The final straw might have come when Bolton’s last ally, Vice President Pence, got caught up in Bolton’s various internal beefs. Pence and Bolton have been quietly close, but Pence plays a much more cautious and disciplined game. The New York Times reported Pence’s team was angry that Pence was named in news reports with Bolton as opposing Trump’s plan to invite Taliban leaders to Camp David.
“Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence publicly denied the reports, and some White House officials said they believed it was the last straw for the president,” according to the Times. This is a leak about a leak.
Bolton is not innocent: His team just got outgunned, outmaneuvered and out-leaked. It was inevitable. Anticipating this outcome, Bolton had been telling people for months he intended to leave by the end of the year. The Afghanistan Camp David mess seems to have sped that up. Bolton will leave with a record of some policy wins and some losses — from his perspective, more wins than if he hadn’t had the job at all.
Republicans on Capitol Hill lost a key interlocutor and a key ally inside the White House. Many fear Trump will replace Bolton with someone who will feed Trump’s own desire to drastically pull back on U.S. commitments and alliances abroad. Even Democrats acknowledge Bolton was somebody who they knew and trusted to — at the very least — push back against Trump’s worst instincts or false beliefs.