John Bolton refused to help when it mattered most. But there is an upside | Dick Polman

June 22, 2020 6:30 am

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 16: Surrounded by members of law enforcement, U.S. President Donald Trump holds up an executive order he signed on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities” during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed an executive order on police reform amid the growing calls after the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Oh, so now he tells us.

Dick Polman Cagle Syndicate photo

John Bolton is telling us damning stuff about Trump that we already knew – and he’s doing it five months too late. Timing is everything in life and politics, and this guy’s could not be worse.

That’s not to say that the morsels in his long-awaited memoir aren’t worth binging and purging. Trump, for instance, is so ignorant that he doesn’t know Finland and Russia are separate nations and that Britain is a nuclear power. But we’ve long known that Trump is ignorant.

According to Bolton – veteran conservative, ex-national security adviser, and Fox News contributor – Trump “second-guessed people’s motives, saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run a White House, let alone the huge federal government.”

Trump sucks up shamelessly to brutal dictators – for instance, by telling Chinese leader Xi Jinping that he should build concentration camps and incarcerate the Muslims who live in a northwest province. And in a reference to Trump’s subservience to Vladimir Putin, Bolton writes that “Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with” at the infamous Helsinki summit. But we’ve long known that Trump is an authoritarian groupie.

Trump hates free and independent journalists so much that he calls them “scumbags” and believes, according to Bolton, that they should be jailed or even executed for using anonymous sources. But we’ve long known that Trump hates the free and independent press.

Trump’s top aides mercilessly mock him behind his back – like the time, according to Bolton, when Trump was being rolled by North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Secretary of State passed Bolton a note critiquing their boss: “He is so full of s—-.” But we’ve long known that Trump’s people disparage him as unfit and full of it.

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Trump wants foreign leaders to help him win his elections. Bolton saw him “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” begging the Chinese leader to buy American soybeans and wheat so that Trump could win the farm states in 2020. But we’ve long known Trump twists American foreign policy to serve his personal political needs.

And with respect to that impeachment probe, Bolton has confirmed the damning details of Trump’s illegal behavior toward Ukraine – withholding congressionally-mandated military aid until Ukraine supplied phony political dirt that might help Trump win re-election. According to Bolton, Trump told him that “he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all…materials related to (Hillary) Clinton and (Joe) Biden had been turned over” – and that Trump resisted as many as 10 pleas, from Bolton and Defense chief Mark Esper, to release the military aid.

It would’ve been nice if Bolton had deigned to share his Ukraine memories under oath during the impeachment probe. He could’ve come forward and agreed to testify when the impeachment managers sought his help. But he refused.

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Instead, he decided to turn a buck by saving it all for his book. Who knows, if he had testified, maybe one or two spineless Senate Republicans might’ve been moved to throw Trump out of office.
I’m especially loath to buy the book because of this passage: “Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different.”

Bolton was best positioned, by dint of his insider status, to help the impeachment probers craft a more sweeping indictment of Trump’s behavior – and yet he refused to help when he was most needed. What a patriot.

There’s an upside, however. Bolton’s memoir feeds fresh ammo to his GOP brethren – at The Lincoln Project, Republican Voters Against Trump, and Right Side PAC – who are working hard to take Trump down. Every little bit helps.

And every time Trump opens his mouth these days, he runs an attack ad against himself. When he was asked Wednesday to comment about our 2.1 million confirmed COVID cases (spiking right now in southern and western states) and our 118,000 deaths, here’s what Trump said:

“If you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It’s dying out.”

Top that, John Bolton!

Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at His work appears on Mondays on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].

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Dick Polman
Dick Polman

Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at His work appears on Mondays on the Capital-Star's Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].