It was easy to take John Bolton’s “sudden” willingness to testify to the Senate as meaningless posturing. After all if he wanted to speak up and stick it to Trump when it mattered (for the country) he could have gone before the House when they asked him to. As far as I’m concerned there was considerable truth to the conventional wisdom that Bolton didn’t want to have to spill juicy stuff that would reduce the desire of people to buy his book. After all, why buy it if you’ve long known what was in it? One could argue that calculus hasn’t really changed since last fall. Then again, after writing a comment elsewhere earlier today some of my jumbled thoughts began to crystalize.
Let me first address the point about settling scores and not just with Trump. Like many I felt that even if Bolton might offer some stuff critical of Trump the odds were he’d pull his punches. He’s sure as hell no friend to Democrats, or even Republicans who are outside the “neo-con” mold of those who got us into the mess in Iraq. Like most neocon Bolton still fervently believes in remaking the world, especially the middle-east by military force and in an invasion of Iran, we’d have better success (than in Iraq) having learned some hard lessons. I won’t delve into why that’s a load of crap here because this is about something else. Besides, I doubt I really have to explain to anyone reading this why it’s a load of crap. What matters is that Bolton likely took the job as National Security Advisor to re-establish the neocon frame of mind to our foreign policy and worse, that Trump could be manipulated to invading Iran and overthrowing their government. By the time he left, he realized not only was that not going to happen, but that Trump was doing even more damage to our leadership position in the world than he had imagined in his wildest fears.
Think of it this way. It’s obvious to everyone but Trump and his “true believers” inside and outside the administration that our allies view this Presidency as a disaster. Hell, world leaders literally laughed in Trump’s face at the U.N. General Assembly a little over a year ago – I still savor the startled look on his face when he realized what was happening. Amidst the shitstorm of almost daily scandal a few news stories have only semi broken through that our NATO (and other) allies have been starting to plan for meeting their security and economic needs without the U.S. leading the way. Here’s another hard truth and especially to neocons. Bush 43’s “Coalition of the Willing” for the Iraq invasion was mostly made of token contributions from most countries. The one ally that provided real, substantial and (sort of) full-throated support, Tony Blair of the United Kingdom saw his political fortunes ruined. The fact is, to neocon’s dismay the “coalition” was nothing like what Bush 41 assembled for the first Gulf War to throw Iraq out of Kuwait. But the second Gulf War was started and it’s still going on, and has strained our Armed Forces past the breaking point but also our ability to marshal support from our allies for many a military intervention anywhere else. It’s impossible for someone my age or older to accept that the post WWII world the U.S. led has in three short years been damaged to the point where our leadership has not only been questioned, but in which our staunchest allies have decided they can no longer count on the U.S. to lead the free world. They sure as hell won’t follow us into something as major as a regime change war in Iran. It took an incredible amount of work but the Obama administration got everyone including Iran on the same page to curtail their plans to develop their own nuclear weapons but after Bush 43 having a U.S. President wanting to use diplomatic and economic pressure instead of military force brought back a substantial portion of our statue – which Trump (as he said he would) went and pissed away. Of course our allies’ faith that we can be trusted in the long-term has been broken!
And that they have quietly been at work fashioning a new structure in which we are a mere participant and one that can’t be counted on – or at least for more than four years at a time.
I fear more has been going on behind the scenes to replace us as the head of NATO or at least greatly reduce our level of influence than we realize. The same is true on economic leadership, which is in and of itself a national security issue in some ways. Militarily, economically and diplomatically our allies (and our enemies too) are eying what’s taken place and realizing Bush 43 wasn’t just a bout of temporary insanity from American voters but a real possibility every four years. In fact, Trump has been so bad that Bush 43 no longer looks as bad as he actually was.
What I’m driving at is that as he settled in at the NSC and began the kind of consultations with allies the job requires Bolton came to learn things are not only worse than he thought, but that enough irreparable damage has been done that none of our allies would support us in a regime-changing invasion of Iran. Or on many other key matters as well. It that’s true, then it’s hard to put into words how pissed someone like John Bolton would be. His anger wouldn’t only be at Trump, but others in the administration who have enabled Trump’s dismantling of our stature/leadership in the world. Is that something that would cause a person like John Bolton to want to get some retribution? I sure as hell think so.
My point is that fear Bolton was doing a tease and when push came to shove wouldn’t dare throw Trump under the bus was unfounded. Bolton wants to take Trump down and his anger when he was fired didn’t cool off in the months afterwards. If he gets put under oath he won’t fudge or dissemble – he will spill every ugly detail he knows in the hopes of taking Trump (and others) down.
I want to make another point I’ve suggested in comments on a few things I’ve read elsewhere. Much is being made of Bolton having submitted a draft of the book to the WH for security review. Bolton has indicated he didn’t include any classified information in it. At least on national security grounds. Politically sensitive ground is another issue entirely and Bolton appears out of fucks to give when it comes to exposing politically embarrassing stuff about Trump or others in this administration. Anyway, the thinking in many pieces I’ve read is that Bolton wasn’t really out to get Trump because in submitting the draft of the book he gave them a proverbial “heads up.” Actually long established practice is that someone who has left government and has written a book about their experiences submits a manuscript to the agency they worked at for review. If there might be national security concerns the review will go wider, to the CIA or FBI or other agencies and if the person actually worked in a job that regularly dealt with classified matters/national security any book literally has to be reviewed on national security grounds. If, as Bolton has indicated no classified information was included and that it was specifically written in a manner to ensure national security wouldn’t be compromised a review is still a required step. I can’t see how anyone could imagine a former National Security Advisor wouldn’t submit a manuscript for review. Again, since the NSC is headquartered at the WH that’s the “agency” where a manuscript would be submitted (at least at first) for review.
IOW Bolton didn’t do anything sneaky or nefarious – he followed longstanding protocol.
I’m also pretty sure that since (as we now know) he’s wanting the book to be out on the shelves in mid-March he was hoping for a quick review/turnaround so that any disputes about potential classified material could be resolved quickly. Even getting that stuff worked out by mid-January would make for a tight schedule for printing and release & the promotion of the book. Apparently Bolton hadn’t heard jack from the WH. THAT I think could explain why as the trial was about to get underway he suddenly announced a willingness to testify – to put pressure on the WH to either accept the manuscript or alternately challenge portions of it. In the latter case he and his publisher could put their lawyers to work laying the legal groundwork to publish/release on schedule because the govt. really doesn’t have a case to prevent it – or so say the legal experts I’ve heard on TV. Ok – so on Fox they are probably saying something else but I’m talking about news outlets that report real stuff!
However, Bolton has another problem. As I’ve said here and elsewhere I don’t think Bolton needs the money from his book. He’s 72 and very, very well off already. I suspect the profits would go into conservative political PACs/causes he supports. But I truly do believe his sudden desire to testify under oath has a financial component.
There has been criticism ever since Bolton dodged testifying to the House that he was holding back to boost book sales – a make people wait for the “good stuff” so they’d buy the thing. I believe that was true then, and it is true now. Even more so in fact. One thing that conservatives writing books have been able to count on is other conservatives buying those books. In fact, they will do some insanely pathetic things such as the RNC (I think it was them) doing a bulk buy of Don Jr.’s recent book to pump up the sales numbers. However, a conservative being not only critical of Trump but harshly so isn’t going to have conservatives, especially the rank & file everyday Trump voters out there buying the book. That means Bolton needs Independents, and Democrats who want to have a tome of Trump bashing from a highly placed & widely known conservative on the bookshelf to buy the thing.
When you consider it in that context, the way the impeachment trial has unfolded (pretty much as it became clear McConnell had planned to run it) charges that Bolton withheld information critical to our country regarding this President would not just grow in credibility but ruin his ability to market the book to the very people he’d be counting on to buy it. I could be wrong, but I think Bolton (maybe his publisher convinced him) came to the conclusion he had no choice but to tell part of his story to the Senate before McConnell forces the acquittal vote we all know is coming. At least the part that relates to the Articles of Impeachment. I wouldn’t be surprised if, as I assume is likely the day when they will debate the issue of witnesses it looks like the GOP is still too cowed by Trump another article drops that’s even more explosive than yesterday’s. I believe Bolton is actually desperate at this point to tell at least this part of his story to the Senate before this “trial” is over. He NEEDS to tell it in fact.
If Bolton doesn’t get his testimony taken by the Senate and accepted into the proceedings I think he’s screwed. Well maybe not screwed but his book will instead of dropping on Trump (and others) like a giant boulder the way he wants it will instead drop like a pillow. A pillow that will relatively easily swatted away.
Bolton wants both retribution via settling scores with Trump and others, but also money (lots of it) as he does so. A “twofer” so to speak. The chances of that happening are significantly, if not vastly reduced if the Senate doesn’t take and admit his testimony.
One final thought that I’ve already mentioned elsewhere. I think Bolton wants to take down Trump and others to blow up the (now) Trump GOP so it can be rebuilt. He doesn’t need money as I’ve said. What he does need and in fact craves is vindication but he wants even more than that. I’ve noted he’s 72 years old. Like me I’m pretty sure those reading this don’t like thinking of him in such terms but in conservative circles he’s something of an icon. As I’ve heard even some reformed Republicans put it on TV today he’s a “Conservative’s conservative.” He’s not going to hold elected office, or even a high ranking government position again. He topped out with his stint as Trump’s National Security Advisor. What he can do however is play a key, if not leading role in rebuilding an imploded GOP from the rubble after it collapses under the weight of Trumpism. Bolton likely figures the sooner that collapse takes place the better so he chose to write a book to help speed up that eventuality.
If Bolton’s book doesn’t sell amidst (accurate) charges that he withheld crucial information from House investigators last fall in order to boost sales, the whole thing will have been for naught. Bolton needs to tell this part of the story and he needs to tell it now. Every dirty detail, and in a manner which adds credibility & under oath as part of a Senate impeachment trial is the best forum he can hope for to boost visibility of not only Ukraine, but when the book is released other stuff he’s sure to have witnessed.
Bolton needs to testify for his own reasons. They might not be as pure and honorable as the reasons WE need him to testify but the effect will be the same. It won’t get Trump convicted by the Senate, but it will ensure he and countless other Republicans will do down to defeat in November. At that point it will be on us to commit to the long-term work of ensuring Bolton doesn’t get to fulfill his dream of remaking the GOP into a viable force and in his own image.