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The Bolton blindside

When I met him on the eve of the Iraq war, he struck me as perhaps the most straightforward of the bunch

January 27, 2020

11:47 AM

27 January 2020

11:47 AM

What’s wrong with trying to sell books? President Trump and his janissaries are trying to depict Bolton as a disgruntled former employee out to tar Trump. Yes, he is. But that doesn’t invalidate his account. It actually means that he resembles a host of former Trump associates who were tossed aside like so much useless ballast when no longer deemed useful. Many of them have interesting things to say about Trump, whether it’s Michael Cohen or Rex Tillerson. So does Bolton.

Anyway, Bolton’s motives are hardly as tangled as Trump’s, who is trying to hang on to his job in the face of a mountain of evidence that he was scheming to ease the path to reelection by leaning on Ukraine.

As it happens, I tend to have a good impression of Bolton’s character and veracity. On the eve of the Iraq war I visited many of the top officials in the George W. Bush administration, including Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell and Karl Rove, as part of the Los Angeles Times editorial board. Bolton, who was working in the State Department, struck me as perhaps the most straightforward of the bunch. He minced no words, explaining that he didn’t give a hoot about trying to democratize Iraq. He seemed to think the neocon mission was for the birds. Crush Saddam, then exit was his credo.

Back then Bolton aroused as much controversy as he does today. He’s a controversialist. What Trump probably missed is that in signing in Bolton he wasn’t hiring a lickspittle. He was bringing an idealist on board, someone who has a vision of an America unbound from international organizations. Bolton has dedicated his life to pursuing that vision. Getting mixed up in a nefarious foreign policy ‘drug deal’, however was not part of the package.

Now Bolton, it appears, has spilled the beans in his forthcoming memoir. He’s clearly intent on testifying as well. Trump is getting more than he bargained for. The question is: who leaked the manuscript? Was it one of Bolton’s emissaries? Or was it a rogue Trump staffer, of which there appears to be an endless supply?

The perpetrator of the leak must certainly be congratulated on the timing. Just as Trump was glossing over his impending acquittal and badmouthing Adam Schiff, he was blindsided by Bolton; though, in a sense, it should have come as no shock at all, at least for Trump. The White House has had the manuscript since December.

If Bolton’s work ends up forcing the GOP to entertain witnesses and prolonging the impeachment trial through the February 4 State of the Union speech, it will have to be counted as a win for the Democrats. Trump will see the and rage and fulminate. He wants his victory lap. But there’s no telling what might pop up next as Bolton throws a wrench into the Trump propaganda machine. Perhaps Lev Parnas is up to some more mischief as well.


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