I am certainly glad that John Bolton is finally spilling the beans about just how dangerously unfit for office Donald Trump is but let’s not forget that if Bolton had his way, we’d probably be at war with Iran, North Korea and probably Venezuela already.
Bolton has said the United States should declare war on both North Korea and Iran. He was credibly accused of manipulating US intelligence on weapons of mass destruction prior to the Iraq war and of abusive treatment of his subordinates. He once “joked” about knocking 10 stories off the UN building in New York. That means his new appointment to be the most important national security official in the White House has significant — and frightening — implications for Trump’s approach to the world.
Bolton was a Fox News contributor for many years before his ill-fated time with Trump. When Bolton left Fox for the White House, I wrote, “there may not be any war that Bolton doesn’t love – except the one he could have fought in.”
And I certainly don’t buy Bolton’s disdain for the Democratic impeachment process as an excuse for not testifying to the House, which he discussed more fully with Fox’s Martha MacCallum yesterday.
That said, Bolton painted a devastating portrait of Trump during his interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on Sunday. With all the negative things I could say about Bolton, “liar” is not one of them.
Not surprisingly, Baier and MacCallum sidestepped much of Trump’s utter unfitness in their interviews with Bolton. But there were two revealing moments with Baier that jumped out at me. One, was Bolton’s nauseating delight at Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement (in the third video below):
BOLTON: It's true that the Trump administration policy on Iran is very different from Barack Obama's. But for the first 14 months of the Trump administration it wasn't that different. He said he wanted to get out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, but when I joined in April of 2018, we were still in the Iran nuclear deal. Now, we got out one month later. I probably should have left the administration then. That was my happiest moment probably of the whole time.
Maybe Bolton was thrilled at the prospect of growing closer to war with Iran but the fact is that relations with Iran got worse after Trump withdrew.
Not that Baier mentioned that unflattering-to-Trump point. He did ask whether Trump’s decision not to attack Iran in January was what prompted Bolton to resign. Surprisingly, Bolton said (in the second video below) that it was not that but Trump’s idea to invite the Taliban to Camp David to sign a peace treaty that was the final straw.
BAIER: And was that point, the failure to launch an attack against Iran after the drone strike?
What the final straw was, although it was really the accumulation of events, was the president's idea of inviting the Taliban to Camp David to sign the so-called Afghan Peace Agreement, which I thought was a bad agreement. I thought the president was pursuing the wrong policy, and I thought that the decision to bring them to Camp David was just -- I just couldn't respond to it.
You can watch the complete interview below, from the June 23, 2020 Special Report.
In a dazzling display of non-sequitur, Bolton’s argument for not testifying to Congress came down to this: because of the level of partisanship in Congress, he couldn’t see his way to put country above party.
Bolton blamed his own lack of patriotism on the Democrats having failed to get the Republicans on board with the impeachment of Trump. Not only did Bolton not give the slightest clue as to how the Democrats might have done that, Bolton later implied that he himself couldn’t have convinced Republican Senators of what Bolton knew to be true, namely, that Trump’s Ukraine offenses rose to the level of impeachability.
Martha McCallum approached but then avoided the opportunity to point out that if Bolton had talked early to Congress, the range of Trump’s offenses could have been significantly widened.
In the interview, the only coherent explanation as to why Bolton did not testify during the impeachment trial came down to Bolton’s hyperpartisan hissy fit. “Nancy Pelosi is not my drummer”, he said, as though she were just some bossy schmuck off the street and not the Speaker of the House acting in her constitutional role. Bolton said what he would have testified to “would have been swept aside in the gale of partisan politics”, as though the Democrats would have had something to do with that sweeping aside and as though Bolton weren’t himself highly partisan.
While Bolton’s abandonment of patriotic colleagues like Vindman, Yovanovitch, and Hill was not even mentioned in the interview, Bolton was careful not to burn any bridges with his precious Republican Senators. According to Bolton, they “did not shirk their duty”, they just acted on an incorrect but supposedly cogent legal theory which little ol’ John Bolton wasn’t up to disputing at the time. The cause of accountability was already lost, so why piss off his Republican friends? It was reminiscent of the way, years before, Bolton had put his own safety above service in the Vietnam War he had supported but then, when the time came, recognized was being lost.
As one, final non-sequitur, Bolton said “If I were trying to make money off this entire enterprise I wouldn’t have joined the government to begin with”. So if he wasn’t planning to write the book since before he was hired, he is forever exempt from the charge of taking selfish advantage!? He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write the book if he hadn’t joined the government, and given that he was disgruntled well before he left the administration, it is highly plausible that he was, as a public employee, consciously taking notes for a book that, yes, he would try to make money off of. If he had testified before Congress he still could have made money on the book and kept his honor intact. Instead, he decided to monetize his honor.