Amb. Bolton on Palin Snub

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 19, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

RICH LOWRY, GUEST CO-HOST: We're just 46 days away from election day and national security remains a top concern, especially the situation with Iran. President Ahmadinejad will be in New York this week to address the U.N. General Assembly.

Yesterday the Iranian president didn't help quell the growing fears when he said this at a London conference. Quote: "The Iranian nation has many (nuclear) capabilities and when it decides to retaliate, it will make you regret."

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He also tried to interject himself into the presidential race, saying he is ready to debate either candidate on, quote, "global issues."

Joining us with reaction is former ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton.

Ambassador, thanks so much for being with us tonight.


LOWRY: Now, do you think it makes any sense to have dis-invited Sarah Palin to this event? Yes, Hillary Clinton had canceled, but there still would have been other Democrats there. And it's not as though the mere presence of Sarah Palin would have discredited this thing as a partisan event.

BOLTON: Well, I think it was a mistake. But I know the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. It's a very important group. They have never done anything, in my view, that was partisan.

So they must have come under extraordinary pressure from Democratic activists to cancel that invitation. And I think it's damaged the group, unfortunately, and distracted attention from Iran's nuclear program.

LOWRY: Yes, let's talk about that, because the outrageous statements from Iran keep on coming. Ahmadinejad, the latest thing he said, besides the one we had at the top of this segment, he said the idea of a greater Israel has gone extinct and the idea of a lesser Israel will, as well.

BOLTON: Yes. I mean, the marriage of the kinds of threats that you've seen from Ahmadinejad and the capabilities that Iran is pulling together do constitute, I think, an existential threat to the state of Israel. So this is an extremely serious matter.

And I think one of the explanations for Senator Clinton pulling out, a problem that bedevils many Democrats that have taken a reasonably tough line on Iran, is they don't know how to square their positions with the very weak position that Senator Obama has taken, saying he would sit down with President Ahmadinejad without preconditions. An amazingly weak position for a Democratic senator to take.

LOWRY: Now, Ambassador, what is the Iranian strategy now in this diplomatic conflict, and how does the U.S. election play into it?

BOLTON: Well, I think they've basically won the diplomatic struggle. They've strung out the Europeans for five years of fruitless negotiations, the net net of which is that Iran is now five years closer to nuclear weapons. So there's very little that's going to happen.

Even today in Washington, the five permanent members of the Security Council in Germany were unable to agree on another sanctions resolution. I don't think the Russians or the Chinese will let that happen.

So I think we've played the diplomatic option out. And it's now Iran, basically unimpeded in its effort to acquire a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.

LOWRY: Now what would be the effect be on this crisis if Barack Obama did indeed win and did indeed follow through on the high-level meetings he's talking about?

BOLTON: Well, I think at that point the Iranians would simply proceed to acquire the nuclear weapons capability that they've been after. And the real issue would be whether, if Israel has an effective government by that point, they would undertake military action.

We're very close to the point where Iran can use the threat of nuclear weapons to great advantage in the region and around the world, perhaps even delivering such a weapon to nuclear terrorists.

So, the options facing the United States and Israel at this point are really very unattractive and very limited.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Ambassador, just back to what we were saying about the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. I'm sure you know Malcolm Hoenlein, who heads the organization, and he said this has nothing to do with Sarah Palin. Quite the opposite: We are very appreciative when she agreed to speak and hope there will be other opportunities for her to speak to the group in the future.

And conservatives seem to want to blame Democrats for this, and Malcolm Hoenlein is saying it had nothing to do with politics whatsoever.

BOLTON: Well, I think it had everything to do with politics. You know, Senator Clinton's position that she thought it was being turned into a partisan event is very hard to understand, just because Governor Palin is a vice-presidential candidate. Does that mean Senator Clinton will never appear before a meeting the conference sponsors when she runs for office again?

I mean, I want to come back to this point. The Conference of Presidents, to my knowledge, and I've known them for a long time, has never engaged in partisan politics.

COLMES: And that became a partisan deal.


BOLTON: ... Democratic politicians is perfectly natural.

COLMES: It started to become partisan when they were putting out a press release saying, "Hey, look, Palin and Hillary together for the first time." And that became -- the press kind of glommed onto that. And Hillary didn't want any part of this.

BOLTON: How is that partisan? How is that partisan?

COLMES: Well, it became a political event at that point.

BOLTON: Well, how did it become a political event, Alan? It became a political event because Democrats pressured the conference and the other sponsoring agencies to withdraw the invitation. That's where the real outrage is.

COLMES: They're saying they were not pressured. But anyway, let me go on to what you said about Iran.

You know that on Monday, five former secretaries of state of all administrations, and I'm talking about Powell, Albright, Christopher, Baker and Kissinger, all said we should talk to Iran. Are they all wrong?

BOLTON: I think they are at this point. I think we've exhausted the diplomatic option, and we're left with unattractive alternatives because of Iran's progress.

The fact is, we had been negotiating with Iran, using the Europeans as a surrogate. Everybody has known throughout these negotiations, and that includes Secretary Powell, under whose tenure these negotiations began, that if the Iranians gave up their you remember uranium enrichment capability, the U.S. and the Europeans would come to a different relationship.

COLMES: If all the...


BOLTON: ... the Iranians have basically said, "We're not going to do that."

COLMES: So what do we do, if all -- you say all the diplomatic options are gone. Do we go to war?

BOLTON: No. I think it's very unattractive. I do think we have to look at the use of military force. Because the option of Iran with nuclear weapons is even more unattractive.

COLMES: All right, Ambassador. We thank you for being with us tonight.

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