Ever since news broke that President Clinton was traveling to North Korea to finalize the release of two imprisoned American journalists, super-hawk John Bolton has been on the attack. While he first charged Clinton with “negotiating with terrorists,” he piled on even after the journalists’ release, saying Clinton was “rewarding bad behavior.”
While only a handful of conservatives have criticized Clinton, Bolton has been leading the charge — in major op-ed pages, television, and radio. After criticizing Clinton for “encouraging rogue states” on NPR yesterday, the host asked Bolton what he would have done instead. “[W]orked harder with China,” was all he could muster. And last night on Fox News, Bolton continued the attack, saying that Clinton had endangered the lives of Americans who travel abroad:
BOLTON: Obviously, we’re happy that they’re released, and obviously, the president has a responsibility to try and protect Americans. But he needs to do it in a way that doesn’t endanger other Americans in the future by making it look profitable for terrorist groups or rogue states to grant other Americans and get ransom. … So this is the question looking forward. What Americans now are not important enough for Bill Clinton to come and secure their release?
But what explains Bolton’s harsh backlash against Clinton over the past few days? Back in 2003, when he was serving as U.S. Undersecretary of State in the Bush administration, the North Koreans called Bolton “human scum” and refused to negotiate with him because of his attacks on the North Korean regime:
North Korea said Saturday that it won’t deal with U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton because he described Kim Jong Il as a “tyrannical dictator” and said “life is a hellish nightmare” for many North Koreans. Bolton had made the remarks during a visit to South Korea last week.
“Such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency. “We have decided not to consider him as an official of the U.S. administration any longer nor to deal with him.”
Maybe this is more about Bolton holding a grudge than it is about criticizing President Clinton for securing the release of two Americans being detained in North Korea.