Bolton made two mistakes unforgivable in the Trump administration. First, he publicly opposed Trump. Second, he was right. He argued, privately and through leaks, against the Taliban coming to Camp David to negotiate with the president. When the Taliban summit blew up and it was evident Bolton was right, Trump did what came naturally and parted ways with him. Bolton already had a history of disagreeing with the president’s more personality-based and open approaches to North Korea and Iran, and he had taken a harder stand for regime change in Venezuela.
Trump can credibly claim his disruptive approach to foreign policy fulfills the promises he made to the American voters. He differs from his predecessors not in his excessive rhetoric on the campaign trail, but rather in his seriousness in following through. Voters had tired of the bipartisan consensus that America must simply continue abiding by unfair trade deals and bear a disproportionate burden to help keep the peace. Hard-working voters were tired of making all the sacrifices to benefit the nation’s elites and other countries’ emerging middle classes. Trump promised to exit the Paris climate treaty, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership; move America’s embassy to Jerusalem; and renegotiate NAFTA. He has done these things. While he may not have succeeded in convincing Mexico to pay for his border wall, he has used the threat of tariffs to motivate Mexico to help dramatically stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming from Central America. All of these moves were considered impractical by the foreign-policy establishment ruling both parties, just as Reagan’s determination to take down the Evil Empire was also once derided as cowboy foolishness.