President Trump announced Thursday that he's tapped John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser. Trump had reportedly considered appointing Bolton as secretary of state, and he is well known as George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, as well as a strong proponent of the invasion of Iraq. But who is John Bolton's wife, Gretchen Smith Bolton?
Gretchen is a certified financial planner at Axa Advisors, according to her profile page at the company's website. She has several offices in the country but works out of Bethesda, Maryland, providing services to "individuals, families and estates, small business owners and professionals, and not-for-profit associations." Gretchen has several degrees as well, including a bachelor of arts from Wellesley College, a masters from New York University, and a certificate in retirement planning from the Wharton School of Business — which, incidentally, is Trump's alma mater. According to the website, Gretchen has been in that line of work for more than two decades.
Gretchen and John have one daughter, Jennifer Sarah Bolton, who studied at Yale University like her father. John was married for several years prior to his marriage to Gretchen.
"I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor," Trump announced in a Thursday tweet. "I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9."
In many ways, Trump's decision to appoint Bolton as national security adviser is a surprising one. Bolton is a war hawk in every sense of the word, and throughout his long career, he's consistently supported the exact sort of foreign intervention that Trump campaigned against while running for president.
"We're nation-building and we can't do it," Trump told the Guardian in 2015 while explaining why the United States shouldn't have invaded Iraq. "We have to build our own nation. We’re nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries."
And yet Bolton was one of the chief architects of, and cheerleaders for, the invasion of Iraq. In 2002, as Bush's undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security, he claimed that the administration was "confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq." That claim later turned out to be false, and yet as recently as 2015, Bolton insisted that invading Iraq was the right move.
“I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam [Hussein] was correct," he told the Washington Examiner. "The people who say, oh things would have been much better if you didn't overthrow Saddam miss the point that today's Middle East does not flow totally and unchangeably from the decision to overthrow Saddam alone."
The same year that Bolton argued against this perspective on the overthrow of Hussein, Trump himself advocated it.
“We got rid of Saddam Hussein. I don’t think that was a helpful thing," Trump said in the Guardian interview. "Iraq is a disaster right now and it’s going to be taken over by Iran and ISIS, so I think we have to focus on ourselves." Trump was for the Iraq war before he was against it, although he falsely claimed during the campaign that he never supported it at all, and said earlier in March that invading Iraq was the "single worst decision ever made."
At various other points, Bolton has also argued that the United States should bomb Iran, that Israel should use nuclear weapons in the Middle East, that it's fair game for the U.S. military to assassinate the presidents of other countries, and that America should launch a first strike against North Korea.
Having said all of that, Trump did say "I love war" during one campaign event in 2016. Perhaps it's not entirely surprising that he's picked a war hawk to serve as his national security adviser.