Former National Security Advisor John Bolton tossed a hand grenade into the presidential race this week with a press release for his upcoming book. In the memoir of his time in the Trump White House, Bolton will reportedly detail “Ukraine-like transgressions … across the full range of his foreign policy.”
The book, titled “The Room Where It Happened,” is scheduled to be published on June 23, but has been delayed numerous times by the Trump Administration citing security concerns. The White House still has not yet signed off on the book, which it claims contains classified information.
Bolton’s publisher, Simon and Schuster, issued a press release that said the book covers the “President’s inconsistent, scattershot decision-making process, and his dealings with allies and enemies alike”
“What Bolton saw astonished him,” the release continues, “A president for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation.”
Bolton is quoted as saying, “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations.”
While Bolton’s book has been long-awaited, its publication is not going to make anyone look good. Both parties committed major errors with respect to impeachment. Democrats rushed the impeachment through based on the Ukraine allegations when there were many more avenues of investigation to be explored. In Bolton’s words, “the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy.”
The Republican error was one of shortsightedness. When the impeachment trial moved to the Senate, Republicans refused to seek the truth and allow witnesses. As a result, they helped the president to remain in office in the short term but they merely delayed the inevitable reckoning for the president’s bad behavior.
Back in January, Bolton agreed to testify before the Senate impeachment hearings, but Republicans didn’t want to hear from him. Instead, it seems that Republicans assumed that if they didn’t hear Bolton during impeachment that they would never have to deal with his testimony. Now, that miscalculation is coming back to haunt them.
Less than five months before the election, the Republican nightmare of Administration insiders telling-all about the shenanigans inside the Trump White House is coming true. The hints of what is to come from John Bolton were revealed only days after James Mattis and a bevy of military leaders openly criticized the president for his handling of the race riots and protests.
Ambassador Bolton does not escape with his reputation intact either. Many Trump critics believe that Bolton should have come forward during impeachment, rather than waiting to offer his testimony to buyers of his book.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, told Politico, “At the time the country needed him most, and history will reflect, he chose to sell books. It wasn’t a question in his mind of whether or not he should talk about it. It’s whether or not he should profit from talking about it. Not exactly ‘Profiles in Courage.'”
The 2020 election is shaping up to mirror the 2016 election in some ways. In 2016, Hillary Clinton was beset by a continuous drip of bad luck and scandals. After the hacking of the DNC in the spring, the release of stolen emails by WikiLeaks dogged the campaign for months.
The summer of 2020 is looking a lot like that for President Trump, albeit without the Russian hacking. President Trump has been dogged by bad news, some of it of his own making and some not, for the entire year, which began with impeachment and was followed by the pandemic, the economic crisis, and now nationwide riots and demonstrations against police brutality. The biting criticism from former members of the Administration is only the icing on the cake.
There is more to come. In addition to the release of Bolton’s book, there is a looming Supreme Court decision on whether the president’s tax returns must be turned over to Congress, the expiration of the CARES Act in September, which could trigger a deeper recession, and the possibility of a second wave of Coronavirus infections. There are also many other officials who left the Trump Administration under a cloud and may speak out against the president before the election.
The timing of many of these items, including the publication of Bolton’s book and the release of the tax returns, shortly before the election is directly linked to Trump’s efforts to delay and obfuscate. The Trump Administration is finding out, as so many others have, that the coverup is often worse than the underlying crime.
The Trump campaign seems on the verge of imploding as the president bungles crisis after crisis and as a growing list of former White House officials come forward to say that voters should tell Trump, “You’re fired.” The president’s average approval rating has already dropped sharply since it received a Coronavirus bump in mid-March. The drop is largely driven by the president’s response to the pandemic and the racial crisis. Despite the country’s economic problems, President Trump’s biggest strength remains the economy. However, with a number of crises percolating, Trump’s approval may collapse even further before the election.
If President Trump’s antics cost Republicans the White House and their Senate majority, they will have no one to blame but themselves. If they had listened to Bolton six months ago, they might have made the difficult but correct decision to remove President Trump. The result would have been that the GOP would have fielded a competent candidate, probably incumbent Mike Pence, who would not be trailing “Sleepy Joe” Biden in the polls while waiting helplessly for the next shoe to drop.
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