It is best to become a writer when everything is fresh in the memory, says Trump's retired security adviser John Bolton. "This is especially true of people who have just left a government post." Bolton wrote this in a review of the memoirs of former Secretary of Defense Gates. IN The Room Where It Happened he uses the words to defend that he himself writes a book. The room he is referring to is, of course, the Oval Office in The White House, where the world's most powerful man rules. He writes from the center of power.
Applauded any bomb
It is an irony of fate that it is John Bolton which remains as the strongest critic of what has been going on in this space in recent years. For Bolton, the hawk is above all hawks in American politics. He has applauded or directed anyone bombs released, any war, invasion, rearmament, boycott, threat, any regime change carried out to strengthen America's power in the world since he became active in Washington's circles of power in the 70s as a student of the arch-conservative senator Jesse helms. He has served the far right of the Republican Party since Goldwater and Nixon.
The other hawks in the government are tearing their feathers off in an attempt to stagnate or steer Trump when Bolton praises aggressive measures, whether it is to break the nuclear deal with Iran, withdraw troops from NATO countries, invade Venezuela or Cuba or clean up the Korean Peninsula. With Bolton as UN ambassador, President Bush became a UN hater in the world organization.
Trump's pettiness is matched by Bolton's boasting.
The challenge with "current" biographies such as Bolton's or contemporary political literature in general is that they naturally come with the purpose of shaping the author's legacy, a self-interest in influencing people's perceptions before other perspectives are put into the press and by historians. Winston Churchill's statement that the story would go well with him because he himself was going to write it, comes to mind when reading Bolton's book.
Bolton contributes to the formation of a story that is still in its infancy. And no time is better than just this time, he believes: When the stories dry on the sheets in the printing press, life in the White House behind Trump has not calmed down yet. And with the book, Bolton makes an attempt to write his legacy in the stream of filth that has already begun and which will undoubtedly increase when Trump's control of the party eventually ends.
A meeting between narcissists
Bolton's book is a foretold collision with Donald Trump, a clash between two narcissistic and self-righteous people of power. They shared the motto "it is best to break up with your girlfriend before she does". Bolton heard it in the Oval Room and recognized himself. And when he took off his hat and left Trump's administration after 18 months as foreign policy adviser, the most important issue was who "broke up first", a topic that is as puerile as it is futile. But not for the two.
It is obviously important for Bolton to point out that he had received many other offers from Trump before he said yes to the role of adviser. He wanted to control, and not just pass on, the decisions of others. The truth is that he wanted a significant position, with a direct telephone line to the president, at the same time as he had to avoid positions that required the approval of Congress, which he was afraid could be uncomfortable. He often gets into situations where his recommendations are "stolen" by Trump, who then brags that he himself has invented this or that. Trump's pettiness is matched by Bolton's boasting.
As a White House security adviser, he could boast of having a staff of 430 analysts. He had direct access to the president. His control over the world's most powerful was unimaginable. But even in the driver's seat, the hawk Bolton not only had to maneuver a difficult mind in the Oval Space («the erratic [erratic] Trump »), but also secure the support of his own staff for any policy and any prey he hunted for. He was quickly fired by nearly a hundred of the advisers who slowed down his plans. He had negotiated with the court to "hire and fire" in the department. It gave him great power.
Defended Trump in the beginning
The main challenge in the White House when Bolton was elected to the third in a row of security advisers for the then only two-year-old Trump government, was not Trump himself, Bolton thought early on. He defended the boss. No, it was the very organization of the White House that did not hold up, he thought.
One had not learned to appreciate or exploit the president's strengths, such as his charismatic voter appeal that brought him to the pinnacle of power, Bolton said. "But I was wrong," he quickly concludes. And it is symptomatic of the way the first part of the book is written, that he can make deadly criticism of a staff member, but soon, by a simple reversal, say "I was wrong" and thus subtly turn the criticism against the boss himself.
However, throughout the book, the mask falls, and the acidity about the boss becomes more undisguised. "I am a talker," Trump brags, and Bolton snorts at a man who does not share his view that the need for dialogue reveals weakness. Bolton spreads characteristics in the East and the West, reveals critical descriptions from the staff, and thus secured plenty of Republican enemies in the future.
I The Room Where It Happened Bolton has duly placed Trump behind a desk. Countless times he returns to this desk. It even has a name: The Resolute Desk. Does it stand, as the word indicates, for firmness and determination, for action? The name comes from the timber the table is made of: The polar boat Resolute, which when it was cut up, gave timber to three desks ordered by the British Queen Victoria. One ended up as central furniture that all American presidents have since been depicted by. The table becomes a symbol that Bolton uses ironically towards a man he elsewhere unobtrusively calls "erratic". We gave up taming his Twitter use, he notes. The staff just had to get used to the erratic one.
Bolton's control over the world's most powerful was unimaginable.
Compared to Bolton himself, Trump is almost like a dove. Trump is indulgent (naive) towards North Korea's Kim and South Korea's Moon. Moon has nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. And Trump thinks money is more than security, Bolton believes. The United States' enormously expensive military adventures and deployments around the world, in Korea, Germany and NATO countries and the many hundreds of bases that especially circle China and Russia, will now provide income, Trump believes. "We must have real expenses covered + 50 percent," he could say. He is the real estate speculator who now has the world to speculate with. "We are there for them," Bolton supported, and Trump joyfully grasped the argument against, among others, South Korea. Therefore, South Korea must start paying for the soldiers deployed there, and for the nuclear shield that provides a guarantee against North Korea.
However, Bolton is not consistent in his argument. When Trump seeks to soften the aggressive policy toward North Korea's leader, he rhetorically asks, "Why should we sanction a country 7000 miles away?" Bolton responds: "Because they are building nuclear weapons that can kill Americans." So it was not "for them" but "for us".
Bypassed the censorship
One third of the 290 pages of The Room Where It Happened are references, source references and photos. The reader will see that there are few direct quotes in the text. This is due to the public approval the book text had to undergo, says Bolton. Something he was against, but found himself in. The censorship demanded that quotes in conversations with foreign leaders and between government colleagues should be removed. And Bolton assures that this order has been followed. Therefore, he encourages the reader to pretend that the quotation marks are there, because the text is, he believes, literally as they appear in the book.
He has also taken revenge by giving readers the original sources in the supplement. This is how he takes the last step in competition with a boss and a system and a person he obviously does not have much left over for. There are only two people who are worse, we must believe Bolton, and that is Obama and Biden. There, the security adviser and the president meet in agreement.
Bolton believes that the Democrats should think about the fact that Trump in a possible new period will seek to shape his legacy in a completely different way than what can be imagined today. Conservatives and Republicans will find such a period more difficult to deal with than Democrats, Bolton believes. It is difficult to know exactly what he is aiming for, other than that neither conservatives nor Republicans have such boundless confidence in the erratic man behind The Resolute Desk.