The Corner

Politics & Policy

‘Warmonger,’ They Say

National security adviser John Bolton listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, February 12, 2019. (Carlos Barria / Reuters)

Today’s Impromptus begins with two Lennons, John and Sean. They came into my life (so to speak) in interesting ways this week. I also talk Diamond & Silk, Don King, the American “radios,” the glory of English, and so on.

Allow me to excerpt an item, and then expand:

My whole life, I have heard one cry from the Left: “racist,” of course, but now I am thinking of “warmonger.” Ronald Reagan was called a “warmonger” every single day. When he ran for president in 1980, I was a junior in high school, and some of the kids referred to him as “Ronald Ray-Gun.”

(Three years later, his missile-defense initiative would be derided as “Star Wars.”)

John Bolton is an old Reaganite, and indeed Goldwaterite. On Election Day 1964, when he was 15, he got permission to be absent from school, in order to pass out leaflets for Goldwater.

The concept of “peace through strength” is associated with Reagan — but it was actually a slogan of Goldwater’s, in the ’64 campaign. Reagan cites it at the end of “The Speech” (“A Time for Choosing”).

In a statement, the Republican National Committee denounced Bolton as a “warmonger.” He is accustomed to hearing this from the Left — as I am, as are many others. (Gore Vidal called Bill Buckley “the leading warmonger in the United States.”) To hear it from the GOP, officially, is something.

Earlier this week, I jotted a post on Eliot Engel, the veteran Democratic congressman from New York. I said he was “one of the last of the JFK Democrats,” just about “the last Cold War liberal.” He lost his primary to a radical on Tuesday.

My colleague Jimmy Quinn sent me an article on Engel from Jacobin, the leftist magazine. The magazine described the congressman as “a longtime and steadfast warmonger.”

On Twitter, I noted our new age in politics, where Left and Right employ “warmonger” with equal obnoxiousness. A writer for The American Conservative magazine replied: “it’s like the only good thing going on.”

As I say in my column today, that is where we are.

Last night, President Trump gave an interview to Sean Hannity, who asked him, “What are your top priorities for a second term?” The president answered,

Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word “experience” is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word “experience” is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning.

I never did this before — I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of the sudden, I’m the president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, “This is great.” But I didn’t know very many people in Washington, it wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York.

Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.

Sheer slander — from the top. And the world largely yawns, if it doesn’t nod in agreement.

Another conservative who was accused of warmongering was Donald Rumsfeld (secretary of defense under both Ford and Bush 43). They accused him of liking war. I once brought this up with Rumsfeld, in an interview, and he gave a moving answer. He said that he and his wife, Joyce, made visits to Walter Reed Hospital — where they met with men who had had their faces seared off.

No, he didn’t like war. There are debates to be had, and terrible choices to be made: concerning the national interest and competing risks. Competing evils, frankly.

I have thought a fair amount about war and peace — sounds like Tolstoy! — and, some years ago, wrote a history of the Nobel Peace Prize: Peace, They Say. One of its reviewers was John Bolton, who said it was not only a history “but also an important philosophical reflection on the nature of ‘peace’ in modern times.”

I very much appreciated that.

Look, if I had my way, there would be no nuclear weapons. (Reagan was a “peacenik” in this sense, and so am I. Like him, I support the development of anti-missile defenses, to get us away from MAD, i.e., Mutual Assured Destruction.) If I had my way, there would be no conventional weapons. No army, no navy, no air force.

No police departments. No locks on doors.

But I don’t get my way. We have to deal with the world as it is. I always thought that the Left acted like children when they yelled “warmonger,” and now they are joined by the RNC — indeed, by the Republican president. A disgusting pass in our national life.

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