Good title for recounting what Bolton is up to…EPIC SCORE SETTLING. Kelly comes out unscathed…
John Bolton’s Epic Score-Settling | The New Yorker
John Bolton was not looking to make friends in the Trump White House when he served as the national-security adviser, nor did he do so. Bolton’s disdain for his colleagues in the Administration announces itself early and often in his new memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” which is due out Tuesday, pending the outcome of a legal battle with Trump’s Justice Department. Bolton mocks, disparages, or clashes with Steven Mnuchin, Nikki Haley, Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, Mike Pompeo, and others, all within the book’s first hundred pages. By the end of the nearly five-hundred-page book, Bolton also criticizes Mick Mulvaney, Jared Kushner, the entire White House economic team, many of his foreign counterparts, and, although he shares their misgivings about Trump, the House Democrats who impeached the President.
This is Washington score-settling on an epic scale. Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, “had no idea what he was talking about.” Haley, who served as the Ambassador to the United Nations, is a self-promoting pol who sucked up to Trump’s family. Mattis, the former Defense Secretary, is a bureaucratic obstructionist who deluded himself into thinking that an “axis of adults” could manage the unmanageable President. Pompeo, the Secretary of State, who would emerge as the great internal enemy during Bolton’s seventeen-month tenure, is an untruthful hypocrite who flatters Trump to his face while dumping on him privately. “He is so full of shit,” Pompeo writes of the President in a note to Bolton while they are in a conference room in Singapore, listening to Trump exchange frothy compliments and unrealistic denuclearization plans with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un. After that summit, Pompeo told a Principals Committee meeting in the White House that Trump’s nuclear diplomacy with North Korea had “zero probability of success.” Later, after a G-20 meeting, Pompeo told Bolton that Trump was always causing problems: “You can’t leave him alone for a minute.”
One of the few other senior advisers to Trump with whom Bolton did not openly clash was John Kelly, perhaps because they both shared an outsized disdain for the President. Kelly, the retired Marine general who served as the second of Trump’s four-and-counting White House chiefs of staff, sat Bolton down to brief him a couple of days before Bolton’s first day on the job, in the spring of 2018. Trump swears and speaks to his staff in “rough language,” Kelly cautioned Bolton. Trump routinely attacks the two previous Republican Presidents, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, and despises those who served in their Administrations, as Bolton did. Trump changes his mind “constantly,” Kelly said. Bolton was nothing if not forewarned. Two years and two months after that conversation, Bolton has come forward to say in public what Kelly told him privately that day—and much more. The ultimate score-settling in the book is not with Pompeo or Mnuchin. It is with Donald Trump, a man so corrupt and profoundly unsuited for the Presidency that his own national-security adviser, a lifelong Republican with unimpeachable partisan credentials, came to believe he adopted “obstruction of justice as a way of life.”
Of course, many will—and already have—objected to the book on the grounds that Bolton is a greedy and opportunistic hypocrite, who took a reported two million dollars from Simon & Schuster for writing the memoir but did not testify before Congress about allegations contained within it during the House impeachment hearings and Senate trial of Trump. Bolton should have been a key witness, given that the proceedings concerned Trump’s scheme to pressure Ukraine to launch politically motivated investigations of the Biden family. Bolton’s staff testified that he called Trump’s scheme an inappropriate “drug deal,” and Bolton confirms in the book that he heard from the President himself about his quid-pro-quo withholding of U.S. military aid to Ukraine. With such explosive information, Bolton’s failure to speak out remains largely unexplained, or at least not convincingly explained, in the memoir. The book does, however, amply confirm Bolton’s reputation as a fierce infighter with an inflated view of himself and a willingness to blame others for just about everything. He is clearly a flawed narrator and colleague—let’s stipulate that. As for the book itself, the reviewer at the Times has already weighed in on its merits as a piece of writing. Twitter, meanwhile, seems to be taking care of Bolton’s merits as a human being. The many failings of Bolton are the one thing that Adam Schiff and Trump agree on. Schiff, who led the impeachment inquiry that Bolton refused to help, called him an author but “no patriot.” Trump, in a series of post-midnight tweets early on Thursday, called him “a disgruntled boring fool,” a “wacko,” “incompetent” “dope” who “never had a clue, was ostracized & happily dumped.”