Nov 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

John Bolton: "The Republican Party now faces a character test"

John Bolton

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks at Duke Unviersity. Photo:

John Bolton in an op-ed Saturday railed against President Trump's attempt to falsely cast the election of Joe Biden as one stolen through fraud, saying the "Republican Party now faces a character test," as it responds to the president's "deeply troubling" behavior.

The big picture: Bolton, who has been a critic of Trump's since leaving the White House last year, called on Republicans to reject the president's false election claims. "The party’s leaders can either reject Trump’s false claims and insist that he provide actual evidence in court, or join in his fantasia and forever tar their own reputations, and that of the party," the former national security adviser wrote in the Telegraph.

What he's saying: "[I]f things end as now seems likely, whatever damage the electoral process and the nation’s institutions have suffered in recent days is easily repairable," Bolton wrote, pointing to the Florida recount battle in 2000, for which he served on George W. Bush's legal team.

  • "There is, however, one significant caveat: if the Leader of the Free World continues to claim, with essentially no supportive evidence, that the election was stolen through fraud, we will have far more serious problems than merely reconciling disappointed partisans to the reality of defeat," he continued.
  • "Any candidate is entitled to express disappointment when he or she loses, complain that life is unfair, and trigger all legitimately available election-law remedies to seek redress for alleged improprieties. Of course, raising claims, however permissible, is not the same as proving them, or showing that even validated claims have had an actual, let alone dispositive, effect on the election itself."
  • "Responsible politicians know that, ultimately, they will pay a price if they go too far, even rhetorically. Apparently, no one ever explained this to Trump, or if they did, he didn’t pay any more attention to it than he usually pays to good advice."
  • "There is also a larger question ahead once the election is well and truly behind us. ... The Republican Party must begin a serious conversation about its new direction going forward, which I hope will return it to a Reaganite approach."
  • "It is profoundly wrong to contend, as many commentators already are, that Trump has an iron grip on the party, and will dictate its strategy and determine its candidates from exile at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, perhaps plotting a 2024 Trump presidential campaign."
  • "In fact, Trump’s influence will drop precipitously once he leaves the Oval Office. He will be, in a word he hates, a loser, and the whole world will know it."
  • Bolton conceded that not "all of Trump’s legacy is bad."
  • But "[w]ithout Trump, we can now seek the return of voters whom his behaviour repulsed, and build a long-term Republican governing majority."

The bottom line: "Soon again, we will elect a real conservative Republican president," Bolton concluded.

Go deeper: Trump's 75-day finale, fully unrestrained

Go deeper