Eric Lewis, The Independent
Trump didn’t want him as National Security Adviser in the first place because of the walrus-like soup strainer that adorns Bolton’s upper lip. Trump thinks facial hair catches germs. Instead, he went for the clean-shaven Mike Flynn, who caught backhanders from Turkey and Russia, for 24 days. Then he went for a general who was all spit and polish, but H R McMaster bored him with all those options.
Finally, he plucked Bolton from Fox News, where he never saw a global hotspot that could not be improved by American sorties.
Bolton was no babe in the woods. A shrewd Yale-trained lawyer, he had been bouncing around neoconservative Washington since the Reagan administration. He was a legendary in-fighter. It was not simply that he didn’t suffer fools gladly; he suffered no one gladly if they stood in the way to power. He was notoriously harsh on those below him. And National Security Advisor might have been the job he was least qualified to do, as it is the National Security Advisor’s job to assemble the various options and perspectives present throughout the national security bureaucracy and present those options as an “honest broker” for the President to make a decision.
Trump said he liked what he saw of Bolton, who was “a tough cookie.” Conservatives hailed the appointment as indicating a more interventionist foreign policy, while liberals feared that Bolton would be a “yes-man” who fanned the flames of Trump’s most aggressive instincts.
They were both wrong.
Bolton was who he always had been. Bolton really believed in the projection of American power. There can be little doubt that if he were still in the administration, he would have raised hell about the tragic sell-out of the Kurds. Trump liked to talk tough but has consistently quailed at responding to provocations. In other words, Bolton is a hawk, and Trump is a chicken hawk. “Speak loudly and carry a twig” is the Pompeo policy, as he knows what the game is; Bolton wouldn’t play that game.
So Trump fired him — and characteristically kicked him on the way out, calling him “Mr Tough Guy” who “made many big mistakes.”
Bolton claims he resigned and that he “would set the record straight” about the whole charade eventually. Now it is payback time. As National Security Advisor, he certainly would have been aware of Trump’s rogue operation with Giuliani to run a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine, which allegedly sought to leverage aid to the country in return for dirt on former Vice President Biden, whom he viewed as his strongest opponent. Trump was the crazy uncle preoccupied by conspiracy theories and projecting the nepotistic corruption at the core of his administration. To Trump, it seems, the problem of corruption in Ukraine boiled down to a single family — the Bidens — and the power of the presidency to conduct foreign policy would be used to lever the Ukrainians to concoct the goods.
Bolton has been around long enough to know you can’t do that, and certainly not publicly when dozens of people see such a strategy in action. Now the nuggets of toxic revenge are starting to emerge. He called Giuliani, in an admirably apt metaphor “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” Everybody but John Bolton. And he declared he would not “be part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney (the Acting Chief of Staff) are cooking up.” Who would have thought the lugubrious Bolton was capable of such vivid metaphor?
John Bolton may be guilty of serious errors of judgment and defects of character. But by entering the Trump administration, declining to be an apparatchik, and then refusing to ignore the mockery that accompanied his departure, he may be in a position to lay out from the inside the true ignorance, narcissism and psychopathy at the heart of the Trump presidency.
The end of John Bolton’s fractious tenure as national security adviser leaves one man at the helm of the Trump administration’s foreign policy as it manages crises
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