On the occasion of National Security Advisor John Bolton's firing from the Trump White House, RCP Video recalls a very tense interview he did with FOX News host Tucker Carlson on the March 7, 2018 edition of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," before he was appointed to the Trump administration.
Carlson challenged Bolton for his support for and role in starting the Iraq War and accused the former U.N. ambassador of trying to instigate a conflict with Iran. Bolton responded by calling Tucker Carlson's analysis "simpleminded."
"So obviously, Iran was greatly empowered by the fall of Saddam... I think we can concede that... There haven't been any Iran-sponsored terror attacks in this country that I recall in the last 25 years... There have been many sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States -- the Sunni Arab world. So why would we see Iran as our primary threat?" Carlson asked.
"Because Iran for many decades has been the Central Bank of international terrorism, funding Shi'ite, Sunni terrorists on an equal opportunity basis, providing arms to them as they do Hamas in the Gaza Strip, so it is their support for terrorism generally that should concern us, not necessarily attacks in the United States," Bolton replied. "There is a palpable threat of weapons of mass destruction, something President Trump acted against earlier in his term."
"I believe they are all bad places, but in 2015 you wrote a piece for the New York Times saying we ought to bomb Iran in order to stop their nuclear weapons program... And I don't think that is the only time you've called for conflict with Iran. If we had done it then, where would we be now?"
"Israel could have done it 15 years before and we'd be in a much better place," Bolton replied.
"You've called for regime change in Iraq, Libya, Iran, and Syria. In the first two countries, we've had regime change and obviously it has been a disaster, I think we can agree."
"I don't agree with that," Bolton interjected. "Because to argue that you have to argue that everything that followed from the fall of Saddam Hussein followed inevitably, solely, and unalterably from the decision to overthrow him."
"You just said Iran is the single greatest threat to us and to that region. I think you’ll concede that Saddam was the greatest counterbalance to Iran, and they were empowered by his fall," Carlson asked.
"I think your analysis is simpleminded, frankly," Bolton responded. "The Iranian threat, which stems from the revolution of 1979, was underway quite apart from what Saddam Hussein was doing... The fall of Saddam did not make Iran stronger. What made Iran stronger was the withdrawal of American forces in 2011."
"I'm not saying you're the only person who thinks that but you're the only person I've met who thinks that, what would you say is the one lesson we've learned from Iraq?" Carlson followed up.
"I think the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a resounding success. The mistakes that were made subsequently... are lessons about what to do after a regime is overthrown. When President Bush's surge ended, stability had returned to Iraq. It was not a place you'd go for vacation, but he turned it over to Barack Obama and it fell apart subsequently, and the point I think you need to understand is: Life is complicated in the Middle East. When you say 'the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a mistake,' it’s simplistic," Bolton said.
"I would argue that I’m the one who understands how complicated it is," the FOX News host hit back.
"It’s your long experience in foreign policy," Bolton quipped.
"Better record than yours, I would say," Carlson stated.
"Sure," Bolton stated.