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The Silence of John Bolton

As a governmental official, Bolton has less leeway in his actions and public statements than he had in his years as a Fox News commentator. “There are two different John Boltons. There’s the John Bolton unchained, which is, ‘I’m a pundit, I can say not just whatever I want but I can put out provocative positions because I’m not constrained by doing them,’” said Carafano. “That’s not the John Bolton we saw in the Bush administration, who was much more like the Luca Brasi character”—Vito Corleone’s enforcer in The Godfather.  “He said, I‘m the guy who gets things done.”

“Bolton was not hired to tell the president what his foreign policy is gonna be,” Carafano said.

“John Bolton opposed past agreements that were more specific on denuclearization commitments by DPRK than this one,” said former Bush Administration NSC director of Asian affairs Victor Cha in an email. “So he is either getting softer in his old age, or the President solely is driving this one.”

“I think the outcome of the summit was sort of the un-Bolton,” said Joel Wit, a former State Department official who worked on the team that negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework agreement with North Korea that collapsed during the Bush Administration, while Bolton was the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. “It was the opposite of what Bolton would do.”

Wit said that comparing this summit to the 1994 agreement one was “apples and oranges” and that a better comparison would be to compare the agreement made by Trump and Kim to previous joint statements in 1993 and in 2005. “What comes now is what’s important.”

Wit was referring to the negotiations that are to follow: Trump told reporters in Singapore that he and Kim had “agreed to vigorous negotiations to implement the agreement as soon as possible.” Wendy Sherman, who negotiated with North Korea during the Clinton administration and was the lead US negotiator during the Iran talks for the Obama administration, said that the negotiations would be crucial in turning the rapport established between Trump and Kim and the framework document into real results. “If Secretary Pompeo, who is [Trump’s] lead on this, puts together a robust team—and we’ll find out who the team is going to be with North Korea—perhaps the personal relationship that occurred in these few hours possibly could pay off,” she said. “All hope is not lost but the starting gate feels like a false start.”

Former New Mexico Governor and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, who has conducted several hostage negotiations with the North Koreans, said on a call with reporters on Tuesday that he hoped it would be only Pompeo leading the negotiations.

“My hope is, one, that Secretary Pompeo and not other members of the White House staff lead the negotiations,” Richardson said. Later in the call, Richardson said there were “too many cooks in the oven, too many messengers right now within the administration.”

Asked if he had been referring to Bolton, Richardson said he had been referring to Bolton and Pence, “both of whom made unfortunate statements on the Libya issue,” as well as press secretary Sarah Sanders and the president himself—“I wish he would stop tweeting.”

“What I don’t want to see is what happened in Quebec, in Canada, where staff members of the White House were actually criticizing a head of state, Justin Trudeau, an ally, a friend, the Canadian prime minister,” Richardson said.

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