(CNSNews.com) – “Children” should not be in charge of foreign policy, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said Thursday, responding to a State Department spokeswoman’s comments earlier this week about claims by some former squad members that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had deserted.
“I think children are wonderful, but I don’t think they should be in charge of foreign policy,” Bolton told Fox Business’ Stuart Varney.
“That’s very strong stuff,” said Varney. “Not as strong as I might say off-camera,” Bolton replied.
He said the department’s spokespeople under Secretary of State John Kerry “have been more partisan than any in my experience since my first involvement in government in the Reagan administration.”
“The clip that has gone around on YouTube is [State Department spokeswoman] Marie Harf basically saying the soldiers who fought with Bergdahl in Afghanistan don’t know what they’re taking about when they say he left his post and deserted, and she said actually Bergdahl knows best what happened that night,” Bolton said.
“It’s humorous in a sense because it is so inane, but I think it’s going to be increasingly serious because it is part of what seems to be part of an Obama White House campaign to impugn the soldiers who are trying to explain what happened when Bergdahl walked off the base.”
Bolton voiced concern that because of a perception of “a kind of weakness, a lack of experience in the world, a lack of seriousness” on the part of President Obama and his advisors, America’s adversaries would use the next two-and-a-half years to try to take advantage of the U.S.
The Taliban at the weekend handed over Bergdahl, who had been held since 2009, in exchange for the release of five senior Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay. The deal, brokered by the Qatar government, has triggered a storm of protests on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.
“If the prison guards at Guantanamo had let these guys walk out of the front gate they’d be court-martialed for incompetence and yet that’s what our president did,” Bolton said. “He gave away five killers and essentially got Bergdahl back in return. It’s not a good trade.”
Obama, who is traveling in Europe, said in Brussels Thursday he “absolutely makes no apologies” for seizing the opportunity to bring Bergdahl home in the exchange for the five terrorists.
Asked whether he had been surprised by the backlash, Obama replied, “I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington.”
But Bolton told Varney he doubted that Obama “fully appreciates the depth of feeling that’s been generated by this Bergdahl scandal.”
“I see in every way the pressure on him growing. His allies in Congress and the media are deserting him.”
At Thursday’s press briefing, Harf was asked whether the State Department believed the row had been “whipped up in Washington.”
“I do think it’s illustrative that the president and the secretary overseas, working on Ukraine, working on Syria and other issues, and that people overseas haven’t really been focused on that,” she said. “People in the rest of the world are focused on other issues and they’re focused on the future of Afghanistan. I think that there has been a lot of noise in Washington, much of it political, about this.”
Harf’s exchange at Tuesday’s briefing follows:
MS. HARF: “… People need to be really careful about believing every second or third-hand report out there, and also what the president, what the secretary, what chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin] Dempsey have said: Regardless of how he went missing, it is our responsibility to him to bring him home, period.
QUESTION: And when you say second- and third-hand reports, when his squad mates who served with him overseas said he walked off the –
MS. HARF: Lucas, I’m sure some of them – I mean, look, there’s a lot of rumor and telephone game that’s being played here about what happened. Not all –
QUESTION: So you’re saying that the guys on national television last night – his squad mates, platoon mates – were not correct?
MS. HARF: I’m saying we don’t know the fact pattern yet here. We don’t. Nobody knows exactly what happened that night. As the facts emerge, as he’s able to discuss them with the Department of Defense, we will see where that takes us.
QUESTION: Going back to –
MS. HARF: That happened five years ago. This is a situation –
QUESTION: So you’ve had all this time, five years, to determine whether he was a deserter or not. That’s a long time.
MS. HARF: He’s been in captivity, Lucas. I think he’s probably the person who knows best what happened on that night.
QUESTION: But – well, I think that his squad mates have the best indication what happened that night.
MS. HARF: I don’t think that that’s the case.