You could call John Bolton many things — but don't call him a truth-teller, and definitely don't call him a patriot

Bolton could have spoken out far sooner than this — and there's a reason why he chose not to

John T. Bennett
Washington DC
Thursday 18 June 2020 20:09 BST
Bolton was a surprise addition to Trump's inner circle and a controversial departure
Bolton was a surprise addition to Trump's inner circle and a controversial departure (Getty)

Congratulations to John Bolton. Sir, you’ve really done it!

No, not your book. (We’ll get to that in a moment.)

Somehow, Mr Ambassador, you have managed to bring together Nancy Pelosi and Peter Navarro. What a moment. Bipartisanship in Washington is off the ventilator. (Oh, right. That’s still a touchy subject, huh?)

The Democratic speaker who hails from San Francisco and the tough-talking conservative trade adviser to Donald Trump have found some common ground. Not over a trade pact with the European Union or that second one with China that would actually address the real drivers of the Asian power’s strong-arm tactics towards the United States. No, the duo are aligned on something much more salacious.

How about we let them explain, in their own words, spoken around the same time on Thursday?

“So for somebody who's trying to keep the con going with the right wing of the Republican Party by criticizing us for not subpoenaing him when he said he wouldn't come in, he'd only go to the Senate, where he knew the Senate would not subpoena him,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning on Capitol Hill. “So this is, you know, this is called a con.”

“And it's really a sad thing because he knew that the president should be removed from office, that's clear,” she added. “And he does want to keep his ties to the right wing, so he does that by criticizing us. I place no value on that.”

All right then. Navarro, the speaker yields, but reserves the right to speak again. What say you, sir?

“My take on him is ‘Big Lie Bolton,’ it’s ‘Book Deal Bolton,’” the White House adviser told other reporters outside the West Wing. “He is doing it for the money, that is pretty clear, and my view is it is the Washington swamp’s equivalent of revenge porn. He got fired because he did not obey the chain of command, because his views were totally out of sync with President Donald J Trump with respect to how to handle international affairs.”

That Navarro. Always brings the heat. What’s that, Madame Speaker? Would you care to tell us what this is all about?

“It didn't seem to matter to John Bolton. He chose loyalty … over patriotism,” she said. “And so, he's going to make money off of his book, I guess.”

Oh, yes. He is, ma’am. Probably a lot of it.

Bolton was Trump’s third national security adviser – though an isolationist commander-in-chief hiring one of the world’s foremost believers in the use of military force remains baffling. The former American ambassador to the UN has rocked Washington and the world with a book that is reportedly full of allegations that describe an ill-informed and ill-equipped president of the United States.

All hail Bolton, who had the fortitude to tell truths about a president that has caused other senior national security officials to mostly remain quiet even after leaving Trump’s employ. Right?

Not so fast.

Writing a book of this sort and profiting from it is Bolton’s right. This is America, after all. Land of the free. Home of the paid.

Bolton spent most of his adult life in public service. That means he opted against heading to the private sector, becoming what’s called a “Beltway Bandit” here in DC, and making a boatload of money. There’s something to be said for that sacrifice. Should we carefully consider what disturbing things he tells us in his book? We should.

But at 71 years old, Bolton might have served his last day as an US government employee. So this book, the title of which I’m choosing to exclude here, likely is his last best shot at a big payday.

Make no mistake, Pelosi is spot-on. By his own accounts, Bolton concluded while he was still working inside the West Wing that he felt this president was unfit for the office. He decided long ago that Donald John Trump, in his view and based on his experience working for and observing other commanders-in-chief, was a potential danger to the country he led.

The former national security adviser could have quit as soon as he made those judgements, sounding an alarm on every cable news show and congressional hearing room that would have him. He could have cooperated with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, sharing the additional offers of quids-pro-quo and other potentially criminal acts he alleges Trump carried out.

Instead, he chose the big payday. Perhaps Bolton’s tales will hurt the president where he appears likely to feel it the most, by further damaging his chances at winning a second term. Time will tell, but Trump’s daily drama likely will make Bolton’s tome largely forgotten by Labor Day. Okay, let’s be honest, probably July 4th. Or Friday.

You can call John Bolton many things. But don’t call him a truth-teller. And don’t call him a patriot. Definitely call him an American, a man who lives by the values of our great country, where cash is king and duty is nothing but another four-letter word.

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