Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton on Obama and the Politics of 'Appeasement'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 20, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-ILL.), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ON MAY 18: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us, and yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we're going to wipe you off the planet.


COLMES: That was Barack Obama assessing Iran's threat level. His comments played right into the foreign policy battle he's having with John McCain. Listen to this:


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-ARIZ.), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ON MAY 19: Senator Obama claimed that the threat Iran poses to our security is tiny compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union. Obviously, Iran isn't a superpower, doesn't possess the military power that the former Soviet Union had, but that does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant.


COLMES: Obama then responded by saying McCain misconstrued his comments and that he understands Iran's threat but ignoring our enemies only make them stronger.

And joining us former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for being here once again.

Click here to watch our interview with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton


COLMES: I want to show you what Joe Biden said on one of the Sunday morning shows earlier — you're obviously aware of it and I want to get your reaction. Let's take a look:


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: President Bush, the White House, called me several years ago, told me Air Force Two was waiting for me at Andrews Air Force Base. Would I get in a plane and go meet with Qaddafi, a real known terrorist, personally a terrorist, personally responsible for killing kids in a school I went to, Syracuse University, blowing up that Pan Am Flight.

The president of the United States asked me to go. He cut a deal with Qaddafi, directly. It was a smart thing to do. He gave up his nuclear weapons. Qaddafi.


COLMES: Is that exactly what the Bush administration is saying Obama — McCain is saying Obama should not do?

BOLTON: Well...

COLMES: To someone who's a terrorist?

BOLTON: I think it's a very different circumstance. With Libya, there was no public announcement of the negotiation, and what we got from Libya was a real commitment to give up their nuclear weapon. This is not an issue about talking or not talking, it's about who is involved, what the objectives are, what the circumstances are.

COLMES: But you don't know that Barack Obama who says he would like to talk to our enemies isn't going to — is not going to hold a news conference and say, I'm getting on a plane for Libya at 6:00 tomorrow. You know, we're talking about the same principle here, and Joe Biden being an emissary of this White House to go to the very thing they're claiming that Barack Obama should not be talking.

BOLTON: Well, I'm not here to defend the Bush administration. If they asked Joe to get on a plane to talk to Qaddafi, that's a whole other subject. The issue with most rouge states like Iran, like North Korea, is that by talking to them you are giving them legitimacy and you're also giving them time which proliferators need.

COLMES: Unlike the Soviet Union, though, is there any evidence that Iran ever wanted to expand and have more territory, go into other nations?

BOLTON: There is enormous evidence that Iran wants hegemony within the Islamic world for it's brand of Shia Islam and that's a large part of the controversy in the broader Middle East today.

COLMES: But they've never had expansionist ideas? They never went and took over another country, did they?

BOLTON: They have expanded. You know the population of Iran is only slightly over 50 percent Persian, so they do have larger ambitions, and especially within the whole Islamic world.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Ambassador, good to see you. Welcome back. Thanks for being with us.

I love the Wall Street Journal today. "If nothing else we know what it takes to make a Democratic — Democrat go nuts, one word, 'appeasement'." I want to just go back to the original words of the president. Didn't mention Barack Obama. Was there anything that the president said that was untruthful?

BOLTON: No, this was simply a recitation of his long-standing policy. The problem with the administration is that the State Department hasn't followed what the president has been saying is — consistent with what Alan said. I think the point is that you have.

HANNITY: But do we know there weren't preconditions in that case?

BOLTON: Well, I think there were preconditions because the whole point was this was not to go public until there was a complete decision by Libya to give up the weapons, which followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

HANNITY: But the "Obama doctrine," which is what I'm calling it, provides that an American president is going to meet with the head of state no matter what the circumstances, even if he threatens to annihilate Israel, pursues nuclear weapons, denies the holocaust, funds Hezbollah and funds the insurgency against Iraq. All of that doesn't matter.

BOLTON: You can tell he knows he's in trouble, because he said I would negotiate without preconditions, and when people came down on him, he said I didn't mean I'd negotiate without preparations. He's just trying to change the word.

HANNITY: Yes. Look, there's a certain sensitivity that we're seeing in liberals over this, and I think a certain political vulnerability, and that is, as they know that they're weak on issues like this, this is perceived by the American people as a weak position. Why would we not say, stop funding the insurgency in Iraq first and stop funding Hezbollah, and then we'll talk.

BOLTON: Exactly. I think that President Bush hit the nail on the head in Jerusalem. And I think the nails are complaining now.

HANNITY: What do you think — what are the other countries that I've talked to, North Korea? And what would be the distinction in talking — with Jimmy Carter going and talking to Hamas? What's the distinction in talking to a terror group or [an] Iran that funds the terror group?

BOLTON: There isn't any distinction, and I think that's a very important point. Any time you make a decision on negotiations, you are giving some sense of legitimacy to the person you're talking to.

HANNITY: And don't we have an allegiance with Israel? If he's going to refer to, — Ahmadinejad — Israel, as a stinking corpse, he's going to, you know, pledge to annihilate them, don't we have an obligation to stand by them and say that if you follow through on that threat that we will respond accordingly?

BOLTON: No, I think we should. And look, this business of a precondition before you talk to Iran is not the Bush administration, it's the Europeans, it's the Security Council, and Obama has rejected all of that.

HANNITY: Last question. Is the "Obama doctrine" a doctrine of appeasement?

BOLTON: I think it is, and I think it's an election issue. It should be.

HANNITY: I think it should be a huge one.

John Bolton, good to see you, my friend. Thank you, Ambassador.

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