I read John Bolton’s book so you don’t have to

BipHoo Company / Flickr John Bolton famously abrasive is an...
BipHoo Company / Flickr
Just to clarify, I did not buy a copy of John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened. I downloaded a free copy of the Simon and Shuster ebook (pictures and all!) from what appears to be a reasonably legitimate news/policy site in Senegal. (So hopefully I did not download a bunch of malware at the same time.)
Ordinarily, I do not approve of pirating copyrighted materials, but Bolton’s refusal to testify in the House impeachment hearings was an act I found morally reprehensible and deeply, deeply unpatriotic — so f*@k him.
Here are the main takeaways:
  • The smartest guy who ever lived or served in government is John Bolton. I’m surprised he did not call the book The Smartest Guy in the Room Where It Happened.
  • Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is a foreign policy lightweight who only cares about photo ops that make her look good, because she’s got her eye on running for president in 2024.
  • Former Defense Secretary (and four-star Marine general) Jim Mattis is a fucking pussy, notwithstanding all the combat he’s seen, because he is too worried that we might get a few U.S. troops killed from time to time. Also, he’s a master of the bureaucratic game, so fuck him, because that’s Bolton’s thing.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo generally agrees with Bolton, especially that Trump is mostly, and exasperatingly, in Pompeo’s own words, “full of shit.” However, Pompeo is also a weasel and a suck-up to Trump because of his own political plans, and someone who is too easily captured by the liberal Democrats who control the State Department. (As a former Foreign Service officer, I can truthfully say that last part is . . . mostly true. A majority of Foreign Service officers are liberal Democrats.)
  • Everything Obama did, ever, was bad. This includes especially the Iran nuclear deal. If only he had read John Bolton’s op-eds.
  • War is nothing to be afraid of. Embrace the suck.
  • The only way to get anywhere with Iran and North Korea is through regime change. (Because, you know, regime change has always worked out so well in the past. Just look at Iraq and Libya!) We really ought to just bomb North Korea. We can, you know, “minimize” casualties in Seoul to some acceptable number of tens of thousands. We’ll strangle Iran with maximal sanctions and this will lead to a glorious revolution that overthrows the mullahs — or maybe we should just bomb them, too.
  • The chapter on Venezuela demonstrates just what a credulous fool Bolton and neo-cons are when it comes to using sanctions to effect regime change. (History lesson: this has never worked in a country richer/larger than Haiti, and even there it took over a year.) The strength of the “democratic opposition” these people convince themselves of exists primarily in their own minds and childish longings. The Trump Administration really had itself in a pre-orgasmic unicorn dream-state that the revolution was happening in Venezuela, until . . . well, huh, hey, gosh, by golly, it didn’t happen. Bolton takes no lesson from this failure and wants to do it all over again in Iran.
  • Trump is an oafish, ignorant, incompetent, impulsive fool who doesn’t listen to or learn from briefings but talks, talks, talks, ping-ponging from topic to topic and back again. His head is full of conspiracy theories like BBs rattling around in a tin can and he only cares about his own interests. (I know, shocking.)
  • The book is, in fact, full of classified information, just as the government alleges (notwithstanding that much of it is the sort of stuff you might read in the Washington Post). This is almost all because Bolton reports verbatim in many cases the conversations Trump has with foreign leaders. These kind of discussions are routinely classified “Confidential,” the lowest level of classification, so that leaders can talk frankly with each other without fear of their words showing up in the press the next morning. Bolton also reports on intra-government discussions on how the U.S. is going to approach this or that topic with foreigners. Again, classified, because this is useful intelligence for foreign governments, e.g., North Korea, on how they ought to approach negotiations with Trump. (Bottom line: with Trump, the intel is always He desperately wants a deal.) Here and there are things I would have classified as “Secret” for their sensitivity (e.g., when Trump tells Bolton to tell Bibi Netanyahu that he will “back him” if Israel bombs Iran). If the Biden Administration decides to pursue the case Bill Barr has started, Bolton will likely lose all his profits from the book, including his $2 million advance (I’m not complaining). It’s just as likely, though, that there will be no criminal prosecution, since most of the classified information is either moor or more embarrassing than anything else (the South Koreans, for example, are reportedly miffed at the way Trump and his minions are quoted as being so dismissive of ROK President Moon Jae-in and his “Sunshine Policy” towards the North).
  • Did I mention that no one is smarter than John Bolton?

Should you read the book? It has its interesting parts, which reflect on the general no-strategy, whimsical, self-interested nature of foreign policy formation and implementation in this administration as well as the constant internecine warfare in the White House. Bolton’s portrayals of Trump’s obsessions (prosecute John Kerry under the Logan Act!), his verbal diarrhea, and his worse-than-a-gnat’s attention span are often quite funny.

But most of the real revelations have already appeared in the press. So, you won’t be missing that much if you give it a pass. If you want to read it for its portrait of a dysfunctional administration, yes, go ahead, as long as you don’t mind having to put up with Bolton’s smugness and Obama-bashing. Otherwise, don’t bother.
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4 Comments on "I read John Bolton’s book so you don’t have to"

newest oldest most voted

Thanks. Saved me some. Oney


Was planning to get a pirated version (so the war hawk wouldn’t get rich) but after reading this post, I won’t even bother doing that.

J. M.
J. M.

Your article was sufficient, Thank-You. I’m more concerned/interested in the tax returns/financial records. I’d pay to see that pile of lies and grift.

Dick Panico
Dick Panico

My question is , where was he when our
country need him ?
He could have helped with the
“ impeachment of DONALD J TRUMP “?
Many books will be written, and they will ask
“ how could have you allowed this to happen to
Now , you want to profit from a book ?
You chose (profit over patriotism )!
So I have little sympathy for Bolton!
He was a (no show ), when he could have helped.
As Lee Marvin said “ you could have been a meat eater”!
You should’ve been “ just another republican “ ,