NR Digital

‘The Man with the Mustache’

by Jay Nordlinger
John Bolton, Goldwaterite, Reaganaut, and phenomenon

Two summers ago, National Review took one of its cruises, this one to the Eastern Mediterranean. We had several hundred passenger-readers aboard, and a slate of speakers. One of them was John Bolton, the lawyer and foreign-policy official. On the platform, he was really wowin’ ’em, with his hard-hitting foreign-policy analyses. Over the next couple of days, our passengers kept murmuring, “Bolton is really fantastic. He’s just the kind of man we need. Wouldn’t it be great if he ran for president?” The next time we were on the platform, I said to the audience, “I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘Bolton for President’ rumbles. We know he’s rock-solid on foreign policy. But what about his domestic views? For all we know, he’s a socialist — as some of the best hawks have been.” Bolton, with a glint in his eye, leaned into his microphone and said, “I don’t think you have to worry about that.”

One doesn’t. On Election Day 1964, John Bolton, 15, got permission to be absent from school: in order to pass out leaflets for Goldwater. “That was my formative political experience,” he says, the Goldwater campaign. Unlike his fellow Goldwaterite, Miss Hillary Rodham, he remained a Goldwaterite, unalloyed. His favorite line from The Conscience of a Conservative, the senator’s 1960 book, is, “My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.” Bolton says, “Individual liberty is the whole purpose of political life, and I thought it was threatened back then” — in 1964 — “and I think it’s threatened now.”

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