Welcome to the “Never Trump” camp, John Bolton.
It took you a long time to get there. In 2016, you gave this vapid celebrity TV host credibility on the right by praising him for having a “serious” foreign policy vision. You did not join the “War on the Rocks” letter signed by 122 Republican national security professionals, including me, warning that Donald Trump would “make America less safe, and ... diminish our standing in the world.” You chose to ignore those warnings. Was it perhaps because you wanted to preserve your lucrative career as a right-wing lecturer and talking head — and your ambitions for higher office?
But better late than never. Reading the excerpt from your new book in the Wall Street Journal, along with summaries of it in The Post and the New York Times, makes clear that you are confirming in every particular — and then some — the indictment of Trump by his critics. The president is every bit as ignorant, incompetent, capricious and heedless of the public interest as many of us have been saying while you stayed silent or supported him.
You write: “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” and you provide ample documentation for that grave charge. Indeed, you quote Trump asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to help his reelection campaign.
You then demonstrate Trump’s contempt for human rights when you quote him urging Xi to build concentration camps for China’s Uighurs — “which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.” His hostility for human rights abroad was matched by his hostility for human rights at home: You quote him saying that reporters were “scumbags” who should be jailed or even executed for failing to reveal their sources. This makes clear that the private Trump is every bit as odious as the public one.
Your view of the 2018 Helsinki summit, where Trump was utterly supine before Vladimir Putin, is just as damning as that of the Never Trumpers. “This was hardly the way to do relations with Russia, and Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki,” you write.
While obsequious to our enemies, you note, Trump is hostile to our friends. You reveal that during a NATO summit in July 2018, Trump said he had decided to withdraw from NATO if the allies did not commit to massively increase their defense spending within six months. According to your book, he dictated a message to you: “We will walk out, and not defend those who have not [paid].”
He did not carry out that threat because — mercifully — he has the attention span of a hyperactive 6-year-old. For instance, you note, that Trump, at the urging of Florida Republicans, agreed in January 2019 to support opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the rightful president of Venezuela. Yet within 30 hours Trump was already second-guessing himself and talking about changing course. Not surprisingly, Nicolás Maduro remains entrenched as Venezuela’s dictator.
You confirm that Trump’s ignorance is as vast as his ego, writing that he did not realize that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power and that he wondered if Finland was part of Russia. You also suggest that Trump is simply unhinged: You quote him saying it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela and that that nation is “really part of the United States.”
In sum, your book presents an ironclad case that Trump is utterly unfit for the office you thought he should win in 2016. As you write: “He second-guessed people’s motives, saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government.”
But here’s the thing you may not realize. The stronger you build the case against Trump — and you have constructed a titanium-strength case — the more you indict yourself for not speaking out sooner. You could have helped stop Trump in 2016 — when all of his deficiencies were evident — by endorsing his opponent. More recently, you could have aided the impeachment managers by testifying under oath. But you refused to do that. Instead you waited for a subpoena that never came and saved your revelations for a book that is now a bestseller.
And yet you have the gall to write: “Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different.” There is no one who could have done more to aid a wider impeachment inquiry than you — but you failed us when the nation needed you most. You are, as Rep. Adam Schiff, D.-Calif., says, an author but not a patriot.
I hope you will at least now have the decency to campaign against Trump as he seeks a second term to continue the calamitous foreign policy you now decry. Because the way things stand right now, neither the pro-Trumpers nor the Never Trumpers want anything to do with you.