I have a few of my own takes on the book and offer them for what they’re worth.
- John Bolton has a huge ego. He is convinced he and he alone knows what is best for our country’s foreign policy and any not agreeing are weak and deserving of scorn. At one time or another almost everyone else falls short. But he never does.
- He was Trump’s National Security Advisor. Until he wasn’t. He claims he quit. Trump says he was fired. Sound familiar? I believe Bolton’s version. I think he’s a man of principles. The question, of course, is whether his principles are ones our nation and the world can stand.
- His list of incompetents is long. Obama, of course. But to my surprise most of his rancor was aimed at fellow Republicans. There are few in the foreign policy area who escaped his scorn, including in no meaningful order Steven Mnuchin, Jared Kushner, Melania Trump’s staff, Nikki Haley, Rex Tillerson, Rudy Giuliani, James Mattis, and Michael Flynn.
- Coming off better are Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and John Kelly. They achieve higher status because they agreed with Bolton more than others. But all of them failed to pass muster at times and hence deserved reprimands.
- Special places in Bolton Hell are given to Democrats, NATO, and the European Union, but, in all fairness, they were treated only slightly more harshly than most of the Republicans mentioned above. Except for Obama.
- Of course, it’s President Trump who’s at the center of most of the discussion and, in an epilogue, receives massive condemnation. He comes across as resolute (read tough on foreign policy) at times and wishy-washy at others. And never consistent. Bolton whines of the difficulty of keeping Trump focused on the best foreign policy steps, that is, on the ones Bolton wants. Bolton details constantly changing views and angry outbursts. In his summary he says he can’t recall a single policy decision based on anything other than how it would assist in Trump’s reelection. What’s best for the country didn’t come into play.
- Bolton seems to be extremely smart, though not necessarily wise. He has great knowledge of history. He appears to be widely read, including in the classics.
- He does not trust Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran. He believes nothing should be given to them without getting something significant back. For example, we should give no relief of sanctions to North Korea without a complete and verifiable denuclearization. I find myself agreeing with most of his stands regarding these nations.
- He seems honestly dedicated to the safety of our country, at least in foreign policy. However, he expresses no concern for how areas outside foreign policy can ruin our nation, including climate change. Or racism. Or poverty.
- Claims of endangering national security were at the heart of attempts to prevent publication. I don’t know if there is validity to this. What concerns me more, though, is Bolton’s description of the irrational way Trump handles foreign policy and his affinity to play up to the dictators of North Korea, China, and Russia. I think it may give those smarter individuals hints of how to manipulate Trump to the detriment of our nation. Even more than they have already. It does not bode well if Trump achieves a second term.
- It’s just a guess, of course, but I bet Bolton will vote for neither Trump nor Biden, a net gain of one for Biden.
I’m glad I read it, but now my mind needs cleansing. I can’t wait to get my hands on Bob Woodward’s new book.