Donald Trump is declaring that he has fired John Bolton as national security adviser. Bolton is saying he offered to resign. It’s par for the course for the Trump administration where no one really gets to leave on their own terms. How long before Bolton writes his own tell-all? Or did he sign an NDA?
Trump, who views staffing his administration as a kind of casting call, was never comfortable with Bolton’s ‘I am the Walrus’ mustache but after tiring of H.R. McMaster, he tapped him for the job of national security adviser. Now, Trump is declaring that he ‘strongly disagreed with many of his suggestions.’ This is probably the precursor to a future tweet declaring how Bolton was a loser and bum whom Trump never wanted on the premises in the first place but begged for a post.
For Trump firing Bolton adds to the sense of chaos that surrounds his White House, but it also helps to try and distract from his woes at home and abroad. His talks with North Korea have gone nowhere. The maximum pressure campaign against Iran is a bust. Add in the collapse of the Afghanistan peace talks and you have a recipe for disaster. A new Washington Post poll indicates that Trump’s numbers have plunged from a high-water mark of 44 percent approval in June to 38 percent. A majority of Americans believe we are headed into a recession and doubts about his trade war with China are mounting. It’s hard to see how it will get any better for Trump.
There can be no doubting that the ouster or resignation of Bolton strengthens his rival secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s hand. It may well presage a further bloodletting in the administration. Bolton has assiduously stocked the NSC staff with hardliners who share his views on Russia and Iran. They may well be purged. NBC White House correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted, ‘Palpable tension between WH & NSC staffs right now. A pro-Bolton NSC official came to speak with reporters inside the West Wing when Press Secy Stephanie Grisham walked by, gave a look & said: “Oh look, right outside my office” as she walked past.’
One possible replacement for Bolton is Ret. Col. Doug Macgregor, a staunch realist who is firmly opposed to American intervention abroad and frequently appears on Fox News. If Trump were to tap Macgregor, it would represent a wholesale reversion to his original America First approach in foreign policy. Macgregor is a bluff fellow who has zero interest in conflict with Iran and views the Nato alliance with skepticism. Indeed, he has referred to Nato as a ‘zombie’ that should ‘expire.’ He also appears to share Trump’s conciliatory view of Russia. According to Macgregor, ‘President Putin tightened his grip on Russia’s 140 million citizens with laws and governance that offended Western sensibilities, but Putin’s policies arguably helped Russia to withstand the impact of damaging sanctions after its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula — a region that was under Russian control longer than Texas has been in the Union. Despite an economy that lags behind the Republic of Korea, a nation of 49 million, President Putin restored Russia’s military power and its national self-image to a formidable position.’
Who knows? The blatherskites that make up much of the Washington establishment may soon start to pine for the much-derided Bolton if a realist like Macgregor takes the helm. One thing is clear: in the Trump White House, the only constant is turbulence.