John Bolton hasn't told us anything we didn't already know
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton would like you to think that former National Security Adviser John Bolton is having a moment. This week, minutes after an apparent embargo was lifted off reviews of his forthcoming memoir about life inside the Trump administration, a barrage of excerpts, reviews, and analysis of Bolton's accounts flooded the cursed political corners of media Twitter before evolving to their final form: cable news fodder.
The accusations — carefully sidestepped by Fox News, while breathlessly dissected everywhere else — are, in and of themselves, shocking: that the president begged foreign powers to help him win re-election; that he didn't know basic facts of world geography; that he enthusiastically endorsed the development of Chinese concentration camps. Taken in aggregate, Bolton offers a description of a president exemplified by staggering stupidity and casual cruelty.
The thing is, who cares?
To clarify: Everyone should care very deeply that the president of the United States is, per his own former national security adviser, a paranoid, malignant dunce. But there is absolutely no one on Earth who should give a single solitary second of thought to what John Bolton has to say about Trump, or anything else, really.
Nothing in the portions of Bolton's book that have been released so far tell us anything we didn't already know. Sure, the details are grisly and salacious, but was the general public really unaware until now that Trump can be deeply ignorant, profoundly vain, and very cruel?
Consider the following: Bolton accuses Trump of "turn[ing] the conversation [with Chinese President Xi Jinping] to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win."
Taken alone, it's a devastating accusation. But is it really any different from the very public behavior we've seen from the president for years now? Urging Russia to hack then-candidate Hillary Clinton's emails and pressuring Ukraine to investigate now-presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden are all part of the same pattern. The details may change, but the underlying truth remains the same: Trump is open to inviting foreign interference in the American democratic process.
Each thing Bolton alleges in his book is something he could have very easily testified about to Congress.
Or take Bolton's claim that the president thought Finland was part of Russia. If the allegation is true, it's the sort of boneheadedness that would flunk most 10th graders, to say nothing of the head of a global superpower. But did we really not know that the president is largely clueless about and uninterested in the world around him? He thinks there's an AIDS vaccine! (There isn't.) He stared directly at an eclipse! (Don't do that.) He thinks injecting a person with bleach and sunlight will cure diseases! (It will kill you.) Again, the allegation Bolton levels is alarming, but it's not revealing a characteristic about Trump that we didn't know already.
Finally, there's what is perhaps Bolton's most horrifying charge against the president — that during a conversation with the Chinese leader at a G20 summit, Trump explicitly said "that Xi should go ahead with building" the concentration camps China has used to imprison as many as 1 million Uighur Muslims for what observers have decried as essentially amounting to state-sponsored brainwashing.
Trump, per Bolton, thought that building the concentration camps was "was exactly the right thing to do."
Clearly, the idea of a president endorsing the construction and use of concentration camps is nauseating, but all the more so when you remember that the Trump administration has itself done essentially that with its network of immigrant detention centers and policy of family separation for undocumented migrants. Of course Trump would be cool with China's concentration camps — he's been a fan of the practice domestically for years.
So, if Bolton isn't telling us something we don't already know, what good is he, or his book? The answer is: None at all.
Remember, Bolton is a deeply Islamophobic warmonger who, despite his ex post facto alleged misgivings about the president, nevertheless remained the longest serving national security adviser the Trump administration has employed to date.
Remember also that each thing Bolton alleges in his book is something he could have very easily testified about to Congress when he was called as a witness during the impeachment proceedings against the president. Instead, he chose to fight the call to testify, saving his juicy tales of presidential intrigue and idiocy for his multi-million-dollar book deal.
Despite his (much belated) calls for Trump's removal, John Bolton is, above all else, a cowardly opportunist who was happy to push his own agenda under Trump, and is now just as happy to capitalize off his newfound moral backbone. Don't buy it, and don't buy his book, either.