OTR Interviews

Bolton: Pres. Obama Made a Mistake By Trying to Push Mubarak to Leave Immediately

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 2, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton joins us live. Ambassador, your thoughts tonight as we look at what's going on -- and there are gunshots at least heard -- we don't know who's firing, but heard.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I think if this violence continues, if it grows and it spreads, it's almost inevitable that the military will take a larger role, not to take sides between the pro and anti-Mubarak factions, but to restore order. The military's been very restrained. I think that's entirely appropriate. But I don't think they're going to allow this to continue.

I think we're approaching a very significant moment on Friday. The anti-Mubarak demonstrators have said they want him to go by then. You have, again, the Friday prayers, where those that are allied with the Muslim Brotherhood may well call their supporters back into the streets. So my guess is, although I don't know what the military will do between now and Friday afternoon, I think tomorrow, possibly, you're going to see some significant step.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you say the military -- which side is the military going to pick? Because President Mubarak, who at least says he's staying until September, to the election, and even though everyone wants him to leave now, there's no indication, at least tonight, that he's going to go now. He is former military, close to the military. The military, on the other hand, has been -- has been completely restrained until now, not going after the protesters, so it seems like they've been pro-protesters against the president.

When push comes to shove, and let's say it goes down to Friday, which side do they pick, their friend, the president, or the protesters? Because that makes a big difference.

BOLTON: Right. I start with the proposition that the regime is the military -- not Mubarak, the military -- as it has been for 60 years. I think the military gave a signal this morning when they said, We're going to turn the Internet back on, and we want the demonstrators to go home after Mubarak's speech last night. I think the military was content with what Mubarak said, and they were prepared to try and move back toward normalcy. I think, though, the military does have a plan B. It's the new vice president, Omar Suleiman.

VAN SUSTEREN: He's the leader? He's the leader of the military?

BOLTON: Well, he is one of them. I think it's -- you've got a bit of a collective leadership with the defense minister and several others. But if Mubarak has to go, don't think that, automatically, the demonstrators take over. Omar Suleiman will become president, and the military will remain the dominant force, at least for the foreseeable future.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, President Obama -- I see him as damned if you do and damned if you don't. If he got way involved in this, and let's say that he got Mubarak to leave tonight, then many people in the Middle East would think that Egypt's just a puppet of the United States. The United States says go and he says go. That's not particularly good. And Mubarak is not exactly receptive, at least, to the concept of leaving now, which -- you know -- if President Obama had been absolutely silent, everyone would have jumped and saying it's like with Iran in 2009 in June, where he sat there and did nothing. I mean, this is a very difficult spot for the president.

BOLTON: Well, I think he did make a mistake in trying to push Mubarak to leave immediately and to make public that that's what he's doing. I think if you look at the chronology, I think that hardened Mubarak and made him more determined not to go.

Let's not forget the example of Jimmy Carter in Iran and Nicaragua, where we had two authoritarian pro-U.S. regimes. And when Jimmy Carter got finished, we had two regimes that were even more authoritarian and anti-American. So it's very hard to work our will here. Even trying to do what some people are calling for, pro-democratic steps, can have the opposite effect, as I think this was just demonstrated with the Obama call to Mubarak.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's very fragile, and we're watching every second (INAUDIBLE). Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.