During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump infamously insisted that “Islam hates us” on The Drudge Report, a right-wing news aggregator. But his advisers have long had an easier time getting people to believe what they want to hear. At a Guggenheim New America program in Manhattan on Saturday, national security advisor John Bolton blamed the international refugee crisis on “a combination of overprotection and not exercising enough common sense” by “the so-called wisdom of the American-European civilizational partnership,” which amounts to “less criticism of the Jihadist movement and more the defense of Islam and Muslims from attacks by their enemies.”
“America has been a central part of stopping the advance of the jihadists,” Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, declared, while urging skepticism of the perils facing the United States. “We need a critical look at where we are today, and where we will have to go to tackle the massive challenges confronting America and the world in the decades to come.”
Addressing the crowd, he noted that “misinformed criticism” of the American-European partnership has led to the attack on America by terrorist groups and “threatened the Western way of life,” and that “a victory for terrorism would mean a potentially catastrophic blow against the Western Hemisphere and the world.”
During a panel discussion about the way the U.S. global influence has eroded in recent years, Post columnist Carl Bernstein asked whether the U.S. should be as confident as Bolton that its dominant role in the world will continue. This question, said James Dobson, whose conservative organization the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family influences U.S. politicians, is a “stumbling block for moral conservatives in this country, and it reminds me, in fact, of Chamberlain in Europe.”
One Muslim and a former anti-abortion protester said that the presidential election was the “happiest time” for Muslims in America.
“Trump has inspired people to join the Muslim community,” said Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s John K. Llewellyn Jr. Center for Transatlantic Relations.
Bolton recalled the enthralling situation in 1990 when, he said, the current president walked around the United Nations alongside bin Laden, saying, “We will find you.”
In that moment, Bolton said, bin Laden was waiting to be hit. “If you knew when the invasion was going to be, you would have done the bombing first.”
Bolton also praised Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and said that he hoped Trump would soon withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and impose sanctions to strengthen the U.S.’s hand in dealing with the Iranian regime.
“We need to put the major Islamic threat of today into the context of history, and take that threat seriously,” Bolton said.
Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, told the audience, “We just don’t have the tools right now. We’re paralyzed by narcissism. We’re paralyzed by thought bubbles.”
The response, he said, has allowed the unhinged fringe — the ones that prefer to paint themselves as martyrs rather than submit to reality — to burn their flag, to dominate the media and to believe their new-found heroism will win the day. “We have a crisis of confidence,” he said. “And if you’re the Trump administration and you want to be tough and radical, then you have plenty of people ready to be your advocates.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who served under both presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, told the audience: “We believe it’s obvious that the president has many, many different views. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the beauty of our system of checks and balances.”
“But when you put it together with ideologues like John Bolton — who, in addition to being ignorant of strategic reality has demonstrated, since he was the director of the national intelligence service that he doesn’t understand that — I am concerned,” Clapper continued. “We all have to see through this narrative that has been built up. And John Bolton has given this narrative more ammunition.”
The panel discussion also included Carl Pope, the co-founder of the Sierra Club, and Donna Shalala, the former president of the University of Miami and former secretary of health and human services in the