Peter Baker at the New York Times has a copy of John Bolton’s book about his time in the Trump administration. Baker shares some of the goodies with us.
There is the usual evidence that Trump is a fool:
Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain is a nuclear power and asked if Finland is part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. He came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. Even top advisers who position themselves as unswervingly loyal mock him behind his back. During Mr. Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s leader, according to the book, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging the president, saying, “He is so full of shit.”
Also, Bolton is the smartest person in the room. This is standard Bolton.
The book confirms House testimony that Mr. Bolton was wary all along of the president’s actions with regard to Ukraine and that Mr. Trump explicitly linked the security aid to investigations involving Mr. Biden and Hillary Clinton. On Aug. 20, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.” Mr. Bolton writes that he, Mr. Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to get Mr. Trump to release the aid.
On the one hand, Bolton seems like an unreliable narrator. He came to the post of National Security Advisor from a checkered career that usually involved pissing people off, liberals more than conservatives. On the other, he is very bright (a friend who briefed him confirms this) and, in his way, devoted to what he believes is the truth. Along with his penchant for warmongering, that includes a fair bit of political acumen.
He refused to testify in the impeachment hearings, and the Republicans covered for him in the trial. The only reason for that seems to be so that he could save the goodies for his book.
Good advice on how to read the book, and the many excerpts you will see from it over the coming week:
So how should one approach Bolton’s book?
The best answer is to treat the book—and its author—bloodlessly, as a source of information that needs to be evaluated with due consideration for the source but without an instinct to either valorize or condemn. Bolton has a story to tell. It is very likely a story worth hearing. To absorb it implies no heroism or redemption for the man. It is not an embrace. It is possible to hear his story while maintaining one’s disdain for his behavior. The relationship is transactional.
Update: Josh Dawsey at the Washington Post has a copy too!