Not everyone agrees that, in speaking up now, Bolton has acted courageously. By not coming forward earlier, my Atlantic colleague Graeme Wood has argued, Bolton “waited until speaking is to his advantage” and thus procured “a huge book deal” and the ability “to command high speaking fees before rapt right-wing audiences.”
But will right-wingers really shell out large sums to hear a man who threatened the president they adore? Since the leak about his book, Bolton has been denounced by Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, who is one of his closest friends in the Senate, and Fred Fleitz, who served twice as Bolton’s chief of staff. He’s been castigated on Fox News, where he served as a contributor for 11 years. He’s put at risk his relationship with former benefactors such as the Mercer family. Surely it would have been safer to simply write a book that avoids alienating the president, as the former Trump appointees Nikki Haley and James Mattis did.
Maybe Bolton is betting that Republicans will fall back in love with him once they fall out of love with Trump. But three years into Trump’s presidency, no evidence suggests that is happening. And Bolton is too widely reviled among progressives—and too warlike—to reinvent himself as a Never Trumper with a gig as a contributor at MSNBC. So it’s hard to see how Bolton’s attack on Trump works to his advantage. Even if Bolton did time his truth telling to maximize book sales, the fact remains: He appears to have told the truth about Trump, something few prominent Republicans have had the courage to do.