Trump national security adviser and disgraced nonsense-peddler John Bolton was on the Sunday shows today to defend his idiot boss from the widespread perception that his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which was cut short amid accusations from both sides, was a failure. But he also took a moment to throw his boss a wee bit under the bus.
Asked during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether he takes Kim at his word, Bolton replied, “My opinion doesn’t matter … I am not the national security decision-maker. That’s [Trump’s] view.”
Noting that Donald Trump takes murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, a man who runs his entire nation as prison camp, at his word is the sort of thing that Trump’s detractors emphasize as symptom of the man’s continued incompetence. (Trump has continued his bizarre habit of believing the word of dictators over those of even his closest advisers, whether it be the Saudi government’s murder of a Washington Post journalist or Vladimir Putin’s assurances that Russia is completely innocent of hacking charges leveled against them by the whole of the American intelligence community. It seems, at this point, pathological.)
Refusing to back his boss up on this “opinion” is certainly understandable. While the ultrahawkish Bolton was willing to swallow a lot to regain the ear of a White House, nodding his head on the supposed trustworthiness of Trump’s dictatorial would-be allies is … too much. But Bolton’s dodging response may be the most diplomatic thing the anti-diplomat has ever mustered; no doubt Trump will hear Bolton’s words as praise for the “decision maker”, brushing aside the parts where Bolton is unwilling to repeat Dear Leader’s own conclusions.
It is not necessarily true that the North Korean summit was a failure, however; for the North Koreans, it appears to have again been a rousing, if inexplicable, success. The Trump administration announced this weekend that they would be ending the long-held joint U.S.-South Korean spring military training exercises, replacing them with a scaled down version in a theoretical effort to “reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”.
In other words, the Trump administration has once again handed North Korea a remarkable military concession—in exchange for, literally, nothing. The announcement suggests it is meant only as goodwill gesture. (It may not be that simple, behind the scenes, and have more to do with Trump’s frequent demands that the United States pull back militarily in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and anywhere else he believes allied nations are not paying the U.S. sufficient coin to defend.)
You have to wonder what goes on in John Bolton’s head these days. He clearly jumped at the new White House opportunity as a chance to reinvigorate calls for war against Iran; in practice, it’s not clear he has any more influence over Trump’s mercurial policy shifts than Ivanka does, and neither of them can compete with any given morning’s Fox & Friends. Being “adviser” to the most feckless foreign policy team in a half-century was a job he willingly took, though, so it’s likely he’ll attempt to stick it out until Trump finally tires of him. If Trump’s past staff changes are any indication, we’re probably close to that point already.