Trump hits Bolton: He's such a "tough guy" that he got us into Iraq

He’s right, “toughness” can come with a very high body count.

He should find the idiot who hired Bolton and fire that guy.

I did not think the Trump/Bolton divorce would turn nasty on day two but here we are, with suspicious leaks about the president’s thinking on Iran appearing in print and POTUS lightly goofing on his former NSA’s penchant for war in an Oval Office photo op. Presumably we’ll hear from Bolton himself soon on some newly friendly TV platform like CNN or MSNBC. While we wait, let me note that one of my theories yesterday for why the axe finally fell on Bolton was him getting credit for canceling the summit with the Taliban at Camp David. Trump didn’t like it when Steve Bannon made the cover of Time magazine as “The Great Manipulator”; he didn’t like it when John Kelly was celebrated at first for imposing discipline in the West Wing; and surely he didn’t like seeing Bolton portrayed as the voice of reason (even by Rush Limbaugh) in opposing his harebrained summit idea. Rule one of the Trump White House: Do not take credit. All credit belongs to the president.


According to Politico, that was in fact the final straw for Trump with Bolton:

Ultimately, it was hearing media accounts about how Bolton had advised the president to scuttle a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David that proved a breaking point for Trump, according to sources in and out of the administration. In the president’s telling, he had taken his own counsel in arriving at the decision to call off the meeting and end the negotiations, and he was infuriated to hear Bolton credited with influencing his decision.

NBC claims that Bolton landed on an actual Trump sh*t list earlier this year because of the media’s habit of treating him like some sort of svengali on foreign policy, which is ironic given how little influence Bolton seemed to actually have:

[A]ides say Trump was close to firing Bolton earlier this year, even putting his name on a list of officials he’d like to get rid of before the end of the year, after which such moves might have a negative effect on his re-election campaign, officials said.

The president was angered by what he viewed as Bolton’s positioning himself in the news media as the decision-maker on key issues like Iran and Venezuela, the officials said, and it didn’t help that Trump thought those policies weren’t working…

“The president’s view is: ‘I run Iran. John may think he runs Iran, but I run Iran,'” a former White House official said.


Trump cites a specific Bolton miscue (besides Iraq) in the clip below to demonstrate that he knows better than his ex-NSA does on foreign policy. It set us back last year in our outreach to North Korea, says POTUS, when Bolton mentioned “the Libyan model” for denuclearizing the NorKs. That was a problem, it’s true: Kim Jong Un and his regime followed the Qaddafi saga closely and drew a grim lesson about what happens to dictators who agree to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for better relations with the United States. The irony, though, is that Bolton wasn’t threatening Kim in mentioning the “Libyan model.” What he meant by that term wasn’t violent overthrow of the regime but rather verifiable denuclearization via UN inspectors on the ground to build trust with international powers. That’s what Qaddafi agreed to, that’s what Bolton wanted Kim to agree to, but Kim seems to have misunderstood.

In fact, Trump went as far as to say this later in his photo op today:

The ultimate strike against John Bolton, perhaps, was that he thought diplomacy with a nuclear Stalinist state was a fool’s errand. We’re lucky to be rid of him!


Trump is looking around for a new NSA but it doesn’t matter at this point who gets the job. The Times notes correctly that Trump will effectively be his own NSA going forward, just like he’s his own press secretary, just like he’s his own chief of staff. “The irreconcilable difference between Bolton and Trump was that Bolton fundamentally doesn’t believe in diplomacy with adversaries, and President Trump seeks diplomacy with adversaries as must-see TV,” said former Hillary advisor Jake Sullivan to the paper, which sums it up nicely. We’re shifting from having a superhawk nominally in charge of national security to having a dove who craves high-level photo ops in charge. Trump promised us a dramatic shift from the GOP foreign policy of old and he’s going to deliver that, for better in some ways and for worse in others, I expect.

Exit quotation from WaPo reporter Robert Costa: “[S]everal of [Bolton’s] close friends tell me he’s waiting and watching how the White House handles everything, isn’t ruling out further remarks as events unfold.”

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