Former ambassador highlights Freedom Conference in Steamboat Springs |

Former ambassador highlights Freedom Conference in Steamboat Springs

John Bolton

John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, speaks to attendees at The Steamboat Institute's Freedom Conference on Friday night at the top of Steamboat Ski Area.
Matt Stensland

— With the Nov. 6 presidential election quickly approaching, Freedom Conference keynote speaker John Bolton wasted little time addressing the 280 people who attended dinner Friday night at the top of Steamboat Ski Area.

"Let's start with what's wrong with Obama," Bolton said.

Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush, was the featured speaker during the two-day, fourth annual event. The conference is hosted by The Steamboat Institute, which according to its website, promotes the "five basic founding principles of this great country: limited government, lower taxes, free markets, strong national defense and individual rights and responsibilities."

Bolton, who is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a commentator on Fox News, focused much of his speech on national defense and U.S. foreign relations. He was highly critical of President Barack Obama and said that during the president’s first term in office, Obama has allowed the country's security posture to deteriorate across the world.

"He's not particularly interested in national security," Bolton said.

Specifically, Bolton said Obama has gutted the U.S. missile defense system and has allowed the country's military presence to diminish. He said the U.S. Navy currently has 285 ships at sea, the lowest number since 1917.

"When the Chinese see that, what does that tell them?" Bolton asked. "It's more bad news ahead for sure."

Bolton also said that oil-producing countries in the Middle East that are friendly to the U.S. are threatened and that the most central threat right now is Iran, which "funds terrorism on an equal-opportunity basis."

"The biggest threat continues to be Iran's continued development of nuclear weapons," Bolton said. "They are very, very close."

He thinks the most likely outcome is that Iran will succeed in getting nuclear weapons, along with several other countries in the Middle East.

"I don't think he'd use military force against Iran, but more importantly, I don't think the Iranians think so either," Bolton said.

Bolton, while very critical of Obama's international policies, did give the president praise for making the tactical decision that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden — though he said it was a decision 99.9 percent of Americans would have made — but did take issue with Obama taking credit for the killing.

"For Obama to take credit for it is mind-boggling," Bolton said. "Osama was killed while he was president but not because he was president.”

Some who came to see Bolton speak said he helped inspire those who attended the Freedom Conference.

"I think what he's saying is very important, and I think he has insight we don't have, so I think it's very important to listen to him," said Mary Mehwald, a part-time Steamboat resident.

Richard Simms, who also is a part-time Steamboat resident, said he is a fan of Bolton.

"I just think he's a really smart person that understands the international relationship," Simms said.

The Freedom Conference concludes Saturday with a luncheon featuring conservative columnist and author Michelle Malkin.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email