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John Bolton is a weasel for not telling the truth about President Trump when it might have mattered — at least, theoretically. In practice, however, Bolton’s coming clean wouldn’t have mattered at all, since Bolton’s fellow weasels — Republican senators — were never going to remove the Head Weasel from office. That was always going to be our job.
I’m using the word “weasel” in the dictionary sense of “a deceitful or treacherous person.” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is excepted because he, alone, put duty above party loyalty in voting to convict Trump during his impeachment trial. The rest of the GOP Senate caucus chose to maintain the tragic fiction that Trump is fit to exercise the vast powers of the presidency, even as these cravens know that to be untrue. Imagine how different things might be today if all senators, and not just Democrats and Romney, had upheld the oath they took to judge Trump impartially in his impeachment trial.
Among Republicans, only Romney and Susan Collins of Maine voted — in vain — to hear what Bolton, Trump’s longest-serving national security adviser, had to say. Bolton also could have told his story in the House of Representatives, which formally asked him to testify. And at any time, of course, he could have simply called a news conference and spilled the rotten beans.
The biggest headline from Bolton’s book seems to be that Trump begged Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection and, in doing so, put his own political interests ahead of the national interest. That would be a shocking revelation about any other U.S. president but not about Trump: He was impeached precisely because he had tried to coerce the president of Ukraine into trying to help him beat former vice president Joe Biden in November.
So what else is new in Bolton’s book? That Trump is “erratic” in his decision-making? Big surprise there. That the president is “stunningly uninformed,” to the point of once asking whether Finland was part of Russia? The president displays his vast ignorance, before cameras or on Twitter, virtually every day. That Trump is fond of authoritarian strongmen and eager to do favors for them in hopes they will reciprocate? Russian President Vladimir Putin could have told you that. Perhaps the disclosure that Trump told Xi he was right to force a million Muslim Uighurs into concentration camps? Okay, even I’m a little surprised to learn Trump thought this was a good idea; but Trump’s general lack of commitment to human rights has been obvious all along.
At this point, Bolton’s revelations are just more of what we already knew from earlier accounts by journalists and onetime Trump insiders. The president’s 11th-hour attempt to halt publication of Bolton’s book is constitutionally absurd — the courts almost never impose prior restraint on free speech — and puts the president in the position of making two mutually exclusive claims: that the book is both “a compilation of lies and made up stories,” as Trump tweeted Thursday; and also that it is filled with classified information, which generally consists of secrets that are true.
A pox on both Bolton’s and Trump’s houses. But never forget the Republican Party’s shameful refusal to acknowledge who Trump is and what he’s doing to this country. And look at what the GOP’s fecklessness has cost the nation just in the few months since impeachment.
Faced with the covid-19 pandemic, Trump ignored, denied and mishandled the crisis to the point where the United States leads the world in both cases and fatalities. More than 115,000 Americans have died, and experts say that tens of thousands of those deaths could have been prevented. On Saturday, the president plans to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa inside a closed arena — a potential “super-spreader” event that could cost some attendees their health or lives.
Worried about his reelection, Trump has pushed states to reopen their economies before it was safe — and refuses to wear a mask, modeling a behavior we now know can play a key role in expanding the virus’s spread. He has used an apolitical public health recommendation to inflame the red-vs.-blue culture war that he desperately hopes will win him a second term.
And confronting unprecedented nationwide protests over systemic racism following the killing of George Floyd, Trump has — predictably — chosen to divide rather than heal. His administration takes the position that systemic racism against African Americans does not even exist, and he tweets about “LAW & ORDER” while largely ignoring the nationwide clamor for meaningful police reform.
Republican senators, and White House insiders like Bolton, had their chance to be on the right side of history. They failed us and deserve nothing but our scorn."