I'm going to do something that is so antithetical to my personal sense of consistency, I'm battling a shiver of self-loathing as I write it, but here goes. I'm going to agree with John Bolton.
I know, I know. The Wally Walrus of American diplomacy has been pretty much opposed to every treaty, every international organization, every multi-lateral action involving the United States, since the French helped save our bacon in 1791.
Editors note: Wally was a friend of Woody Woodpecker. Ask your folks.
He was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal under President Reagan, endorsed the phony evidence about WMD's in Iraq under the second President Bush and placed his intellect in a blind trust to serve as President Trump's National Security Advisor. To call him hawkish is like saying Patton was cranky. It doesn't do his views justice. All this, mind you, when he wrote in his college yearbook that he didn't see the point in serving in Viet Nam (He joined the National Guard) since the democrats had already lost the war, which is frankly rather convenient. Wish I'd thought of that one.
He isn't about building bridges with much of anybody, in fact, blowing them up whenever possible would be his preferred choice. Simply peruse his Wikipedia entry for a taste of his hard-nosed bluster. And the Arab world is a special fixation. Former Trump National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster has reportedly told Dexter Fikins that Bolton has had "an anal focus on Iran for twenty years"
He has admitted engineering coups d'etat and never saw a war he couldn't justify. It is good to remember the words of another republican on that subject, Dwight D. Eisenhower...
"War is mankind's most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men. Though you follow the trade of the warrior, you do so in the spirit of Washington -- not of Genghis Khan. For Americans, only threat to our way of life justifies resort to conflict."
Graduation Exercises at the United States Military Academy, 6/3/47
I'm sure I'm not doing justice to his attitude of “take what's ours and devil take the hindmost” view of diplomacy. But trust me, he makes Dick Cheney look like Jane Fonda. So with that preamble, here goes.
He's right about Donald Trump. And I honestly agree that by his analysis, the whole idea of Trump as a major political player in this country is a concept that's headed for the exits. Part of it is something he didn't mention, and that is the absolute lack of self-control, insecurity, and inflated sense of self demonstrated by the latest round of angry outbursts on his dime-store version of Twitter, Truth Social. Of course, Twitter is becoming a dime-store version of Twitter, but I digress.
And this is notwithstanding his nonsensical trading cards, announced with great solemnity and the belief that he is beloved “more than Abraham Lincoln or George Washington.” I suppose it's much easier to put your head on Rocky Balboa, Aquaman or Walker Texas Ranger's bodies than to just work out a bit.
No, Bolton's observation has to do with the actual job of President, and how it is approached. Much was made during the recent midterm election that it is easy to whine about inflation or gay people or something, than to actually come up with a governing philosophy. That is where Bolton says Trump falls woefully short of the mark, which is a masterpiece of understatement.
In a conversation with Ali Velshi about the, admittedly, ludicrous idea that he himself might run for President, this exchange took place.
Ali Velshi: A lot of Republicans I talk to say the Republican Party is unfixable at the moment.
John Bolton: Well, I think that position is delusional. I think that this whole idea that there’s a Trump movement out there is simply wrong.
The fundamental point in politics is philosophy. Everything else flows from that. Donald Trump has no philosophy. Donald Trump doesn’t think in policy terms. There is no Trumpism and there’s no real succession to Trump.
And I think one piece of evidence for that point, flowing from the 2000, from the November 2022 election, is the fact that so many Trump-endorsed candidates lost. And with a few rare exceptions, there have been no election contest, no lawsuits contesting the losses. People have accepted the losses conceded and moved on. There are exceptions, but they are notable by the fact they’re exceptions.
So I think this whole thing represents what’s fundamentally the reality about Donald Trump: He’s an aberration in American politics. And it’s the job — not of the liberal media, not of the Democratic Party — It’s the job of Republicans to repair the damage he’s done. And that’s part of what we’re about here.
That's where I think this unguided missile of diplomacy is on to something. We can think of various administrations and their foreign and domestic policies as, for example, the Kennedy Doctrine or Reaganism. And some of them, granted, may be wrong, but at least they were a set of guiding principles the President followed. What exactly though, is Trumpism? Other than giving himself tax breaks or bragging rights about visiting North Korea, what was his overriding philosophy? I know the word philosophy is pretty grandiose when talking about a guy who wears more makeup than Norma Desmond, but suspend your disbelief and try to figure it out. What did he want his presidency to accomplish?
Those folks at his rallies are there to hear him lob silly sandbox nicknames at political and media critics, and not much else. But what is his tax policy, at least in regard to them? What is his real foreign policy; what is the goal? Other than blind opposition to anything the democrats have done or stand for, what are his personal beliefs? We know he isn't really religious. We know he isn't really anti-abortion. We know he isn't really a very good businessman. He would be richer today if he'd simply taken the money his old man gave him when he was young and stuck it in a no-load mutual fund.
We know now he cheated on his taxes, though anyone who ever doubted that should not be trusted with a dinner fork. We know he took top-secret documents and tossed them into the pool equipment room at his country club. And, then he lied about it. Bolton said in his book that Trump really did essentially try to blackmail President Zelenskyy of Ukraine to get dirt on the Bidens, just as was charged in his impeachment. He did one honestly great thing in his 4 years and that was speed up research and production of the covid vaccine. Yet, he didn't have the guts to back his scientific advisors and allowed rumor and nonsense to undercut the whole effort.
Former President George H.W. Bush is said to have observed, “Some men want to be President to do something. And some simply want to be something.” It seems to perfectly sum up our 45th Commander in Chief.
Have you watched Ron DeSantis actually speak or deal with the press? Greg Abbott is Kennedyesque in comparison. DeSantis also has a knee-jerk reaction to whatever the true believers want to hear, even if it means reversing himself on things like the covid vaccine. Craven doesn't begin to describe that latest move. But, he is downright statesmanlike compared to the guy who lives at the other end of the state. And it says something when a pedestrian politician is your salvation when the former guy's luster begins to dim.
So, what is the “Trump Movement?” I think Bolton is right that it isn't really a movement, but what many critics have termed a personality cult. It is one guy and his trick-or-treat bag full of insecurities, who draws cameras because he will literally say anything about anybody at any time. That worked for him on “The Apprentice” in a phony boardroom set in a studio where he could be the tough guy in charge. Ned Beatty played that guy better in “Network” by the way.
But why does he want to be President again, if he truly ever did? What does he want to do? What does he want to accomplish? What does he want the country to look like when he is done? We saw the extent he'll go to when he is embarrassed, on January 6th. So, it really isn't about the country or any guiding set of principles. It is all personal. Any slight in the press and his short fingers start flying across the phone keyboard. Take a moment and imagine if the internet had been around forever. Can anyone really picture FDR, Ike, JFK or Reagan responding to every implied criticism? And with some 2nd grade, schoolyard sobriquet?
Years ago, there was a best seller by Laurence Peter called “The Peter Principle.” It contended that in any endeavor in life, business, government, the military, people are promoted until they hit one wrung too high and reach just beyond their competence level.
John Bolton is right. Donald Trump hit that wrung in a studio at NBC.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.