Do Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump want John Bolton to offer a deposition to House Democrats? One might think that, under the circumstances, the president and his attorney might want to lower the temperature with Trump’s former national security adviser after Fiona Hill’s testimony. Instead, Giuliani wasted no time in trolling Bolton over Hill’s reports about his reaction to Giuliani’s work in Ukraine.
His conversation with New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi wasn’t too bad:
I asked Rudy Giuliani, “If you had to describe yourself as a weapon other than a hand grenade what weapon would you be?” Giuliani responded, “I’m disappointed in John it’s almost like projection.”
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) October 15, 2019
I asked Giuliani if Bolton ever tried to talk to him about this issue before he exited the White House. Giuliani responded, “I don’t think so.”
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) October 15, 2019
The comment reported by NBC’s Kristen Welker, on the other hand, is pure reactive counterpunch with no strategic consideration whatsoever:
.@RudyGiuliani on Bolton calling him a “hand grenade.” RG: “I’m very disappointed that his bitterness drives him to attack a friend falsely…It’s really ironic that John Bolton is calling anyone else a hand grenade. When John is described by many as an atomic bomb . “
— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) October 15, 2019
That may be true, but perhaps more true than Giuliani realizes. Atomic bombs usually mean game over, which is why one does not lightly choose to start banging on them with a hammer. Calling Bolton a liar in public — especially when it wasn’t Bolton who testified in the first place — is practically daring the former nat-sec adviser to set the record straight, either in public or in House testimony.
One might think a “friend” would have checked first to see if Hill’s testimony was accurate in that regard before assuming the worst. And especially before assuming the worst in remarks to the national media this administration professes to detest.
The media has certainly noticed Giuliani’s decision to go on the attack. It is having the unintended but unsurprising effect of painting Bolton as a potential hero … a media take that few could have imagined just a few months ago:
“Hero” is, of course, a relative term when it comes to Bolton. Newsweek will only go so far as to note a description of Bolton as the Severus Snape of Ukraine-Gate:
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton is trending after it emerged he had described President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani as a hand grenade, and said he was not part of “whatever drug deal” was being cooked up between White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon D. Sondland. …
And his efforts to distance himself from the alleged activities were widely discussed on social media—with some expressing surprise that Bolton, who had previously argued for pre-emptive attacks on North Korea and has been criticized for his aggressive foreign policy views, was emerging as the hero of the piece.
Indeed, former White House aide Andrei Cherny, currently the CEO of financial firm Aspiration, commented that Bolton’s involvement painted him as the “Severus Snape” of the story—a reference to the Harry Potter series in which Snape finally emerges as a hero, having been previously painted as a villain by author J.K. Rowling.
That sets up a call for Bolton to appear on Capitol Hill with lots of political freight and media attention, which is exactly the opposite of what this administration needs. It furthermore increases Bolton’s credibility in the media, which will be a problem for Trump if Bolton corroborates Hill’s account and has more to add to it. No one knows yet whether that will be the case, but if it is, Giuliani’s doing nothing but add to Bolton’s motivation and raising his profile.
Aaron Blake calls Bolton’s sudden emergence as a critical need for Democrats “one of the great ironies” in this situation, and says “atomic bomb” might well be an apt description:
Not only is Bolton a potentially motivated witness with little loyalty to Trump, he’s actually got something pulling him in the opposite direction: An almost-religious view of foreign policy. Bolton has often been criticized as strident and overly militaristic, but regardless of the substance of his foreign policy, the point here is that he has strong beliefs that appear to outrank other concerns.
That’s important, especially in this moment, because Trump’s foreign policy has veered significantly away from Bolton’s vision — most recently with his decision to withdraw from northern Syria, which is a decision many hawkish Republicans speak about in dire terms. They speak in terms of Trump having left the United States’ Kurdish allies for “slaughter” at the hands of Turkey, as well as a possible resurgence of ISIS. And if those Republicans are speaking out against Trump like never before, just imagine what Bolton must be thinking right now.
One of the great ironies here is that Bolton is perhaps the last person you’d expect to be a key witness for Democrats in their impeachment inquiry, given he’s the man they have derided for so long. And the thing that could give him extra motivation to speak out is a shift away from Republican Party orthodoxy on foreign policy.
Yes, irony can certainly be ironic, without a doubt. All of that is yet another reason one does not go banging on atomic bombs, or even drawing attention to them.