OTR Interviews

Bolton Honored Gingrich Would Want Him in His Cabinet, But Stresses One Goal: Replacing Pres. Obama

Former U.N. ambassador sounds off on the prospect of being secretary of state under Newt Gingrich and a captured U.S. drone on Iranian TV


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 8, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A big announcement from former Speaker of the House and GOP current frontrunner, Newt Gingrich. He says he knows one person he wants in his cabinet, that is, if he's elected president.


NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he will accept it, I will ask John Bolton to be secretary of state.



VAN SUSTEREN: So would the former United States ambassador to the U.N. accept the cabinet post? Ambassador John Bolton joins us. Good evening, sir. And so there you go. That's the big question everybody wants to know. If Speaker Gingrich is elected president and he turns to you and says I would like you as my secretary of your state your answer would be?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, he hasn't talked to me yet, so we will wait and see what will happen. I'm honored anybody would say that. But I think it's presumptuous for people in that position to be accepting or not.

But the focus has to be on nominating the best candidate we can and replacing President Obama. And I think once that objective is achieved, then we can play the game of who is going to be in the cabinet and who is going to have senior positions.

I think there's some advantage to candidates talking about who they might have in their cabinet. Governor Romney, for example, was asked a question whether he would consider Rudy Giuliani as an attorney general and he said yes, he would consider him, among others. It helps the candidates show what their priorities are the direction of their thinking. But it helps the dialogue a little bit.

VAN SUSTEREN: You said that would he consider someone like Rudy Giuliani, it's a little bit different than I think speaker Gingrich actually said this is the person I would ask. He was much more specific. I'm sort of curious, is that a job -- is there any reason why you wouldn't accept that job?

BOLTON: Well, again, I think it's presumptuous to be measuring the drapes in any of the offices when you are asked to serve in a position like that. It is a high honor, and I have been very privileged to have some senior positions in the Justice Department and the State Department. So obviously that crosses your mind.

But again, I think you have got to keep your eyes on the prize here, all of us do. And the prize is the 2012 election because of the threats that the United States faces. That's something I have been talking about for quite some time. I don't think we've had an adequate debate under President Obama about the national security threats we face.

So those are the issues I think we need to concentrate on. The personnel decisions are quite important, obviously, but I think they are secondary to the first personnel decision, which is getting a new president.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of national security, which of the candidates do you think is the strongest on national security, at least things that you could sort of work with or you think would do the best job for national security from your perspective?

BOLTON: I thought Newt had pretty good insight from that one comment. But honestly, I haven't endorsed anybody. I'm still happy to be talking to a number of the candidates and happy to provide whatever support I can to all of them at this point.

I really have as my basic objective having a more intense discussion of the national security challenges we face. President Obama appears to be poised to make as his principle argument that under his administration a number of terrorists have been killed and that that ends the for yen policy debates. I certainly congratulate him on those successes but that doesn't make a foreign policy. And the challenges that we face and our friends and allies face around the world are growing and we are not responding to them adequately. Whoever our nominee is has to be prepared to engage in that debate.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you had considered a thought about running for president and you decided not to. But I'm curious, if you were president tonight what would you be doing about two things -- one is Iran, which has our stealth drone, and another one that appears to be a deteriorating relationship between United States and Pakistan, a relationship that was already not particularly good?

BOLTON: On the drone there have been reports, at least by the news media, that the president was given a number of options for destroying the drone before the Iranians, the Russians, and Chinese could exploit their technology and he rejected them because it would be considered an act of war to do that. I don't think that's an accurate analysis. Obviously we can't judge the pros and cons of a tough decision to go in and destroy that drone, but it bothers me the decision appears to have been made on what I would consider a kind of fatuous ground. I think the president is still looking to negotiate with Iran over the nuclear weapons program and I think that's a big mistake.

On Pakistan, it is a very difficult relationship. A friend of mine in the State Department said Pakistan is the only government that's composed simultaneously of arsonists and firefighters, people who have supported terrorists like Taliban and Al Qaeda at the same time they are supposed to be on our side. I just think we have to work more with the civilian leadership, with the military leadership and convince them of what should be obvious, that if they don't help us suppress terrorism, not just in Afghanistan but in their own country, they will be eaten by the alligators next. And then the really dangerous outcome is Pakistan's nuclear weapons fall into the hands of radicals, which becomes an immediate global threat.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we only have 30 seconds left. And it's a huge discussion, but they work more with the civilian government. They already have a weak civilian government. And in terms of the military, the Pakistan military is enraged because we went in and took out Usama bin Laden. So it's not like we have a lot to work with there.

BOLTON: It's a very difficult relationship and I understand why people are frustrated, but I think you just have to great your teeth. You can't throw them under the bus and say we are going to cut off all aid as long as they have nuclear weapons. They have leverage and we have a lot of leverage too. We need to use it more effectively and bear down on it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.