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Analysts see deep impact from Bolton's tell-all memoir

By PAN MENGQI | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-08 10:19

Copies of The Room Where It Happened by former US national security adviser John Bolton are displayed at a bookshop in Corte Madera, California, on June 23. [JUSTIN SULLIVAN/AFP]

Two weeks after the release of the memoir of John Bolton, the former US national security adviser to President Donald Trump, the media and the public are still unceasingly discussing the details of the tell-all book, as it is full of bold revelations of the administration's policies and ideas. With the book ranked first in current US book sales lists, analysts say that its impact on the future of the US should not be underestimated.

The Room Where It Happened, which was released nine months after Bolton's unceremonious exit from the White House, details in 500 pages the current US government's fraught relationship with other countries and its approach to foreign policy objectives, as experienced by Bolton.

At various points in the book, Bolton describes himself as "flabbergasted" or "stunned" by the US administration's ideas or philosophy. Trump has claimed Bolton "made things up", while the director of national intelligence and the Justice Department accuses Bolton of publishing classified information.

According to media reports, the controversial book has sold more than 780,000 copies in its first week to top The New York Times and Amazon top-seller lists, with its publisher Simon& Schuster set to print a total of 1 million copies.

After the release of the book, Bolton was asked in some interviews as to why he saved for the book key allegations he could have shared in testimony during Trump's impeachment trial.

In response, he told the media that he had refused to testify before the House of Representatives unless under subpoena, but House Democrats declined to issue one, fearing the issue would get tied up in the courts.

The White House would have likely objected to his testimony, and Democrats were concerned that a decision would be delayed for months.

The book exposes some of the most controversial practices by the US administration.

The most important nugget was Bolton's claim that Trump told him in August last year that security assistance to Ukraine should remain on hold until the country agreed to investigate Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, and his son. The claim contradicted Trump's central impeachment defense-that holding up the aid and his interest in investigating the Bidens were unrelated.

Less explosive details in the book included Bolton's worries about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's freelancing in Ukraine, and his claim that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper joined him in pushing Trump to release the military aid to Ukraine.

According to Bolton, Trump also allegedly said that invading Venezuela would be "cool" and that the country was "really part of the United States".

The details from the book also confirm his public attitude toward journalists, as Bolton writes that Trump told him "these people should be executed" in a meeting where he said that reporters should be jailed in order to find out their sources. "They are scumbags."

Internal conflicts

Ye Hailin, an international relations researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Bolton's claims revealed that there were many internal conflicts among the hawkish officials.

"From the constant firing of officials since Trump took office to Bolton's claims in his book about the president, we can see that the internal divisions in the White House are relatively serious," Ye said.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, Ye said, Bolton is also notorious, although he was calling the current US government "naive" and "ignorant" in dealing with foreign affairs.

He said both Bolton's and Trump's tones on foreign policy were centered on the interests of the US. So, the joint efforts of the two people would make the US more arrogant on the international stage, he said.

Ye noted that long before Trump took it up as a political slogan, the bedrock of Bolton's thinking was America First, complete with contempt for international cooperation to resolve the world's problems.

In Bolton's book, where he boasts of his invitations to the White House to explain things to Trump even before he was given a job, Bolton shows his colors.

"I congratulated Trump on withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement … which I saw as an important victory against global governance," he writes.

He also throws aside the Iran nuclear deal as "abominably negotiated".

Zhu Zheng, an assistant professor focusing on constitutional law and politics at China University of Political Science and Law, said it should be noted that because of a conflict of interests, readers should not vindicate or validate Bolton's book in haste-by any measure.

Bolton has been self-serving to save all the episodes for the book rather than the Congressional impeachment hearings.

But if Bolton is telling the truth, Zhu said the book may be a test run for the months to come ahead of the US presidential election in November.

"In the months ahead, Bolton's book is likely to become a weapon in the hands of US politicians trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming poll. The impact of the memoir with such timing, therefore, should not be underestimated," Zhu added.

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