John Bolton, that fierce advocate of wars someone else has to fight, apparently has begun to get on the nerves of his boss, President Donald J. Trump. It seems that Trump worries that his national security director might force him to fight conflicts he does not want. Indeed, at the height of the comic opera Gaido coup attempt in Venezuela, Trump decided to send an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean rather than off the Spanish Main.
Trump’s conversation with Valdimir Putin would indicate the degree of his concern with his firebrand national security chief. Bolton, it seems, also has a lot of support among Democrats on this issue. Along with Mike Pompeo, Bolton, the Democratic leadership and Mario Rubio wanted some form of intervention. Trump clearly did not.
Underpinning much of the Russian investigation concerned — and this should not be a surprise — foreign policy. Trump, and he said so during the campaign, wanted a resetting of the relationship with the Russian Federation. Some of his advisors made foolish decisions trying to establish a back channel to Moscow. But, they were more guilty of clumsiness than treason. However, as with Watergate, attempts to obstruct the investigation obscured the policy shifts.
But, Neo-Conservative Republicans, unable to let any crisis go without taking advantage, quickly harnessed Trump to traditional American policy. They gave him leaders he did not want, and he kept casting the likes of James Mattis, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMasters out of the administration. Undaunted, they stuck him with Bolton and Pompeo, who were no different than the previous figures. As Ronald Reagan would say, “there he goes again.”
Trump, in dealing with these palace intrigues, has displayed neolithic incompetence. Not used to the ways of palace politics, he has fallen into every trap. But, even if he was skilled, he would have fallen prey. When he tries to shift, he is hit with a leak, which he makes worse by retaliating with a tweet. The fact that an anonymous author can send an article to the New York Times claiming that the “adults” are allegedly babysitting the president of the United States — you can see what Trump is up against.
The whole affair involves Trump’s attempt to reach out to his rivals — not a capitulation but an understanding. Politicians can easily live with his tax cuts, trade initiatives and economic direction, it is foreign policy that concerns them. Hence the constant hammering at the White House. Trump has tried to improve relations with North Korea, tried to smooth affairs in Syria, and keep contacts with Russia. Of course, Pompeo, eager to start a war with Iran, keeps trying to derail the peace and prosperity theme.
It is time for Trump to take his case to the American people. For without explaining the causes of his troubles, he is going to be constantly about not obeying subpoenas. Nixon picked that route and lost. And Trump should not trust the likes of Lindsey Graham any more than Julius Caesar could trust Brutus. But as long as no one wants to explore the base origins of Russiagate, Trump is where his opponents want him.