Friday, August 28, 2020

The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton

My book for August is The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton. I got book after seeing Bolton interviewed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Bolton has a long career of public service. Bolton served as a United States Assistant Attorney General for President Ronald Reagan from 1985 to 1989. He served in the State Department as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs from 1989 to 1993 and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs from 2001 to 2005. Bolton was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006, as a recess appointee by President George W. Bush.

Bolton served as the National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019. This book explores his time in the Trump White House. I would describe it as "Inside Baseball." The book details the day to day mechanics of serving as the National Security Advisor.

Bolton spent a lot of time as National Security Advisor trying to apply some structure and process to the national security policies. Trump's lack of consistency, steadfastness, and resolve undercut Bolton's efforts.

I have noted before that Trump is very thin-skinned and that he plays fast and loose with the truth. It is also clear that Trump is very dogmatic about a number of his core beliefs...

This book highlights a fourth problem: Trump’s erratic behavior. Bolton notes that it is difficult to pursue complex policies in a contentious world when the policy is subject to instant modification based on the boss’s perception of inaccurate and often-already-outdated information.

There are parts of this book that I enjoyed. I found the day to day details of trying to implement national secuirty and foreign policies interesting. Nevertheless, I don't recommend the book. At almost 500 pages, it is a slog.

Kindle Notes:
  • Trump wanted to do what he wanted to do, based on what he knew and what he saw as his own best personal interests. - page 445
  • I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations. - page 485

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