This morning, President Trump took to Twitter to lay into his former National Security Advisor, John Bolton:
….many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2020
The upcoming book the president was referring to is “The Room Where It Happened,” a memoir from Bolton’s tenure in the Trump White House, and it has been receiving a ton of early publicity in recent days. The hullabaloo began with a New York Times piece describing leaked information from the manuscript, a copy of which was submitted to the White House late last year (as part of the standard security-review process for past and present administration officials who write books).
In the manuscript, Bolton reportedly describes how President Trump specifically said to him (in August of last year) that he was — and wanted to continue — freezing nearly $400 million in congressionally approved security funding to Ukraine until the country’s officials agreed to investigate the Bidens and other Democrats.
Such an allegation, of course, directly contradicts Trump’s repeated claim that he didn’t withhold those funds for the purpose of pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden (believed to be Trump’s likely 2020 general-election opponent). This revelation came at a particularly sensitive time for the White House, being that Trump’s impeachment trial is currently underway in the U.S. Senate, with pressure mounting to call Bolton and other administration officials (former and current) to testify under oath about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
Like clockwork, Trump’s usual defenders were quick to try and discredit Bolton:
John Bolton is running the exact same revenge playbook against Trump that James Comey used. He’s even using the same agent and leaking to the same reporters. All because he’s mad Trump fired him for leaking and trying to start new wars. It’s so boring and predictable.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) January 27, 2020
Just insane stuff happening on Lou Dobbs tonight pic.twitter.com/2RD8A3CpS4
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) January 28, 2020
“The president’s most ardent defenders are already out smearing him as a treacherous liar. But Bolton is an unvarnished truth-teller, to a fault. What he wrote in his book and whatever he’d say in any testimony would obviously be his best version of the facts. As we have said editorially and Andy [McCarthy] has argued consistently, if the White House and its defenders conceded the facts of the Ukraine matter, they’d be in a much stronger position.”
But clearly Trump will be not conceding the facts. Over the months, he has doubled and tripled and quadrupled down on his infamous phone call, with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenky, being “perfect.” Thus, whenever new information has come forward supporting what a lot of reasonable people already understand happened, the only remaining recourse has been to brand the providers of that information as deep state liars and disgruntled kooks.
It’s a tactic that Trump and his defenders use often and are extremely comfortable with. This is particularly fascinating considering that in rational times, such rhetoric would be widely recognized as a glaring admission of a president’s unfitness for office.
Bolton is of course just the latest in a long line of former administration officials who’ve been attacked and belittled by Trump as being dangerously incompetent, dishonest, or corrupt — typically after committing the cardinal sin of saying something politically unhelpful to the president. In fact, just about everyone who has either been let go from the administration, or resigned out of protest, has had their character and integrity dragged through the dirt by the president.
So, the question has to be asked… Who hired these folks?
The answer, of course, is Trump — the guy who has claimed time after time (and even campaigned on the point) that he only hires “the best people.”
Yet, if you believe the president, he hired Bolton for a prominent senior-aide position at the White House, despite lacking job qualifications, because Bolton “begged” him to.
Steve Bannon and Omarosa also “begged” for their jobs at the executive level of our federal government, according to Trump. And it worked! He hired them.
When Trump brought on General James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, he was giving Mattis a “second chance,” says the president, who claims his advisors thought it would be mistake. Apparently, the Mattis hire was an act of charity from a man who, soon after, reportedly told Mattis and other top U.S. military brass that they were “losers,” “dopes,” and “babies.”
Remember Trump’s former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson? He’s “dumb as a rock,” says the president. More specifically, he “didn’t have the mental capacity” for the job, he was “lazy,” and he was “totally ill prepared and ill equipped.” Again, this is according to Trump.
Then there was Jeff Sessions, who Trump nominated (and was confirmed) as our nation’s Attorney General. He “didn’t have a clue,” and “should be ashamed of himself,” says Trump. According to Bob Woodward, Trump even called Sessions “mentally retarded.” As many may recall, Trump also very publicly (and often) derided Sessions during his tenure as A.G. (after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation).
Don’t forget about Anthony Scaramucci, the White House’s short-lived communications director. Trump says “The Mooch” was “totally incapable” and a “highly unstable nut job.”
There are others on the list, but you probably get the picture.
Like I said, in rational times, a President of the United States hiring so many people who, by his own assertions, were totally incapable of performing their high-level jobs (or even basic human functions in some cases), would be a clear signal to the nation that the leader of the free world has breathtakingly bad, disqualifying judgment .
But we don’t live in rational times. We instead live in a time when it’s actually a political advantage to portray yourself as someone who hires the worst people imaginable, in order to discredit them, once they’re gone, as disgruntled former employees with an axe to grind.
And it works because a good chunk of the country will buy into it…each and every time.