Bolton's book makes it clear: Trump is the amoral charlatan we knew he was
John Bolton’s book is a reminder that, contrary to all of Trump’s claims to be “tough” on China, in reality Trump fawns over China’s president Xi Jinping, his China policies are counterproductive, and Trump has repeatedly sold out the American people to China to advance his own personal interests.
From encouraging Xi to continue ethnic cleansing against Uighurs to asking for China’s help in his 2020 re-election campaign, Trump’s actions make it clear why Chinese officials believe that Trump is good for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The revelations regarding China are just a handful of the many episodes in Bolton’s book illustrating Trump’s corruption and ineptitude that, in year four of Trump’s term, may not be surprising, but should still shock everyone.
Daily events highlight how dangerous Trump is to America and the world, from ignoring a pandemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans to encouraging state violence against protestors and police brutality against African Americans.
There are no more surprises with Trump, just more death and destruction he leaves in his wake. But Bolton’s book helps illustrate two facts about the Trump administration: Trump is exactly who we know he is – an amoral charlatan using the most powerful office in the world to help himself at the expense of the American people; and those around Trump help him carry out his corrupt ends, despite what they may tell themselves to justify their complicity.
Trump’s approach to China, in particular, is illustrative. Bolton claims that Trump told Xi that he supported the ethnic cleansing against Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups on at least two occasions, telling Xi that building concentration camps were “exactly the right thing to do”. Trump’s lack of interest in human rights in China, his racist views towards Muslims and emulation of strongmen like Xi make this revelation abhorrent and yet completely unsurprising.
The book also recounts how Trump specifically asked Xi to buy American agricultural products – which was part of the eventual “phase one” trade deal signed in January 2020 – to help Trump win votes from certain constituencies in the 2020 election. We already knew that Trump had asked Xi to investigate Joe Biden, and so combined with Trump’s solicitation of campaign help from Russia and Ukraine this is yet another reaffirmation that Trump’s conversations with world leaders regularly include invitations to interfere in America’s elections.
At the end of the day, Bolton’s book tells us more of what we already know about Trump: the president is corrupt, incompetent, and partners with whomever he needs – including the world’s worst dictators – to advance his own personal interests.
But Bolton’s book also reinforces how the people around Trump enable the president’s destructive behavior. Despite claiming at the time to have information relevant to the inquiry, Bolton refused to testify before the Trump impeachment process, choosing instead to make money off of his knowledge of Trump’s impeachable conduct by waiting to sell a book. Bolton says that Matt Pottinger - now deputy national security advisor and someone who reportedly takes a hardline against the authoritarian CCP - heard Trump in 2017 encourage China’s ethnic cleansing campaign against Uighurs and yet (despite that and every other publicly known corrupt and impeachable act Trump has committed in office) Pottinger still works for Trump. Pompeo - one of Trump’s worst sycophants - thinks the president is “full of shit,” according to Bolton. Bolton and those around Trump deserve nothing except an infamous place in the dustbin of history alongside their boss.
Bolton’s book is merely the latest reminder that there are few guardrails mitigating the damage that Trump can inflict on the nation and the world. For more than three years Trump has eroded norms, broken laws, and installed cronies who facilitate his corrupt reign. Even impeachment by the House with a slam-dunk case could not convince Trump’s allies in the Senate to do their constitutional duties and remove Trump from office. And so officials like Bolton – who don’t have the courage to stand up to Trump when they are in positions of power – just get rich by selling their experiences to corporate boards and in memoirs.