What can we learn from John Bolton's new memoir? History will not absolve him, his execrable ex-boss Donald Trump or the Republican political apparatus that has enabled the toxic Trump regime.
Well before Bolton's book arrived, we already knew the single most important fact about the Trump presidency and Trump himself: He and the Republicans who surround him are willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of American lives if their deaths might somehow promote his reelection.
The latest attempts by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to pretend that the deadly coronavirus is now, as the president said, "fading away," only provide fresh evidence of their bloody perfidy. If the present infection trends continue — intensified by events like Trump's Tulsa rally — then we will have buried more than 200,000 Americans before Election Day.
Yet there is more, and perhaps even deeper, damage that Trump has done to this country, as Bolton's vengeful recollections tell us. Bolton will never acknowledge his own responsibility for some of the worst national security debacles of recent decades —including the invasion of Iraq and the dismantling of the nation's global pandemic warning system. But he is an able guide to Trump's foreign and security policy, in which he colluded as national security adviser.
Much of Bolton's indictment is a list of familiar Trump offenses and aberrations, some at the level of impeachable offenses and even felonies. Is it illegal for the president of the United States to beg for favors from the Chinese dictator, Xi Jinping, to assist his reelection? Perhaps not, although that would be an overlooked loophole in the federal criminal code.
Still more revolting, if not unlawful, was Trump's implied promise to overlook China's oppression of its Muslim Uighur minority and their imprisonment in concentration camps. That is actual news, if not very surprising. It is one of the departures from traditional bipartisan policy that will make Trump a uniquely despised figure in presidential history.
Are we to believe such terrible things about Donald Trump? His toadies such as Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, say that Bolton is lying. Actually, they all lie all the time, including Pompeo, Bolton and, of course, the biggest liar, Trump. Circumstances and character indicate, however, that it is Bolton telling the truth in this case. Everyone knows that Trump admires dictators and wishes he possessed their authoritarian power, and everyone knows that he would round up Muslims and immigrants if only he could get away with it.
Besides, Bolton is credible because every word of his book indicts the book's subject and its author as well. He is a self-serving ideologue, not a patriot, as he established by avoiding testimony during the Trump impeachment trial, when he could have protected the country from a dangerous demagogue. He bluntly confirms that Trump sought to extort a bogus investigation of Joe Biden from the government of Ukraine — an act he understood not only as terrible policy "questionable legally and unacceptable as presidential behavior." He says that Trump attempted equally immoral and illegal approaches to other governments around the world while Bolton served in government.
Assuming that is true — and who doesn't believe it? — Bolton witnessed Trump violating his oath, soiling his office and betraying his country repeatedly and didn't even attempt to stop him. Instead, Bolton remained in office and then, after his departure, refused to confront the man he accuses of those offenses in the forum provided by the Constitution.
There is nothing to choose among Trump and Bolton — or the Republican leaders who have ignored the realities depicted in Bolton's book. They will all share a legacy of dereliction, disgrace and death.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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