Over the past few months, a controversy erupted around Fox News and their employment of a bevy of potential Republican presidential candidates. Fox suspended Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in March when they appeared to meet an as yet unspecified threshold for candidacy. The controversy kept rolling when Sarah Palin undertook a bus tour that looked a lot like the early stages of a presidential run, but was kept on Fox’s staff.
But what about another paid Fox contributor, former Bush administration ambassador to the U.N., AEI fellow, and über-hawk John Bolton? Bolton has indeed been flirting with a run since last September, and seems to be taking serious steps toward it that closely resemble those taken by Santorum and Gingrich.
Bolton, who said on Tuesday — on Fox’s air — that he will decide “by Labor Day,” gave a lengthy interview to National Review online, where he revealed some of the initial steps he has taken to explore a run at the nation’s highest office:
As George W. Bush’s U.N. ambassador, he gleefully tangled with fussy Europeans, Third World despots, and international bureaucrats. That experience, he reckons, is more than enough to make GOP primary voters, at the very least, curious.
It is also why, even in mid-June, Bolton continues to make calls to close friends, pollsters, and political consultants, mulling his options.
Bolton — in the article, titled “Bolton 2012? The former U.N. ambassador weighs a presidential run” — goes on to explain that, if he does enter the race late, he’s already worked out a strategy of which states he needs to hit the hardest:
He will decide by Labor Day, a self-imposed deadline. Until then, Bolton is drafting a multifaceted strategy, one that would enable him to enter late. [...]
“I would focus first on New Hampshire, followed by South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada,” he says. “I think that is a very understandable path to the nomination.” Iowa, however, is probably out of the equation. He is against ethanol subsidies, for one, and it may be a bit too late to build a base there, “where the 99 counties are like the 99 names of God.”
Fox News did not reply to ThinkProgress’s inquiries to its media relations department, but compare Bolton’s activities to those portrayed in an LA Times description of what Gingrich was up to in March when his $1 million-a-year contract with Fox was suspended:
While Gingrich is not expected to announce that he is forming a federal exploratory committee this week, he is expected to say in Georgia on Thursday that he is meeting with advisors to explore seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a Gingrich aide said.
It’s pretty tough to see a distinction between these meetings and discussions with advisers and campaign experts Bolton is holding. The trigger for suspension, a Fox lawyer told the Times, was “serious intention to form an exploratory committee.” That’s pretty vague, but Bolton’s phone calls would seem to fit into nearly any understanding of the phrase.
The situation leaves one wondering how long Bolton can keep up his gig on Fox, raising his profile (he’s appeared twice in the last two days) and cashing his paychecks while taking serious steps — right down to speaking to advisers and devising a state-by-state strategy — toward running for the presidency.