As I was editing this, I saw another post on this site on the firing of Bolton, and I encourage you to check it out. I hope to offer something unique in this post. Now to the point.
President Trump has fired his national security adviser John Bolton. I want to look at why and then consider the media’s response, particularly Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. We will see a complete lack of focus and concentration on the wrong issue, just for a change,
Trump Fires Bolton: The Facts
The following is taken from tweets cited in an ABC article on the subject. Trump himself sighted strong policy disagreements between Bolton, himself and other members of the Administration as the basis for Bolton’s termination. The result was that the President asked for Bolton’s resignation – at least according to Trump himself. However, it would not quite be the Trump Administration without utterly contradictory information coming out whenever something happens, and this case is no exception. Bolton tweeted that he had offered his resignation and Trump said ‘let’s talk about it tomorrow’. This Administration could not lie straight in bed.
On the contradictory tweets, two things. First, I would speculate that Trump, long accustomed to power and having the final say, wanted to push Mr Bolton rather than have him jump. It is not anywhere near as spectacular to have someone fall on their sword when you can cut their head off in public. Second, this is yet another example of Trump and his Administration’s gaslighting of America. Gaslighting is a technique of psychological manipulation where, through continuously making the truth a moving target, the perpetrator causes the victim to doubt their own memories of events, and even their sanity. By constantly redefining reality to suit himself, and slandering anyone with the temerity to say otherwise by screaming fake news, Trump is clearly gaslighting the electorate.
Why Did Trump Fire Bolton?
As with virtually any event, the natural follow up is to ask why. Bolton is an unapologetic warmonger who never met a war he did not like, chiefly because he never has, or will, serve in the armed forces. An armchair general in other words. Trump has not served either, and has a similar pro-war stance, but has been known to buck the established orthodoxy once or twice. The aforementioned ABC piece mentioned foreign policy disagreements between Trump and Bolton, specifically over the recent plans to meet with Taliban leaders to establish a peace treaty in Afghanistan. Translation: peace in Afghanistan would lead to less war, and Bolton hates that idea. There is money to be made: mineral wealth and the profits of war. Ok when Donald Trump is the voice of reason when it comes to the use of military force, you have a truly dangerous adviser.
The Reaction, Part One: The Administration
The reaction to Bolton’s departure from inside the Administration was perhaps best summed up by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. When asked if Bolton’s departure came as a shock, Pompeo said that he was ‘never surprised’ at the unpredictable nature of the Administration. That says much about how accustomed to Trump’s erratic and capricious behaviour the Administration, or at least Mr Pompeo, has become.
A further interesting comment on Bolton’s departure came from a source close to the White House who said, referencing potential successors to Bolton, that
[North Korean envoy Stephen] Beigun much more like Pompeo understands that the President is the President, that he makes the decisions
The implication here is that Bolton tried to direct policy, seemingly overstepping his authority. That is something Trump could never tolerate. His mantra is know your place and never question the Dear Leader. Mr Bolton seemingly forgot his place, and was quickly let go. Now while it is true that harmony is necessary between a President and his advisors, Trump is not, contrary to his own perception, a king to be deferred to on all matters. The role of advisors is to advise, and an effective leader can take advice.
The Reaction, Part Two: The Media
We come now to the response of the media, specifically Dr Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. In the opening segment of her show recently, Maddow said that Trump’s relationship with Bolton had ‘ended as raggedly and chaotically as all the rest of them [with national security advisers’. Maddow also declared that Trump had a ‘new ex’ in terms of having ended his relationship with Mr Bolton. Setting aside the utter flipancy with which she is treating this issue, note the framing of her treatment: the issue is not whether this warmongering American imperialist should ever have been hired in the first place – that’s a given – the issue is the fact that Trump’s White House is chaotic.
I have said this before and I will say it again: Doctor, you of all people not only should,but do, know better than this. The issue is not the chaos (which has nothing to do with the average American), but rather the fact this this bloodthirsty advocate of American Exceptionalism was ever hired in the first place. You yourself played the clip of Bolton flagrantly dissing the United Nations under the Bush Administration. Bolton backed every war and tried to create new ones by pressuring Trump to take an increasingly hawkish stand toward Russia, a fellow nuclear-armed power.
Conclusion: President Broken Clock
Trump’s motivation for getting rid of Bolton are, as usual, unclear. However, I do think that it was the correct decision. Bolton was a truly dangerous lunatic who could only have driven American foreign policy in a more bellacose direction. Trump, like the broken clock, is right twice a day, and this decision, for all the media framing around it, was the correct one.
This line from above bears repeating: When Donald Trump is the voice of reason in a situation, the other guy was truly dangerous.
Bolton will not be missed, and the ‘chaos’ element of the media narrative needs to stop. Administrations swap personnel. It happens. We should not let our (often well placed) contempt for Trump change how we view common occurrences.
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