Terry H. Schwadron

June 19, 2020

Just as in the scenes in The Wizard of Oz, when John Bolton pushed the curtains aside in his new book, there nervously stood a small, feeble, egocentric man, this time with a pattern of corruption and ignorance about what it means to be President of the United States.

It is a sad commentary not only on Donald Trump but on what we have passing as leadership in this country, and that a sizable divide thinks the Trump depicted here is Making America Great.

That the picture comes from John Bolton, the political conservative superstar who was incapable of standing up during the impeachment trial, when it counted, is devastating for Trump and disgraceful to the rest of us. Sorry, Bolton is the opposite of heroic, and it makes those Republican senators who refused by three votes to subpoena Bolton into fools or worse. Were they ever interested in what was true?

This should not be the result of an after-service tell-all book. It should have been testimony at an impeachment trial.

But the reported contents of his book published in multiple news outlet makes both Bolton and the Justice Department’s late, futile attempts to close the barn door totally irrelevant. Even Trump’s dismissive comments about Bolton himself are irrelevant: Trump disputes few if any of the reported incidents, just that Bolton quoted him, and that the book is filled with lies.

What is important is a narrative of event after event in which Donald Trump abridged obstruction of justice to use this country’s foreign policies in pursuit of personal political gain, including offers to trade favors for personal gain. What we should be seeing is the pattern rather than the individually outrageous acts.

Making it worse is that, according to Bolton, the Justice Department has enabled him all along, even seemingly dropping prosecution cases at the president’s behest to please foreign autocrats. The pattern is even criminally suspect, though we understand that the Oval Office is protected from actual charges.

Is it even possible that the Mitch McConnells and Jim Jordans must rise to once again to defend someone who is using the office as a platform for personal gain?

Presidential Ignorance

What may even more important is the depth and breadth of Trump’s ignorance of foreign policy basics, typified by such ideas that Finland is not a part of Russia, or that the United Kingdom has nuclear weapons. He apparently told the Chinese premier that he supported locking up millions of Chinese Uirghurs, and saw statements of support to the Saudis after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a good tradeoff to defer news coverage of unrelated news about daughter Ivanka.

The Trump of this book has no sense of American values, no sense of human rights, no sense that the presidency is about anything other than personal aggrandizement. Per Bolton, Trump’s own people agree behind Trump’s back that the president is a policy idiot.

Bolton’s war-like philosophy has been odious, but his grasp on what is necessary to understand the world is solid. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” he writes, and he backs up the allegation. It makes you wonder why Bolton and some of the others, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, went to work at the White House in the first place. Trump’s care-only-about-the-moment’s-spotlight was not exactly unknown.

A Silly Legal Argument

The fact that after three years in the actual office, Trump has yet to learn the basics of managing a team and what the job entails, is just incredibly sad. I find myself unable to explain to relatives overseas why elections are even close when they involve Trump.

The book presents an ironclad case that Trump is utterly unfit to be in the White House.

Making it all worse is this ineffectual, bloated 37-page legal filing to halt publication of a book whose content is already out there circulating. There seems zero chance for success of an argument that after four months of review, the book reflects release of classified information.

Atty. Gen. William P. Barr is doing himself and his institution absolutely no service in pressing a silly case. If anything, Justice should be trying to explain what happened to those cases they had been pursuing before Trump had conversations with Turkish and other foreign leaders.

Indeed, in what has emerged so far, the only classification this book trips is disgust. Despite Trump’s denunciations of Bolton as a criminal for publishing the words of the president as if his speech is automatically adjudged as classified, this challenge has no legal or practical chance.

What is the saddest part of this is that even this book, late and probably open to challenges, won’t change any minds about voting for Trump.