Pity the poor war-monger, with nary a war to mong! No, wait – don’t. While The Donald has this knack for making you feel sorry for just about any of the tweet-fired little pilot fish who’ve tried to trail along in his wake, even racist little pricks like Jeff Sessions, and planet-wrecking oil company mavens like Rex Tillerson, there can be no crocodile tears for John Bolton. There aren’t a lot of sights as sure to prompt a huge wave of relief as the backside of that A-hole as he’s ushered out the door. B’Bye John! And a fond farewell it is too!
He joined Donald’s cabal thinking he could ride the bucking bronco and steer policy his way, and his way involved endless violence and regime change on every front, from North Korea to Iran to Venezuela, whatever it took. If the CIA can’t get a coup up and running then bomb ’em into the Stone Age, that was Bolton’s credo, and he probably thought he could mold Trump’s malleable mind into seeing things properly. Donald was, after all, a moron, and Bolton was a clever-boots, so guess who’d soon be running America’s foreign affairs? Drawing no lessons from the many cabinet level corpses left strewn by the roadside, Bolton romped into the role of National Security Advisor, the third guy to get the job in under two years, and launched into his Trump-whisperer routine. The answer is war, Donald. Regime change. You feel very relaxed now. You are getting sleepier and sleepier as you listen to the sound of my voice. When you awaken, you will launch airstrikes on Tehran and Pyongyang.
What Bolton didn’t understand (I didn’t either!) was that Trump isn’t really malleable at all. He thinks what he thinks and wants what he wants, and no amount of sophisticated-sounding bullshit has any effect on him. He’s too dumbassed to be baffled by sophistry. He’s too self-satisfied to be impressed by anybody else’s credentials. He doesn’t care if you were Ambassador to the UN, or the toast of prestigious right wing think tanks all over the land. What does anybody understand better than he, The Donald? What counsel does he need? Bolton could have anticipated this, if he’d just reviewed the tapes. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things”, said Donald on the campaign trail, when asked who was advising him on foreign policy. It wasn’t a joke. Trump listens to Trump. He can only hear anybody else if he’s hearing what he already thinks. Otherwise it’s blah blah blah Donald! Blah blah blah blah Donald! Three minutes into the briefing and he’s tapping out tweets on that damned phone they can never pry from his stubby little fingers.
Bolton tried, though, he really did. Abandoning the traditional role of National Security Advisor, which is to serve as the coordinator of the many views and recommendations generated within America’s vast national security apparatus, and structure the debate presented to the President, Bolton turned it into a one man show. The National Security Council was winnowed down until it was basically just John sitting there in a room grinning at Donald, recommending at all times the strongest possible response, whatever the situation. There Bolton sat, confident that as the sole genius in the room, he was going to be Donald’s Svengali. Actually, he was shouting into a void, his words meaningless, his clever-clever arguments about as effective as if he was reciting the text on the back of a shampoo bottle, in which case Bolton would have learned that you can read him the instructions provided for Head & Shoulders, and Donald may lather, and he may even rinse and repeat, but only if that’s already the counsel of his own all-powerful id.
By now it’s apparent that nobody ever really gets through to His Trumpness, he’s too sure of his own perceptions, and anyway he can’t pay attention to much of anything, not even his inner monologue, for more than a couple of minutes. Only the cable news. He can sit rapt for hours in front of his Fox and Friends. He can hate-watch MSNBC for an entire evening. He’ll probably be watching it over your shoulder as you attempt another briefing on what the Mullahs are up to now, maybe flipping back and forth and tweeting while he’s at it. That’s it. Forget about it. You don’t matter. What you think doesn’t matter. What you say doesn’t matter. OK? Look, you’re fired then, OK?
Oh, but he got so close! So tantalizingly, achingly close! When Iran shot down that multi-kabillion dollar drone, Donald was briefly angry enough to bite the head off a frigging rooster, and the planes were all loaded up on the carrier decks, ready to go. They were just on the brink of blasting off to bomb the living bejesus out of a whole host of pre-selected targets, just as Bolton had been planning for all those months. Just a moment sir, I happen to have a list of strike-worthy military sites right here in my briefcase! But then Trump changed his mind! He cancelled the strikes!. Even worse, he went on the record by tweeting that he’d cancelled the attack, leaving no room to change his mind back again!
It must have broken Bolton’s heart, that flip-flop.
It was every bit as frustrating on other fronts. Donald got behind a coup in Venezuela, but only for a little while, and when Maduro wasn’t toppled in the first few days he got bored and moved on. He started to talk about reopening negotiations with Iran, with no pre-conditions, as if a deal was preferable to strategic bombing. Instead of having the B-2s drop 2,000 tons of JDAMs on North Korea, Trump invited Kim to do a cheery little photo-op at the DMZ, and sent Bolton off to goddam Mongolia to keep him out from under foot while the big dogs made nicey-nice for the cameras.
The last straw, we’re told, was Bolton’s resistance to Trump’s Afghanistan policy. Bolton is said to have been stridently opposed to Donald’s plan to invite the infamous “Taliban Five” to Camp David, of all places, and over the anniversary of 9/11 to boot. It was bad enough that that sumbitch Obama had let the bastards out of Gitmo; now Donald proposed to break bread with them over the very same table at which the leaders of America’s most treasured allies feel privileged to sit. Terrorists! At Camp David! Jesus Christ! Reports suggest there was a screaming match, Bolton asserting, more or less, that Afghan warlords would visit Camp David over his dead body, and Trump acceding to his terms.
If that’s the real story, it’s just delicious, and perfectly Trumpian, that Bolton was finally sacked for sticking to his guns on the one issue he ever got right! It really was stupid beyond words to hold an impromptu summit at Camp David with the battle-hardened chieftains of Central Asia. Even Donald thought so, finally, and the bitter irony for Bolton is that Trump flip-flopped, like usual, and the invite to the Taliban was rescinded. The advice was spot on! But you don’t get to come on all superior and self-righteous with Donny, no sir. Anybody who wants to stick around in the Trump administration knows better. You ask the Mooch, he’s got more sense.
There might also be more to the sorry saga. The latest word has Donald additionally incensed in his suspicion that Bolton might be the one who leaked that he’d been asking why they couldn’t just drop nukes on hurricanes, and deal with them that way. Give ‘em a few megatons while they’re still forming off the coast of Africa, and nip ‘em in the bud, right? When that story got out it was, no surprise, met with gales of derisive laughter. You don’t get to do that to Donny. Ask Tillerson.
Either way that was it for John, praise Jesus. So long, pal. Don’t worry about cleaning out your desk, we’ll have staff pack it all up and send it over to you in a few of those bankers boxes. They know the drill by now, believe me. The next day, Bolton tried to spin his demise on Twitter. I wasn’t fired! I resigned! Yeah, OK, John. Whatever you say. The main thing is that like everybody else who gets sucked into Donald’s orbit, Bolton exits now as a humiliated failure, leaving behind a President who loves to bluster but can never quite be talked into blowing anything up, damn his chicken heart. Nobody seems all that broken up about it, either. Indeed Pompeo, evidently failing to appreciate that his own turn will come soon enough, was seen grinning like a polecat, apparently delighted that he won’t have to fight so hard for the Boss’s attention any more. He may as well laugh while he can, I guess.
A lot of people like me were frightened when Bolton got the nod for National Security Advisor. We knew he’d recommend war at every turn. What we didn’t fully appreciate is how little the windy exhortations of a guy like Bolton really matter to Donald, and how short the life expectancy of any of his advisors tends to be, even those as domineering and committed as Bolton. Like all the others, he got a couple of at-bats, whiffed on the unholy breaking stuff that Donald was pitching, and got yanked after just a couple of innings. So it goes in Trumplandia. We had nothing to worry about.
The more legitimate worry now is that the whole structure of the National Security Council, once the most crucial advisory body of the executive branch, has more or less ceased to exist. Bolton dismantled the Council, and Trump dismantled Bolton. Now what? Nobody knows. It’s not clear yet who’ll be tapped to take Bolton’s place. Maybe somebody qualified. Maybe Seb Gorka. Maybe nobody. After all, Trump doesn’t really need a National Security Advisor. He listens to himself. He has a very good brain, you know.