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POTUS, Iran and Yosemite Sam

As I watched “60 Minutes” a week ago Sunday, along with 22 million other Americans, two thoughts came to mind:

• The fact that Trump was spanked with a magazine while wearing only his tighty-whities/boxers is not relevant to the exigencies of the moment. Daniels’ encounter would be far more at home on “Access Hollywood,” where the salacious can flirt with rumor, pop culture and the prurient.

• The second thought I had was of Iran and John Bolton, Trump’s newly minted third national security advisor. I wished that 22 million people had instead watched an hour regarding that nomination and its significance because it is breathtakingly serious.

Here’s what’s in front of us in the next couple of months: the Iran Nuclear Agreement, which involves not just the U.S. but also the international community (members of the U.N. Security Council plus the European Union and Germany) is due to be renewed. The deal states that Iran will agree to redesign, convert and reduce its nuclear facilities. In return sanctions would be lifted, to include freeing of tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue that was frozen. The agreement involves a schedule of inspections to monitor compliance by Iran. As well, the number of installed centrifuges will be reduced, as will stockpiles of uranium. The nuclear agreement is no small thing and as officials in the U.N. have said, it will contribute to peace and stability in the region.

It’s one thing to back out of the Paris Climate Accord. Of course, climate change represents an existential threat to our planet; yet, it still seems a distant hypothetical. Now recall that Trump repeatedly stated on the campaign trail that the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement, like the accord, was “a disaster” and “flawed,” and thought it should be scrapped and new sanctions again put in place if a “fix” is not forthcoming. He has never defined what that “fix” would include. Meanwhile, Iran has stated, unequivocally, that the multilateral deal is not renegotiable.

The hope is that the State Department and White House advisors would be able to convince Trump to continue with the agreement this May, understanding that while it is not perfect and apparently chafes Trump, the question posed is what’s the alternative? The only option to preventing Iran from going nuclear, other than the nuclear deal, would be to bomb Iran, a stunningly bad idea fraught with unintended consequences and no guarantee of success. In fact, it is so outlandish it borders on the surreal. Meanwhile, it will lead to a monumental destabilization of the Middle East and a likely war that would make the invasion of Iraq pale by comparison.

As if to preempt any possibility of a “fix,” Trump has named John Bolton as his national security advisor. Bolton has never met a diplomatic problem that could not be resolved militarily. He recently wrote an op ed in the Wall Street Journal making the case for a first strike against North Korea (he will be joining Trump at the Korean summit this spring). He was one of the neocons who lobbied G.W. Bush to invade Iraq, insisting the Iraqis would welcome our troops. He has never acknowledged that the invasion was a disaster.

Bolton has vociferously argued for the abrogation of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. But then he has also maligned the U.N., stating that you could remove the top 10 floors and it wouldn’t make any difference. He has repeatedly disdained diplomacy, insisting that the military is not a last resort, but a first resort.

Indeed, Bolton is a guns blazing kind of guy. Not that he has ever been in combat, missing the Vietnam War while in the National Guard. Whenever I see Bolton, I think of Yosemite Sam, the Looney Tunes character, heavily mustached, wearing a two-gun rig who first appeared in cartoons in 1944. He’s a shoot first, then sort it out later kind of guy, all hat and no cattle, with a hair-trigger temper. He’s unruly, tough and aggressive.

That’s Bolton, the first man to greet Trump in the morning and the last man to tuck him in at night.

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.