an array of topics -- from the names of the mountain ranges of Yemen to the threat of terrorist groups in eastern Syria to the ground situation in Iraq, where America waged an ultimately unpopular war he continues to defend. From his perch at the American Enterprise Institute, he writes often on foreign policy matters.

Mr. Bolton’s spokesman, Richard Grenell, said Mr. Bolton would not agree to be interviewed for this article unless the reporter had a Republican lawmaker email on her behalf.

Steinhauer did her best to color Bolton's "antiquated" arguments as merely a comforting "balm" for "traditional conservatives," even throwing in the scandal of the Obama administration's Veterans Administration to bash Bolton.

In Mr. Bolton’s advocacy for an aggressive military stance around the world, he sits somewhere in the range of sledgehammer and sushi knife. “I think children are wonderful,” he said recently, discussing the trade of five Taliban detainees for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured at the age of 23 in Afghanistan and held prisoner for five years. “But I don’t think they should be in charge of foreign policy.”

If Mr. Bolton’s proclivities toward interventionism seem antiquated in a war-weary nation now struggling to properly meet the needs of veterans, his views are a balm to traditional conservatives in Congress and beyond who worry about the ascent of libertarians within the party, like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who lean more isolationist.

But contra Steinhauer's misleading, shallow vituperation, Bolton is not actually calling for intervention in Iraq. In a June 16 op-ed Bolton wrote writes: "...regarding the immediate hostilities, we should stand aside, hoping the conflict damages all the combatants, as in the 1980’s Iran-Iraq war, of which Henry Kissinger reportedly quipped that he hoped both sides would lose."

Steinhauer stayed in the shallow end:

In the 1990s, Mr. Bolton, whose sea-otter mustache has come down a bit in recent years, famously said that several floors of the United Nations headquarters could be lopped off without being missed. His searing view of that international body, as well as questions about both his temperament and his worldview while he was under secretary for arms control and international security in the State Department, led to his failure to be confirmed to the United Nations post by the Senate.

Mr. Bush had to give him a recess appointment, which lasted a mere 18 months. As expected, Mr. Bolton took a hard line on Iran and North Korea and was known for an abrasive style.