One of the most interesting contrasts of the Trump era is between John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. They highlight two archetypes of Republicans in the age of Trump. I think of them as playing a position vs. playing the man (even though it’s not a perfect sports metaphor). Both men took their jobs to get things done, to be in the mix, to enhance their political positions, and all that. But Bolton had ideas, agendas, principles, etc. that were more important than being a Trumper or being seen as a Trump loyalist. He wanted nothing to do with Giuliani’s “drug deal.” He opposed the holding up of aid to Ukraine. We’ll no doubt learn more when his book comes out, but it’s obvious that he prioritized the policies he believed in. Oh, I have no doubt there were compromises and humiliating moments of suck-uppery. But the truth of it is still clear.
As for Pompeo, he plays the man. He’s been willing to lie and compromise for Trump in ways Bolton wouldn’t. I’m sure he’s tried to steer the president away from all kinds of mistakes behind the scenes. But, when push comes to shove, he puts the president’s cult of personality—and perhaps the hope of inheriting his mantle—ahead of everything else. All of this Ukraine stuff has happened because Secretary of State Pompeo allowed it to happen under his nose. He may not have liked whatever drug deal Giuliani was cooking up, but he lacked either the will, the ability, or the courage to stop it.
Ultimately, it’s the difference between two kinds of people. There’s those who—for whatever reason—start from the view, at least publicly, that Trump is right and then reverse-engineer their arguments to fit what he did. And then there’s those who may praise or flatter Trump, or excuse his behavior, but do so in pursuit of something more important to them.