OTR Interviews

Bolton: Obama's foreign policy is 'confused, incoherent and incompetent' and 'comfortable with American decline'

Mitt Romney supporter Amb. John Bolton responds to vice president's claims that GOP presumptive nominee would 'isolate' and endanger America


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 26, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Vice President Joe Biden goes after Governor Mitt Romney, blasting the governor about his foreign policy. Listen to this.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the face of the challenges we now understand are ahead of us, what would Governor Romney do? Well, the truth is, we don't know for certain.

So it seems to me that Governor Romney's fundamental thinking about the role of the president in foreign policy is fundamentally wrong. Look, in my view, he would take us back to dangerous and discredited policies that would make America less safe and America less secure.


VAN SUSTEREN: Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: So the administration rolls out Vice President Biden to do foreign policy. I guess it's the start of the general election. What do you think about the vice president's speech?

BOLTON: Well, it was interesting that he spent a good part of it trying to say that, actually, Governor Romney is just George Bush all over again, which is exactly what the president's saying been on domestic issues for three-and-a-half years.

And there is a lot about the way the president has conducted foreign policy to try and distinguish himself from the Bush administration, but I think therein lies their central problem. When your strategy consists largely of saying, I'm not that guy, it's no wonder it comes out confused and incoherent and incompetent, which is a pretty good description of the Obama foreign policy.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you -- I mean, I think it's probably unfair to do this because foreign policy is so fluid and there are so many countries and different approaches involved and different serious issues. But how would you describe, in a couple sentences, Governor Romney's foreign policy? And how would you describe President Obama's?

BOLTON: Well, I think Romney is in the long stream of Republican presidents and candidates who believe in the doctrine of peace through strength, that a strong America is less likely to face challenges and difficulties than a weak America.

Obama has a very different view. He's obviously comfortable with American decline. He doesn't see international problems and threats as being nearly as serious as they are in the terrorism area, the proliferation area and others. And he's presiding over a hollowing out of the American military, which I think will have significant down sides for us in the years to come.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he's certainly -- I mean, he's certainly been aggressive, like, use of drones against terrorists in Pakistan, al Qaeda leader last week, and of course, no one could forget almost a year ago, Usama bin Laden being taken out, upon his decision for the go-ahead for the SEALs.

But it seems to me, like, stepping back, it seems that -- I don't see countries sort of stepping back and sort of -- or stepping down, rather. I see countries trying to sort of step up in terms of missile testing, nuclear -- nuclear threats, or at least testing, things that -- the saber rattling with Iran. Am I right, or am I just -- are those hot spots always been hot even under other administrations?

BOLTON: No, I think the pace of proliferation is increasing -- North Korea, Iran. We've just seen missile tests by India and Pakistan. I think others are watching and drawing the conclusion that we are not going to be successful -- we, the United States, are not going to be successful in stopping this proliferation. That will simply encourage them to do more on their own.

And in the war on terrorism, you know, the administration's line is, We've killed Usama bin Laden and key al Qaeda leaders along the Afghan/Pakistan border. That's fine, except Taliban is growing in influence, and along with them, al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has increased its influence in the Arabian peninsula, in the Magreb, throughout the Middle East, in Somalia. So the threat of terrorism continues to grow.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it seems that many people come to the office of president, don't have foreign policy experience. Certainly governors don't. Senator Obama did not. Governor Bush did not. But it's sort of it's -- you know, it's a trial by fire, almost, when you become president, foreign policy.

Do you think it's important for a presidential candidate to pick someone who's steeped in foreign policy experience, something Senator -- Senator Biden, whether you -- I mean, Senator -- then Senator Obama did with Senator Biden, then Senator Biden, although whether you agree with him or not, at least he's steeped in it.

Should Governor Romney be looking for someone like that?

BOLTON: Well, I think somebody along the lines of Dick Cheney would be a better choice than Joe Biden. I think, in Romney's case, he doesn't need balance on the foreign policy side. He's had extensive international experience both in his business career, as governor of Massachusetts, and in something that's not well heralded, I think, his success with the Salt Lake City Olympics.

I used to deal with Olympics in the Bush 41 administration. I can tell you, it often makes the United Nations look simple by comparison. So I think that Governor Romney's really got that background already.

I think the problem with Obama is that unlike every American president since Franklin Roosevelt, he does not get up every morning saying, My first priority is to find out what threats the U.S. faces internationally. That's what distinguishes him. That's why he's such a problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess -- I mean, I don't -- not to diminish, you know, Governor Romney's contribution in terms of the Olympics or his business internationally. I do think it's a little different dealing with countries on issues of war. I also think the fact that we have at least established relationships, someone who's -- someone who has -- you know, is steeped in these relationships for years may be -- may be an asset, maybe not.

BOLTON: Well, I think the criterion that's most important of all for vice president, obviously, is capacity to govern. And that can come in a lot of different ways. Very few people have 360 degrees experience with all the issues that a vice president would have to assume if he became president

Obviously, foreign policy, national security's a critical element, and that is something that's part of governing.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's interesting to watch the speech today, Vice President Biden -- imagine someone who -- who's like you, sort of an international policy wonk, who's been steeped in this, would find it fascinating.

But if you sort of step back, you know, it was given at NYU, college students, who are interested in it, but probably very little interest beyond that. I mean, this is sort of -- you know, it's interesting for people who are following this closely, but I bet most of the electorate never saw the speech, won't ever hear about it, probably won't even read a newspaper article about it.

BOLTON: Well, I think the Secret Service may have overtaken the speech in many respects.


BOLTON: But I thought the best part of it was at one point, trying to appropriate yet another Republican president, Biden said, You have to speak softly and carry a big stick. And then he said, I promise you, President Obama has a big stick. And the audience broke out laughing, which is some measure of their belief about how assertive Obama is on behalf of our interests internationally.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, it's -- apparently, that's also going to -- that's made a couple -- a lot of -- a lot of jokes, too, on the Internet. It is - - apparently, that is something that's not going to go away, at least for a while, for Vice President Biden, that remark.

BOLTON: Yet another one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. Well, it will be interesting to see, you know, what -- how -- I imagine that Governor Romney will be responding soon with foreign policy.

BOLTON: Well, I'd be delighted to have more of a debate on national security in this presidential campaign because I think Americans do understand that if you don't have a strong and assertive United States internationally, you cannot have sustained domestic prosperity over the long term. It's just not possible.

I think Obama doesn't understand that connection. I think we can see it every day in his policies internationally.

VAN SUSTEREN: We'll all be watching. Nice to see you, Ambassador.

BOLTON: Thank you.