Thursday, June 18, 2020

Hostile Witness

I take anything John Bolton says about anything with a large grain of salt, and I don’t need a book from him to tell me that he’s a fastidious and self-serving pain in the ass.  His multiple appearances on TV and throughout the last twenty years laid the pipeline for that.  So the revelations about the inside goings-on in the Trump White House may be breaking news on cable, but neither characters in this kinderspiel — Bolton and Trump — and the stories about them really surprise or shock.  They merely confirm a lot of things that a lot of people knew all along: Trump is a sociopath — if it doesn’t get him more money, more adulation, and pussy-grabbing, he’s not interested — and he’s willfully ignorant about the things that don’t matter to him, such as preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.

No tell-all book is flattering, and I suspect that Mr. Bolton won’t be the last of the major players in Trump’s regime to write one.  Historians rarely pay heed to them when assessing the true history of an administration, concentrating more on the impact of a president on things that matter such as foreign policy and the list of priorities detailed in the preamble to the Constitution.  But since Mr. Bolton’s role was to advise Trump on national security, his reporting, as slanted and morally superior as it may be, does get our attention by revealing how bankrupt and reflexively immoral Trump is beyond all the gossip and dish that we’ve heard from other disgruntled and exasperated ex-Trump minions to the point that it endangers our national security.  Bill Clinton may have gotten a blowjob in the Oval Office, but at least he wasn’t in cahoots with a foreign dictator to boost his re-election or approve of building Chinese concentration camps.

As for the book itself, the Justice Department is apparently in league with the publisher, suing to stop the publication and thereby boosting the sales through the roof.  The review in the New York Times by Jennifer Szalai is devastatingly negative for its sloppy writing and self-serving puffery:

The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much. It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.

Still, it’s maybe a fitting combination for a lavishly bewhiskered figure whose wonkishness and warmongering can make him seem like an unlikely hybrid of Ned Flanders and Yosemite Sam.

Despite the revelations, I doubt that this will have any impact on Trump’s base or his standings in the polls.   The people who support him to the death — literally and virally — think the same way he does: the ends justify the means, all I care about is what’s in it for me, and all those politically-correct Others get all the breaks and everybody’s against me and Jesus.  Trump has his 40%, and if his countless assaults on the American character, psyche, and fundamental human nature haven’t already turned them against him, this book won’t.