John Bolton should never have joined an administration in which the president was overtly corrupt, sympathetic to dictators, weirdly beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a pathological liar. Like so many others, Bolton will go down as someone driven by unquenchable thirst for relevance and power with the hubris to think he could bend President Trump to his will. Instead, Bolton became an enabler for a president who allowed himself to be snowed by North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and revealed he never had a game plan for Iran (and would not use force or the credible threat of force).
Rather than quit on principle at dozens of junctures, Bolton clung to his job, only to be rudely fired. The Post reports:
President Trump announced Tuesday that he had fired his national security adviser, John Bolton, saying in tweets that he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.”
“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump said on Twitter.“I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service.”
Bolton, to put it mildly, never played well with others and therefore was uniquely unqualified for the job of national security adviser, who is supposed to be the honest broker in government. It would be an understatement to say both anti-Trump conservatives and Democrats are positively giddy seeing the blusterous, aggressive adviser end his career in semi-disgrace. Quite apart from the double scoop of schadenfreude, many in the foreign policy community are genuinely relieved. “I’m just thankful we got through Bolton’s tenure without him starting a war,” said Max Bergmann of the Center for American Progress and a former State Department official. “He no doubt tried, but was boxed in by the administration’s own incompetence and his inability to convince others to go along.”
Others, however, are more worried now. Former ambassador to Turkey, Eric S. Edelman, told me, “For his flaws, I think John was one of the few forces really holding Trump back from doing some crazy things. This is is just one more indication that we are now facing Trump unplugged. He is really thrashing around. It is very worrisome.”
Veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller notes, “You can only play Dr. No so many times. Bolton was out of sync with Trump on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Venezuela." He added, “[Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo played the game of Trump whisperer better than Bolton.” Precisely because Bolton differed with Trump on all these topics, sycophantic Sens. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and other uber-hawks who thought they, too, could bend Trump toward their view should wise up. Trump is not a valiant defender of the West and protector of our allies. He’s a dangerous and corrupt patsy in the hands of strongmen.
Likewise, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who served in the Obama administration, said, “No glee [here]. I’ve obviously never been a Bolton fan, and I’m glad there are still international institutions he didn’t have time to pull us out of.” However, he said, Bolton “was fired for something he was right about — his opposition to capitulating to the Taliban — and because Trump doesn’t like being laughed at and needed to lash out at someone. I worry about who and what comes next.”
Senate Minority leader Charles Schumer put out a statement which read, “Today’s action by the president is just the latest example of his government-by-chaos approach and his rudderless national security policy. When Ambassador Bolton’s extreme views aren’t enough for you, the United States is headed for even more chaotic times.” Indeed, the picture of disarray and paralysis gets worse with each new departure.
This is also a dicey move for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sacrificed bipartisan friendship with the United States to gain favor in the eyes of Trump. Netanyahu kids himself if he thinks Trump would let Israel stand in the way of the historic deal he is itching to sign. Former Israeli ambassador Daniel Shapiro tells me, “Trump fired Bolton over disagreements they had. Chief among them was Bolton’s support for ever-escalating pressure on Iran versus Trump’s desire for talks on a new nuclear deal.” He adds, "Israel and the Gulf states have to wonder if this move presages not just a meeting between Trump and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, but a real move by Trump toward a modestly upgraded Iran nuclear deal. It sure looks like it.” In fact any deal is likely to be worse, given that the Iranians know Trump is the worst negotiator on the planet.
Other allies should be equally nervous since when unrestrained, even from questionable advice, Trump does things such as invite the Taliban to Camp David, side with Putin over our intelligence community, try to pullout abruptly from Syria, attack allies (even Denmark), involve us in a no-win trade war and make the United States a laughingstock on the international stage.
If Bolton wants to save his reputation, he can render one final service: Collect up all the former national security officials and tell the American people just how unfit is this president. It’s time for the sycophancy and careerism to end and the patriotism to start.