John Bolton’s Moral Cowardice

A television interview promoting his book further reveals what an awful man he is.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton was on ABC News last night hawking his tell-all book. He doubled down on being a loathsome human being.

The headline (“Bolton says he hopes Trump is 1-term president, warns country imperiled by his reelection“) story is a strong one:

President Donald Trump’s longest-serving national security adviser John Bolton condemned his presidency as dangerously damaging to the United States and argued the 2020 election is the last “guardrail” to protect the country from him.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Bolton offered a brutal indictment of his former boss, saying, “I hope (history) will remember him as a one-term president who didn’t plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral we can’t recall from. We can get over one term — I have absolute confidence, even if it’s not the miracle of a conservative Republican being elected in November. Two terms, I’m more troubled about.”

In the interview with ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz and in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton paints Trump as “stunningly uninformed,” making “erratic” and “irrational” decisions, unable to separate his personal and political interests from the country’s, and marked and manipulated by foreign adversaries.

None of that is new news, of course, but it’s a powerful statement coming from a lifelong Republican who had a front-row seat for the dumpster fire. But, even here, the weasel Bolton falls short.

“I don’t think he’s a conservative Republican. I’m not going to vote for him in November — certainly not going to vote for Joe Biden either. I’m going to figure out a conservative Republican to vote in,” he told Raddatz.

So, Trump is a “stunningly uninformed” and “erratic” man who will, if re-elected, “plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral.” The only hope of preventing that is elect Joe Biden in November. But Bolton won’t do that?

And, of course, this compounds the fact that he’s waited months to go public with this, hoping to profit from sales of a book.

Last fall after resigning — Trump said he was fired — he rejected a request to testify before the House and said he would testify only if a judge ordered him to obey a subpoena. The House declined to issue the subpoena to avoid a legal battle. Bolton later said he would obey a subpoena if one was issued by the Senate, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not issue one.

Bolton now said his testimony wouldn’t have mattered, while also accusing House Democrats of “impeachment malpractice” for not taking their time and widening their inquiry’s scope to include potentially impeachable offenses that Bolton only alleges publicly for the first time in his book.

“I didn’t think the Democrats had the wit or the political understanding or the reach to change what, for them, was an exercise in arousing their own base, so that they could say, ‘We impeached Donald Trump,'” he said, adding “that conduct (is) almost as bad and somewhat equivalent to Trump.”

Bolton told Raddatz he now has “an obligation to let the American people know what it’s like in the White House and what their leader is doing.”
But pressed about what public obligation he had at the time, he again turned to how the probe was initially conducted.

“It’s not my obligation to help the Democrats out of their own problem. My judgment was that I was prepared to testify. But I think now this is actually a better time to tell the story because now the American people can look at it in the context of the most important political decision we make as a nation every four years,” he said.

The Republican-controlled Senate ultimately voted not to call any witnesses to testify in Trump’s trial, but Bolton now argues it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“Minds were made up on Capitol Hill, and my feeling was in the midst of all the chaos that had been created, this would have come and gone, and nobody would have paid any attention to it,” he said.

At one level, Bolton is right: his testimony would certainly not have been enough to get two-thirds of a Republican-majority Senate to vote to remove Trump from office.

Yet, this is a man who claims to be on a mission to save the Republic from an unstable lunatic getting a second term and yet he still clings to a childish partisanship where doing so is helping the Democrats? And, indeed, that impeaching Trump for crimes he admits are crimes is simply a partisan act of “rousing the base” that’s almost as bad as the crimes themselves?

At best, the man is a coward and a self-serving egotist who cares more about his viability in a future Republican administration than he does the country.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Makes you wonder why Republicans paid so much attention to him over the years, doesn’t it?

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  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    While i would never encourage someone to break the law, if one wanted to read Boltons book without giving him money, Twitter and Reddit are absolutely awash with links to help you do just that.

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  3. grumpy realist says:

    Is anyone surprised? Bolton has never been known for his integrity, and this just falls in the same basket.

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  4. Kathy says:

    Bolton’s on a mission to save the Republic, so long as that doesn’t benefit the Democratic Party.

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  5. CSK says:

    Less than an hour ago, Trump Tweeted that:
    “I gave John Bolton, who was incapable of being Senate confirmed because he was considered a wacko, and was not liked, a chance.”

    So…Trump hired Bolton not because he was competent, but because Trump felt sorry for him. Right. Uh-huh.

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  6. Scott F. says:

    At best, the man is a coward and a self-serving egotist who cares more about his viability in a future Republican administration than he does the country.

    Yes. I agree. But James, please take this question in the spirit intended – not as an attack, but an earnest attempt to understand.

    If Bolton is at best a moral coward for putting his party over his country, how is he different from the other Trump supporters you know who you’ve defended as partisans who are still decent people? You’ve noted in the past that a lot of these people don’t pay attention to politics, so they can’t be expected to turn on their party based on things of which they are not aware. Is it that simple? If so, what do we owe these people to make them aware of the threat?

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  7. Liberal Capitalistb says:

    Wait. Give the guy some credit.

    Remember that that people like me, a Democrat, made him the poster child for what was wrong with the Bush Administration. That guy was pilloried for his role in invading Iraq, and rightly so.

    And, if I can be so bold, he firmly believed in what he was doing was correct, necessary, and for the benefit of the USA. Through and through post-Reagan conservative. Wrong, but to quote The Big Lebowski: Say what you will, it’s an ethos.

    So, yes, for him to come out and say these things in public is great, as he may sway a few of the “real” conservatives not to vote for Trump. The Dems already know, and the Trump Republicans won’t care. But if a percentage of GOP can vote none-of-the above or Pat Paulson, or mighty mouse, great again.

    To be upset that he may make a buck-or-two off a book that goes into real detail on exactly the shortcommings of 45? Doesn’t seem to bother me a bit. I’m OK with that.

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  8. Liberal Capitalist says:

    — ( moderation because I misspelled my handle ) —

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    how is he different from the other Trump supporters you know who you’ve defended as partisans who are still decent people? You’ve noted in the past that a lot of these people don’t pay attention to politics, so they can’t be expected to turn on their party based on things of which they are not aware. Is it that simple? If so, what do we owe these people to make them aware of the threat?

    The overwhelming number of people who still self-identify as Republicans do not agree with Bolton’s premise that Trump is a danger to the Republic. Many dislike him personally, see him as imprudent and erratic, or otherwise wish he were more “normal.” But they think he’s preferable to electing Democrats. I disagree with them strongly but can understand how many of them still think that way, for reasons Steven Taylor has laid out in dozens of posts here.

    Bolton is different because he has flat-out declared Trump is a “stunningly uninformed” and “erratic” man who will, if re-elected, “plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral.” And, yet, he doesn’t have the moral courage to therefore endorse Joe Biden?

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  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Joyner:

    The overwhelming number of people who still self-identify as Republicans do not agree with Bolton’s premise that Trump is a danger to the Republic. Many dislike him personally, see him as imprudent and erratic, or otherwise wish he were more “normal.” But they think he’s preferable to electing Democrats.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. I think anyone still self-identifying as a Republican, and supporting Trump because of it, is just as guilty of moral cowardice as Bolton is.
    What you describe are nothing more than rationalizations.
    These people have chosen party over country and need to rationalize that cravenly immoral decision.

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  11. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, yet, he doesn’t have the moral courage to therefore endorse Joe Biden?

    John Bolton’s lacks any moral courage. Full stop.

    And that has proudly been on display for years (at least since he proudly wrote about his intentional dodging of the draft in an earlier memior – https://taskandpurpose.com/analysis/john-bolton-trumps-new-war-consigliere-dodged-already-lost-vietnam-war).

    So color me unsurprised by John Bolton continuing to demonstrate what an empty, shitty human being he remains. The only question is whether or not this finally puts a nail in his political career.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.: If I may add something to your question. And in the same spirit of inquiry, not attack. OK, at the fringe there are people who think Democrats are literally demons. A lot of Evangelicals and some Catholics think abortion is murder and must be outlawed. Country club and corporate Republicans think Ds will raise their taxes, and they’re right. Charles Koch thinks Ds might actually do something about AGW. And John Bolton thinks Ds won’t bomb Iran hire John Bolton. But in general, and for Rs of your acquaintance, James, what is it they find so hateful about Democrats? Why is it so hard to see Ds as a legitimate alternative?

    ETA: Hadn’t seen your response to Scott F, but my question still stands. Dr. T speaks to deep partisanship, but he has not, as far as I recall, addressed the visceral dislike of Ds that so many Rs express. It’s a psych question, not poli sci.

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  13. JohnMcC says:

    Having only seen the headlines I still boldly call attention to the long-suffering Republic of Korea government’s claim that Mr Bolton does a rotten job of reporting the Trump-Kim Jeong Un negotiations.

    And will repeat as a general caution that many R’s who’ve been associated with this abomination of a government will be publishing self-excusing books. What we said after Watergate when Nixon’s memoirs were published with hopes of rescuing his reputation and bank account:
    DON’T BUY BOOKS BY CROOKS!

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  14. JohnMcC says:

    @mattbernius: Noted Mr Bolton’s cowardice the other day on these pages. Would point out that he actually did his own work in finding a refuge from actual shooting associated with his preferred foreign policy. Unlike — well, former President George W Bush who got into the ANG because Daddy. Maybe that’s something.

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  15. @James Joyner:

    Bolton is different because he has flat-out declared Trump is a “stunningly uninformed” and “erratic” man who will, if re-elected, “plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral.” And, yet, he doesn’t have the moral courage to therefore endorse Joe Biden?

    And, to add to that, his opinion is based on first-hand knowledge from having worked in the WH. It makes his position not to testify and to hold this information for personal monetary gain to be all the worst. And yes, the notion that he can’t vote for Biden is over the top if his assessment of Trump is to be taken at face value.

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  16. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    “I gave John Bolton, who was incapable of being Senate confirmed because he was considered a wacko, and was not liked, a chance.”

    I am dying to see the campaign ad that opens with Trump statements about how his administration will have all the best people, then relentlessly juxtaposes his glowing praise of the people he is appointing with his subsequent statements about them on their way out.

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  17. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT:
    I would relish such an ad. This might be something for the Lincoln Project to consider.
    I have never seen an explanation from Cult45 of why their hero seems to hire so many wackos, incompetents, losers, and maniacs.

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  18. MarkedMan says:

    Before “Courage” even enters the equation, it implies that someone perceives a personal responsibility to take an action. Bolton talks a lot and when he gets power, he exercises that power. But he has never shown any indication that he takes responsibility for anything.

    Put another way, you can’t be a moral coward if you have no morals.

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  19. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner: Thank you for this reply.

    I understand the dynamic you describe and I completely concede the points you and Steven have made about the power of partisan identification in a binary system. I, myself, acknowledge the draw as I struggled with and ultimately voted for Bill Clinton despite his personal character and subsequently grudgingly accepted those who re-elected the younger Bush despite him being out of his depths in the office. It is easy to grasp how differences in policy and character can be made secondary to team support when there are only two teams that matter.

    But, Trump is a whole new sort, as has been duly noted by OTB posters and commentariat. From his chumminess with authoritarians and willingness to sell the country’s interests to benefit himself on the foreign policy front, to his emboldening of the most destructive racist elements of the US populace at home, he represents the crossing of a line. When a singularly corrupt and destructive leader can be allowed by blind, willfully ignorant tribalism, it is a big problem – a different problem than Trump, but perhaps just as dangerous to the future of the country.

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  20. ptfe says:

    To be fair, he lives in Maryland and thus his vote is meaningless.

    But his solution of not voting for either “the guy I don’t like” vs “the guy who would ruin the country” in what’s realistically a head-to-head matchup is still like wiping your ass with a stick and insisting you won’t still smell like crap.

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  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Moreover, Bolton’s admissions shows why it’s probably ill-advised to think in terms of getting “disaffected Republicans” to cross over. Bolton can’t vote for Biden because he still, in the dark night of his soul, supports all the CRAP that goes with electing aristocrats oligarchs despotic fascists conservatives to office–the kids in cages, the tax breaks for the rich, the parking of profits in foreign countries to further avoid laughably low tax rates, gutting the safety net for the poor, curtailing civil rights, voting restrictions for minorities, the list is near endless. And he’s good with all of it.

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  22. Teve says:

    A friend says:

    I skimmed the book before Google yanked it. It chronicles Trump as a willfully ignorant, bigoted, pompous, self-centered sociopath in severe mental decline, that is to say, nothing we didn’t already know. Nearly 600 pages of old news. I don’t see what all the brouhaha is about, but at least I got to use the word “brouhaha.”

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  23. Teve says:

    Damn. Seth Abramson:

    (THREAD) I’m reading John Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened, and in this thread I’ll tell you a lot about it so you won’t have to buy or read it. I’ll also discuss the larger problems with coverage of Trump that the book’s content raises. I hope you’ll read on and RETWEET.

    DISCLOSURE1/ The last year has proven Bolton a coward, a fraud, disloyal to America, and unworthy of respect. He had a chance to aid his country, and sought a cash-grab instead. Now he may face criminal charges. I write this review as objectively as I can under the circumstances.
    DISCLOSURE2/ Yes, I’ve also written a book on many of the topics Bolton has written about here. It’s called Proof of Corruption and comes out in September. Is it a much better book than this? Yes, for many reasons. But again, I seek to be as objective about this book as I can be.
    1/ The Room Where It Happened is both breaktakingly self-centered and shockingly narrow—especially for a book of its length. Bolton will disclose every time Kushner called him without giving a single centimeter of page space to what he thought of Jared’s “Middle East peace plan.”
    2/ I have not finished the book, so maybe I’ll be surprised. But Bolton has already mentioned the plan multiple times without discussing its merits—while giving us much minutiae about Kushner—and it’s clear that it’s not a narrative technique but a very specific personal failing.
    3/ To underline what personal failing I mean, I’ll give another bizarre fact about the book: Bolton gives a tick-tock of withdrawing from Syria before he’s given any indication he knows what the consequences of the decision would be. Because the book isn’t for you—it’s for *him*.
    4/ This book *begins* from the premise that Bolton is right—about everything, really—and always has been, and that the great crime of his existence thus far has been that too often (but not always, he’d hasten to add!) his genius has gone unrecognized for the historic gift it is.
    5/ To Bolton, Kushner’s “Middle East peace plan” is immaterial, for the simple fact that Bolton didn’t take it—or Kushner—seriously. And because the book is for *him*, not you, he won’t explain the *dangerous plan* a neophyte with POTUS’ ear had for an entire region of the world.
    6/ Just so, withdrawing from Syria meant—as we’ve now all seen—the attempted genocide of non-combatant Kurdish men, women, and children. It meant between 10,000 and 30,000 ISIS fighters escaping Syrian prisons. But Bolton wanted Trump to focus on Iran, not Syria, so there you go.
    7/ Bolton’s *vanity*—Olympian; a bullet through the heart of any text he composes—not only obscures the very geopolitics he means to discuss but (worse) *misleads* readers. And he doesn’t even do it—though he does do other things—for political reasons. He just can’t help himself.
    8/ So for example, as I know from writing a Trump book not in the first person, that isn’t a memoir, and that’s actually about geopolitics, when you write about—say—Rex Tillerson’s downfall at State, you don’t self-aggrandizingly turn it into Vanderpump Rules. You tell the truth.
    9/ In Bolton’s telling, Rex Tillerson’s leadership style—which Bolton felt entitled to judge, despite having had less leadership experience than Tillerson—caused his termination, *not* Tillerson angering Trump’s Saudi and Emirati allies by opposing their ground invasion of Qatar.
    10/ Because Bolton had no window into Trump’s dealings with the Saudis and Emiratis during Tillerson’s reign at State, those dealings… simply *didn’t exist* to him. Which freed him to congratulate himself for having seen Tillerson’s leadership weaknesses before anyone else did.
    11/ Here’s the first spot I want to pause, so I can note that this isn’t wholly Bolton’s fault. It’s media’s fault. And publishing’s. Because media covers—and therefore publishers flock to publish—*newsmakers*, rather than *authors*. *Newsmakers* always write in the first person.
    12/ Bolton was given a huge advance *because* he’s Bolton—not because he was going to write a good book. And his publisher knew the book would be *covered by media*—and therefore make money—*because*, again, Bolton. So of *course* he fetishized his stupid, blinkered perceptions.
    13/ But here’s where I really *must* find Bolton exclusively responsible: for the arrogance that led him to miss even signals he was being sent *at the time*. Let’s take Tillerson’s firing as an example, as it dominates an early part of the book, before the focus moves to Mattis.
    14/ Though the conversations are recounted in the book, Bolton seems not to clock that Trump’s complaints about Tillerson had to do with the Middle East and policies the Saudis had their hands in—nothing traceable to the management issues Bolton self-aggrandizingly obsesses over.
    15/ So why does Bolton focus on Tillerson’s management style—a yawningly dull topic—not the fact that foreign nationals got a Secretary of State fired? Because Bolton is still pissed—the book makes it clear—Tillerson was hired over him. Bolton had thought he’d be a better leader.
    16/ But the price—here and elsewhere in the book—isn’t just the context for a key event, or (small thing) the *truth* of any event, but rather something more insidious: the book *forgives* Trump, even *exonerates* him, of anything Trump did that Bolton thought beneath his notice.
    17/ So what’s beneath Bolton’s notice, in a nearly 600-page book that recounts seemingly every day of his life and every call or meeting he ever had?

    Well, basically anything that wasn’t part of Bolton’s Prime Directive: proving himself correct and exerting his will over others.
    18/ Early on, Kushner and Bannon and Kelly are trying to give Bolton a job, and Bolton arrogantly says there are only two he’ll accept. When they offer him the number-two spot at State, he proudly cops to a bizarre response: you can’t run State from the deputy position. Uh, what?
    19/ It’s hard to explain how Bolton manages to do it—the dramatic irony is heavy with this one—but though he recounts the whole exchange, he also betrays *no understanding* that they *didn’t want him to run State* and *explicitly* were *not* giving him that option. He’s clueless.
    20/ As a reader, you think it’s a fluke, but then, when they’re trying to make him a Special Assistant to the President and he again arrogantly refuses, he *again* says, essentially, you can’t run the whole apparatus from that position. And it’s like—dude—please take a damn hint!
    21/ What one discovers, quickly enough, is that Bolton is a legitimately dangerous narcissist. No wonder he writes, without any apparent irony, that Trump kept telling him, “you and I are a lot alike!” Bolton—I kid you not—takes this as a compliment. Because: textbook narcissist.
    22/ To give you a sense of why I call Bolton dangerous and—indeed—deranged, he somehow, incredibly, wanted to send our soldiers into harm’s way in *both* North Korea and Iran, apparently simultaneously, while *arrogantly* expressing the *exact* same wrong thinking he had on Iraq.
    23/ Imagine—for a moment—that you had supported a war over *nothing* in Iraq that killed tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of thousands of civilians. You’ve had years to have nightmares about the consequences of your bad judgment. Instead? You seek *Round 2* and *Round 3*.
    24/ But he’s not just aggressively delusional about geopolitics—and, not for nothing, consistently wrong, despite “expertise”—he writes his book amidst as grandiose a self-delusion as could be imagined. Here I take his backroom machinations to get a job as adequate for-instance:
    25/ Bolton manages to give all the embarrassing details—that he doesn’t seem to register as embarrassing—about his desperate efforts to stab Tillerson and McMaster in the back and steal their jobs, while *also* trying to convince us the White House was desperately courting *him*.
    26/ That he at first fails to get *any* White House job is *the* topic of the first 50 pages. He explains it—in verbose fashion—50 different ways: I turned them down; they had outside pressure; they worried I couldn’t be confirmed; they were disorganized; they told me to “wait.”
    27/ This man—who’s been wrong about everything, is known for being impossible to work with and is ideologically scary—has convinced himself, and tries to convince us, that White House insiders *planned* having him come in once things settled down. That’s why they didn’t hire him.
    28/ The most telling thing is that he spends *so much* of the book’s early sections telling us he understands a public servant serves a POTUS and not vice versa, but *accepted a job* in an administration where he had *no interest* in the president’s agenda and opposed most of it.
    29/ Indeed, one of the least convincing refrains in the early going is that he and Trump were somehow aligned, when Bolton *famously* wants to make war on *everyone*—and Trump’s game is to cede territory and interests and influence to *anyone* who will pay the Trump Organization.
    30/ This is why I say that, early on, the reader has so many reasons to doubt Bolton’s values, judgment, ability to perceive, and authorial ethos that it’s difficult to take anything he says seriously. So does this mean that Bolton is also a *liar*? No—I don’t think that it does.
    31/ The problem with the book isn’t what Trump *wishes* it was—that Bolton comes across as a liar. He doesn’t. Rather (as noted) he self-portrays as an impeccable observer of his own genius, which means you trust his recollections in any conversation *where he has been centered*.
    32/ In other words, in the high-stakes conversations Bolton has with Trump, one senses Bolton is largely recounting the major strokes—likely using copious notes—accurately (a feeling one never has with Bannon—who both Wolff and Woodward relied on to the detriment of their books).
    33/ Bolton not being a liar doesn’t mean his words can be trusted, as of course there’s the other bugbear: partisanship. Bolton is so radical that when he says—falsely—that left-wing commentators are apologists for Assad’s use of chemical weapons, you believe that he believes it.
    34/ On the other hand, Bolton takes himself so seriously—it wouldn’t be possible to take yourself *more* seriously—that there’s *very* little frivolous content in the book. As I mentioned, one doesn’t sense that Bolton is playing to the crowd here. Rather, he’s thinking out loud.
    35/ So for instance, when Bolton tells a *shocking* anecdote about Tillerson calling Haley a “c**t” at a public function—a story Bolton hears from Trump—you really *do* sense that Bolton is telling it because he strongly suspects Trump made the story up and wonders why he did so.
    36/ Unfortunately, as Bolton is minimally reflexive or insightful, these moments pass like you’re reading them in a dictionary. Again, Bolton doesn’t have the range of knowledge or interest in context to note that Trump *also* found a way to call Obama a n****r via an “anecdote.”
    37/ (For those who don’t recall, Trump used a made-up story about Putin calling Obama a racial slur as a cover to use the term to describe Obama. He appears to have done the same with Haley. But the next sentence in Bolton’s book—post-anecdote—is about a Macron call. Seriously.)
    38/ This is why I call the book shockingly narrow in scope, given its length and topic. Bolton never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to see the big picture—even as he’s constantly discussing the big picture—because he doesn’t realize his only big picture is himself.
    39/ In short, media and publishing fail to distinguish between political *memoirs*—which are usually solipsistic and make news only accidentally (maybe a handful of times per book)—and political *histories*, which are content-forward rather than focusing on characters and scenes.
    40/ As political book news in this century largely focuses on a handful of “reveals” disseminated by reporters rather than critics, a *memoir* can be wrongly made to *seem* like a content-forward book. That said, this book has more reveals than normal—but you must hunt for them.
    41/ For instance, the revelation that Trump said he doesn’t like the Kurdsm and the strange glee he seems to get discussing them fleeing, is *only a reveal* if a reader knows—and Bolton certainly won’t say!—that Trump, with Bolton’s indirect aid, later green-lit *their genocide*.
    42/ By the same token, Bolton’s casual misogyny—he has no respect for Haley or Melania despite both being at least as intelligent (almost certainly more so) than Trump—maybe is what gets us Trump’s Haley “anecdote,” but it’s only gossip unless you’ve way more context about Haley.
    43/ Then there’s the *other* way that reveals are hidden: because they’re based in dramatic irony. For instance, that Trump’s former NSA was telling him Syria was a “strategic sideshow” *is* a stunning reveal…of how dangerous Bolton was. But is Bolton the one to point that out?
    44/ Bolton is—besides a casual misogynist and the other things I said—a bureaucrat whose errors killed hundreds of thousands. That he could only see that Trump’s hesitation over Syria as an obstacle—not a sign Trump is compromised by whatever his thing with Putin is—is harrowing.
    45/ Indeed, that John Bolton makes a strong case that *all* Trump’s decisions were prompted by not wanting to anger autocrats he worshipped and wanted to do business with appears to be *beyond Bolton’s awareness* until *much* deeper into a book than many will be willing to read.
    46/ I’m almost done, but the idea of Bolton as an elitist, narcissistic bureaucrat who’s oblivious to his own radicalism or the consequences of his actions puts me in mind of something else I need to say: beware of books by people who’ve been embedded in DC privilege for decades.
    47/ What’s wrong with this sentence: “On Wednesday, March 21, my cell phone rang as I was riding down a snowy George Washington Memorial Parkway to do an interview at Fox’s DC studio.” Bolton gets this call when he’s not at the White House yet. So what word jumps out at you here?
    48/ For me, it’s the word “riding.” What I take from it is that Bolton was being *chauffeured* down George Washington Memorial Parkway. Not because he had a White House security detail—he didn’t—but because he’s rich, entitled, and one of America’s crazy, dangerous power brokers.
    49/ I’ve written as many or more words by age 43 as Bolton had by age 43, and every word I write is undergirded by my values. Those values come from being a public defender, journalist, and teacher. I built *up* from my values; Bolton works *down* from how he wants power divided.
    50/ Bolton’s book is immoral, self-indulgent, blinkered, and embarrassing. I find it fascinating because I’m a policy wonk and—however fatally flawed—Bolton offers a guilty pleasure. I find it hard to see why anyone without my affliction would need more than a summary of reveals.
    PS/ You won’t find many longtime authors who relish—or are interested in—telling folks not to read a book. So my view—of course—is read it if you like. Just know what you’re getting into, and understand that if you just want the “reveals,” the major papers already published them.
    PS2/ I’d meant to add “if you don’t want to” at the end of the first sentence in this thread. I’m serious, and I regret not including those words. Because as I said, some—and that includes me—may yet find this an interesting character study with *occasional* geopolitical nuggets.

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  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:

    If Bolton is at best a moral coward for putting his party over his country, how is he different from the other Trump supporters you know who you’ve defended as partisans who are still decent people?

    @James Joyner:

    Bolton is different because he has flat-out declared Trump is a “stunningly uninformed” and “erratic” man who will, if re-elected, “plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral.” And, yet, he doesn’t have the moral courage to therefore endorse Joe Biden?

    Yeah, not buying that. Sure, the more you know, the more culpable you may be, but that’s a matter of small degrees. When we look back at history and judge people of an era for, say, slavery, we ask, ‘could a person at that point in time understand that he was committing a moral evil?’ In the Roman world no one thought slavery was evil. In 19th century America the truth was out there for all to see.

    I’d suspect, James, that your circle is largely college-educated. Does a college-educated person in the USA in 2020 have all the evidence he needs to conclude that Trump is evil? Of course. So these good people are ignoring evidence, right? They are looking away. What are they? They’re Good Germans.

    Now, do I think Dr. Mengele is higher on the evil ladder than some Bavarian who blocked his nose against the stench rolling out of Dachau? Sure. Does that excuse the Good Germans, those silent collaborators with evil? No.

    So, no, James, your Trump supporting friends are not decent people. There’s nothing decent about them, they’re cowards at best. At best.

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  25. Kingdaddy says:

    Bolton is making the same argument that stereotypical Bernie Bros make: “I’m not going to make a real choice, because I’d rather remain pure.” It’s an ideological position, not a political one, because politics is about the art of getting things done. Politics requires act, not agent, morality. It’s what Max Weber described brilliantly in his essay, “Politics As A Vocation,” the “slow boring of hard boards” required to achieve important outcomes in an imperfect, uncertain, and challenging world.

    Not only is that search for purity offensive to the goals of politics, Bolton apparently thinks that there isn’t anything like collective responsibility:

    “It’s not my obligation to help the Democrats out of their own problem. My judgment was that I was prepared to testify. But I think now this is actually a better time to tell the story because now the American people can look at it in the context of the most important political decision we make as a nation every four years,” he said.

    Obviously, the impeachment and trial was the forum for everyone’s problem.

    Of course, I’m giving a self-serving blowhard credit for having a well thought-out political philosophy, instead of just mouthing a series of deflections for his irresponsibility.

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  26. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I think at least some of those people would say that Biden, and whoever ends up bring his v.p., represents an even greater evil than Trump.

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  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Yes, and the Nazis claimed the Communists were worse. And the entire civilized world at that time still got behind bombing the shit out of Nazis.

    It is not possible to make a rational argument that Biden is a worse man with worse policies than Trump, not without having first achieved a high level of moral depravity. Trump supporters are bad people. Full stop. I don’t care if they’re stupid bad people, or gullible bad people, they serve an evil cause.

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  28. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I have no friends who are Trump supporters; I do have a few relatives (by marriage) who are Trumpkins, which just goes to prove the truth of the old saying about how it’s possible to choose one’s friends, but not one’s relatives.

    I try to understand the Trump-lovers. As far as I can tell, what they see is not what I see: an oaf, a boor, a boob, a sexual predator, a malevolent, self-serving know-nothing buffoon with a dangerously skewed psyche who thinks he can run the United States the way he ran–so to speak–his ramshackle business “empire.” They see a strong, brilliant, plain-spoken man who loves them and loves this country, and has done nothing but good for it.

    Are they better or worse than those who’ll vote for Trump because they believe that, dreadful as he is, he’s less bad than Biden?

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  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    They see a strong, brilliant, plain-spoken man who loves them and loves this country, and has done nothing but good for it.

    Um…I know I’m preaching to the choir…but there is absolutely nothing, in that vision of the man, supported by the facts on record.

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  30. Kingdaddy says:

    @CSK: Vastly worse. There’s a difference between (1) making a choice you wish you didn’t have to make, in full knowledge of an individual’s flaws, and (2) seeing a person who isn’t really there, a moral and intellectual titan instead of “an oaf, a boor, a boob, a sexual predator, a malevolent, self-serving know-nothing buffoon.”

    I’m just repeating what I was saying earlier in this thread: in politics, you have to make an informed choice among imperfect options, with an honest assessment of the likely consequences of each one.

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  31. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    I know there isn’t. But if you go over tp a site such as Lucianne.com, that’s all you see: constant tributes to Trump’s staggeringly powerful intellect, his superb ethical sense, his deep devotion to faith and family, his unparalleled knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs, his abiding love for faith, family, and country…All I can do is shake my head in disbelief. This is what they see. This is what they think.

    @Kingdaddy:
    Yet that is what they claim to see: a moral and intellectual titan.

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  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Keeps coming back to “can’t fix stupid.” In this case, one can add “can’t fix delusional” if one wishes. Either way, or both, I’m not sure that better/worse is a workable qualifier/quantifier. This may well be a “light/darkness” comparison. (And no, I don’t like that condition either.)

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  33. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I really do wonder what Cult45 is seeing. At Tulsa, even those of us who only watched the clips saw a grossly obese, lumbering, senile old man with cotton-candy bleached hair and bronze make-up obsessed with demonstrating that he could walk and hold a glass with one hand. Cult45 saw a masterful performance by a brilliant man at the top of his game, wise, good-humored, witty, eloquent.

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  34. Mikey says:

    @CSK: Your answers lie within.

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  35. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:

    They see a strong, brilliant, plain-spoken man who loves them and loves this country, and has done nothing but good for it.

    Children taken from their mothers, put in cages as a deliberate intimidation tactic, and then lost. Anyone who can swallow that has no moral compass. Ditto anyone who obsessed over Benghazi then looked the other way at Trump’s continuous attacks on our own counter intelligence and obstruction of justice.

    And anyone who thinks Trump loves anything is either an idiot, or deliberately lying to themselves. I have some pity for the complete idiots, none for those who willingly surrendered their judgment to a cult of personality.

    When we look back at say, Nazi collaborators, do we give them a pass for thinking Hitler loved them?

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  36. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Surrendered their judgment? I can’t believe they ever had any judgment. Remember that most of the Trump-slobberers once felt the same way about Sarah Palin, the Saint Joan of Wasilla.

    Interesting that they don’t remember that she dumped them when they were no longer useful to her, as will Trump.

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  37. grumpy realist says:

    @Kingdaddy: This reminds me of people trying to decipher SCOTUS decisions and getting obsessed about some Platonic Constitution. Everything’s horse-trading, guys. The original Founding Fathers were horse-trading to get everyone to sign off on the original Constitution, and if you read SCOTUS decisions it’s pretty obvious that the individual Justices make decisions according to their gut and then look for the justification afterwards.

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  38. Gustopher says:

    Can you have moral cowardice without first having morals?

    Asking for a nation…

    Seriously, though, I’m not going to judge what is in Bolton’s heart. His actions have always put himself first, and this is just one more example. Whether he has no morals or is an objectivist who extols Rational Self-Interest, or whether he believes in putting his country first and fails at it… I don’t care.

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  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: I’m not going to judge what is in Bolton’s heart.

    I will gladly do it. Actions speak louder than any utterance he may ever make and his actions say he is slime. I don’t care why.

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  40. An Interested Party says:

    …and if you read SCOTUS decisions it’s pretty obvious that the individual Justices make decisions according to their gut and then look for the justification afterwards.

    In other words, Supreme Court Justices do what Thurgood Marshall honestly admitted, “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people who disagree with that as a judicial philosophy, but it would be nice if more people admitted that this is basically what all Supreme Court Justices do…

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  41. steve says:

    I think he was correct that his testifying would not have changed GOP Senate votes. They weren’t going to risk losing a primary. Writing a book and releasing it closer to the election was probably more effective in trying to hurt Trump. Given the attention span of voters, even this was probably too early. Maybe if it causes a series of investigations and then a surprise release of new info a week or two before the election it might help.

    Steve

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  42. Peacewood says:

    It’s probably for the best.

    If I were Joe Biden, I wouldn’t want Bolton’s endorsement.

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  43. DrDaveT says:

    On the Steven Colbert show tonight, John Bolton has repeatedly affirmed that only Democrats have agency. Republicans didn’t vote to impeach because Democrats didn’t woo them correctly. It’s all the Democrats’ fault. The facts in the case are irrelevant. Guilt is irrelevant.

    As much contempt as I have for Trump, it’s hard to see how Bolton isn’t actually worse. The Boltons of the world created Trump.

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