OTR Interviews

Bolton: Obama's foreign policy a complete failure, has reversed America's approach of 'peace through strength'

'Foreign Threats: Politics & Policy': Amb. John Bolton breaks down why he believes Pres. Obama's foreign policy has failed worldwide


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 21, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a special edition of "On the Record: Foreign Threats, Politics and Policy." And tonight, new and deadly anti-American violence exploding across the globe, tens of thousands of protesters clashing with police in Pakistan. And get this! It was the Pakistani government, who is supposed to be our ally, that called for today's protests.

It is the latest foreign policy crisis to hit the Obama administration, trying to deal with the deadly terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya, a growing nuclear threat from Iran and an increasingly chilly relationship with Russia, not to mention growing tensions with our very close ally, Israel.

Now, tonight, in a special edition of "On the Record," we are taking a closer look at President Obama's foreign policy. Is the leader of the free world living up to his title? Is he leading?


REP. PAUL RYAN, GOP VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership! In the days ahead and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose!

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Four years later almost, after the Nobel Peace Prize been awarded, where do we stand as a nation? In case you haven't heard, bin Laden's dead. That's good, but that's not a foreign policy. Is anybody deterred from attacking America's interests in the Mideast because bin Laden's dead. Has anybody said, I better not go over the wall of the embassy in Egypt. You know, we killed bin Laden. There is no coherent foreign policy at a time when we need one!

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: As far as the Middle East is concerned, I this president's national security policy has been an abysmal failure.

MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think President Obama has -- has demonstrated a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy. As I've watched over the past three-and-a-half years, the president has had some successes. He's had some failures. It's a hit or miss approach, but it has not been based upon sound foreign policy.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My opponent and his running mate are -- new to foreign policy.



OBAMA: But from all we've seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don't call Russia our number one enemy -- not al Qaeda, Russia -- unless you're still stuck in a cold war mind warp.


DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: If I were Jewish and if I were from Israel, I would not be at all happy with Barack Obama. It is a disaster, what's going on. Israel is in big trouble with Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we better off in the Middle East now than we were four years ago? Absolutely not. Why? Because the policies of the administration and the way it's been handling itself.


VAN SUSTEREN: And the hits keep coming. President Obama's foreign policy is also losing popularity with many voters. The president's approval on foreign affairs has fallen since the consulate attack in Libya and the Mideast protests.

According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 49 percent of voters approve of the president's job performance on foreign affairs, while 46 percent disapprove. Now, that is a 5 percent drop from last month's approval ratings.

So from the Middle East to Russia, to China, why are so many Americans losing confidence in President Obama's handling of foreign policy?

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


VAN SUSTEREN: If you were to write a book on the last three-and-a- half years of President Obama's foreign policy, what would be the title?

BOLTON: The failure of Obama's foreign policy. Look, the question for America and for citizens as voters is as it's always been. What is America's role in the world? What do we need to protect and advance our interests around the world, promote peace and be sure that our friends and allies are protected?

Under generations since Franklin Roosevelt, we have followed a "peace through strength" policy, that America's strong place in the world, politically, economically and military, help protect our interests. Barack Obama has reversed that. He believes in withdrawing American influence. He thinks we are too much in the world and that the world would be in a better place with a receding, declining America. I think that's a prescription for disaster, both at the level of grand strategy and in any number of imminent threats we face.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right --Mthe number of countries just to sort of look at our foreign policy last three-and-a-half years. Let's start first with Russia and President Obama's reset with Russia. How is he doing?

BOLTON: Well, it's been a failure across the board! And you know, he -- he laughs about Romney's remark on Russia. Mr. President, you know, they still have more nuclear weapons than any other country in the world, and fortunately, al Qaeda doesn't have them yet.

But the president has given in to Moscow on missile defense for the American homeland. The missile defense program he inherited has been gutted. He agreed to a very ill-advised strategic arms control treaty. He has watched Putin carry through on his intention to reestablish Russian hegemony in the space of the former Soviet Union without America standing up to it.

And we've watched Russia fly political cover for the nuclear weapons programs of Iran and North Korea. We have conceded and conceded and conceded, and we have gotten nothing back!

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now on to Syria. And I might note that The Washington Post editorial board wrote an editorial dated yesterday which it says Iran shows no hesitation about intervening in Syria, primarily saying in the body of it that the United States is not combating that and that Iran is moving into Syria and that spells big trouble for Israel.

BOLTON: Well, indeed, on whole range of fronts, Iranian support for terrorism continues. They have influenced the al Maliki regime in Iraq to their ends. They are backing the Assad regime in Syria and they're prepared to shed a lot of Syrian blood to keep Assad in power.

They continue to arm and finance the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza strip. And worst of all, they continue to build a broad and deep nuclear weapons program.

And what's unmistakable, despite the bluster which is coming from the Obama administration, they are not afraid of the United States. They do not fear this president. They do not fear the United States. They do not fear consequences for their actions.

As long as that belief holds true in Tehran, they will continue to support terrorists and build a nuclear weapons program.

VAN SUSTEREN: A U.S. senator once said to me when I was lamenting about the fact that there were so many problems, you know, across the world -- he said to me, is that we can't solve these problems, that we can only manage them, and that that should be -- you know, that should be our goal in light of the fact there are so many variables for which we have absolutely no control.

Are we at least managing these different areas, these different hotspots around the world? And do you give him at least a good grade at managing them?

BOLTON: No. And I don't agree with the premise that we can't solve problems. That's a very European view of the world. I think Americans are a problem-solving people. And I think that's what we ought to try and do, recognizing we may not be able to everything. But I think the last approach is to sort of throw up our hands and say we have to manage the confusion.

The president's biggest problem is he just doesn't pay enough attention to national security! It doesn't interest him. Again, this distinguishes him from the long line of presidents going -- on bipartisan basis going back to Franklin Roosevelt. Obama does not wake up every morning thinking, What threats does the United States face today, and what do I have to do to keep America strong? He's much more interested in restructuring our domestic way of life, and we have paid a price for that over these three-and-a-half years!

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador Bolton, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.