Two names have emerged as frontrunners for the position of secretary of state in Donald Trump’s administration: Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Assistant Secretary of State John Bolton. Both men have been dedicated supporters of the president-elect, although Giuliani has had much closer ties to Trump’s inner circle than Bolton.
For now, it appears as though the job is Giuliani’s for the taking, which could come as a relief to Trump supporters and a discouraging sign for more hawkish conservatives. Giuliani left no doubt that he was interested in the job on Monday, when he delivered a long speech on foreign policy in Washington. Furthermore, he ruled out taking the role of Attorney General, a surprise to many who figured Giuliani would be a natural fit for Trump’s Justice Department.
At the event, which was sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, Giuliani laid out his thoughts on Trump’s foreign policy priorities. According to him, Trump is laser-focused on defeating the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, with a secondary interest in restoring broad stability to the Middle East. Giuliani also said that Trump would likely flex American muscle in China’s direction, likely stamping them as currency manipulators.
As for Giuliani’s prospects, fellow Trump insider Newt Gingrich said, “If Rudy wants it, he’ll get it.”
While Giuliani’s comments reflect the foreign policy ideology we’ve heard from Trump himself, Bolton would seem like an odd fit for the incoming administration. If there is any such thing as a “neocon,” Bolton would be one of the clearest examples. He was a Bush appointee who has argued for more U.S. intervention in the Middle East, and rumors of his ascension to the State Department inspired Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to speak out.
“Bolton is a longtime member of the failed Washington elite that Trump vowed to oppose, hell-bent on repeating virtually every foreign policy mistake the U.S. has made in the last 15 years — particularly those Trump promised to avoid as president,” Paul wrote Tuesday.
Trump made his opposition to the Iraq War a consistent theme throughout the election, which would make a Bolton appointment strange indeed. This year, the former UN ambassador continued to defend the decision to invade.
“I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct,” Bolton said. “I think decisions made after that decision were wrong, although I think the worst decision made after that was the 2011 decision to withdraw U.S. and coalition forces.”
Which decision Trump makes will give us a strong sense of what we can expect, foreign policy-wise, over the next four years.