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Bolton Exits, But Its Still Trumps Show


When I think about National Security Adviser John Bolton and president trump I think that old old Neil Simon play the couple ones a neat nick the others a SLOB and they're roommates like trump block seddon then Bolton's office is a mess and thank why don't you Colinas up right exactly an Oscar and Felix Situation Shane Harris reports on national security for the Washington Post? He says I'm actually not that far off. When I imagine these to the roommate's from hell the president's approach coach to foreign policy can seem chaotic his National Security Adviser on the other hand the one he just fired? He's orderly controlled are you. He surprised that he's out not at all. No I mean I think that this relationship it just seemed doomed from the START I mean it very much was an odd couple situation nation. I mean to the point where the president didn't even really make any pretense about that. I mean he joked about how he didn't like trump Bolton's mustache and this is one of the things that turned undimmed him off the last time he was thinking about him for the job so personality wise. This was not really a good fit but chain says there's something else will there were stories about Bolton like literally having his door closed at seven times which I think is sort of an apt metaphor for the way he tended to run the National Security Council all which is he just sort of locked himself away in his office and really didn't communicate very much and tried to run it sort of for of this kind of centralized base of power. This is the opposite of what a national security adviser is supposed to do chain compare the job to leading an orchestra. It's all about connecting different agencies. You're listening to different. Constituencies Bolton just didn't do that. He didn't have meetings which are commonplace as part of this process for for months and months into beginning his tenure that was one of the first real warning signs was you would hear people saying Bolton hasn't had a principals committee meeting or there hasn't been a deputies committee be meeting. It was just seemed to me that from the beginning this was going to be a really really bad match and way I'm sort of surprised that it lasted as long as it did but it doesn't surprise me that it went out kind of in a flame to with both of them saying no throwing shots at each other trump saying I fired him in Bolton all-dancing. No I quit these guys seem to want to have the last word today on the show what John Bolton did and didn't do as national security adviser now that he's out. Where does American foreign policy go from here? I'm Mary Harris. You're listening to what next stick with us from Connecticut to California from Mississippi Eight to Minnesota millions of American businesses are using Google tools to grow online businesses like strider bikes rapid city South Dakota are using tools like Google Google market finder and Google ads to expand their reach and connect with more customers globally and more customers globally means it strider bikes can hire more employees. He's back home in the US. The Growth Google initiative is committed to helping American businesses like strider bikes use the web to grow. That's why grow with Google provides free the digital skills workshops and one on one coaching small businesses in all fifty states helping them get online connect with your customers and work more productively learn more at Google dot com slash grow. That's google dot com slash grow. John Bolton left the administration on the heels of this reporting that there was a deal with Taliban that was scuttled. Can we quickly league. Tell the story of what happened there. Well what we know about it is the most recent but we know about it is the president announcing over twitter on Saturday that he had unbeknownst to everyone invited the leaders of the Taliban and we think the leaders of the governor Afghanistan to fly out to Camp David where they were going to have this big meeting and hammer out this peace deal that president trump's negotiators principally through the State Department has been working on for so long it. It sounds like John Bolton's nightmare. It's totally trump holden saver. I mean this is really I mean John Bolton. Who is somebody who was I think deeply offended right and opposed when Donald Trump decided to go have a sort of grip and grin with Kim Jong UN at a summit remember that you know the the North Korean regime has been then one of John Bolton's sort of main enemies for much of his career and foreign policy and here's the president of the United States going out at and smiling with John Elevating him to a level with the president of the United States Bolton made no pretense about being dissatisfied with that I mean even going so far as when asked about saying basically look I don't make the policy I'm here to serve the president so he wasn't even trying to fake it that much that he was opposed to this so the idea that the heads of the Taliban and organization that harbored and enabled Al Qaeda which murder three thousand Americans on September eleventh two thousand one would come to Camp David David? I mean this you know more than symbolic place. This is the meeting place of great peace negotiations the Camp David Accords. We we think about this this story position. It has an American history to see these. These fighters come to Camp David Days before nine eleven. I'm sure just set Bolton's hair on fire and Bolton was skeptical of the entire feast plan with the Taliban anyway. We know that he had told the president as recently as we think the Friday before Labor Day you don't you have to cut a deal with these people. You can still do a troop withdrawal. Make good on your promise the American people to bring troops home from our longest war the one in Afghanistan and not assigned deal with them one over this past weekend. The cabinet was called upon to go on the Sunday shows and explain and defend the president but John Bolton was conspicuously conspicuously absent right. I think that the and maybe looking back now we can sense that maybe this was the beginning of the end that Bolton was certainly not gonna go out there and defend this and to be into fair to Bolton Pompeo Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is the one who had really been the architect of this deal behind the scene so I think it would have fallen fallen to him to do that anyway and he did go out on all the five major Sunday shows but Bolton we had probably reached a point at least on this deal where you know he who is not only not going to go out and advocate for it. It's not even clear to me that he was really deeply involved in it. We had some great reporting from my colleagues here at the Washington Post recently that when John Bolton recently asked to see a copy of the draft for the Afghanistan Taliban peace plan he wasn't allowed to see it and then someone said well you can can see it but you just can't leave with it. You have to basically sit in a room while someone watches you read it because they were afraid he would leak at and try and damage the prospects for for the plan so there was no trust on the part of the State Department team negotiating this in Bolton. They saw him somebody. I think that you know come hell or high. Water was going to do what he could to scuttle scuttle that plan. Can we talk a little bit about John. Bolton relationship not just with the president but with the other people involved with foreign policy Z. and sort of around the White House because one of the things that was so funny about him leaving the White House today was that he was supposed to be at a briefing at one thirty. PM and that was announced and then everyone realized Oh he's out and it looked like Mike pompeo was pretty pleased during this briefing thing he was smiling a lot. Can you talk a little bit about what his colleagues thought of him. John Bolton is not a beloved figure throughout his career. The stories that you hear are people saying he's difficult to work with. You know he's obstinate. He can be intractable he has this penchant for you know sort of being you know quite cutting in his remarks both publicly and privately. He's just not a pleasant person to work with by many accounts wants. Some people thought that that was an asset that he would that made him somebody who would just get the job done be damned what other people thought but when you're in a role as senior as the wanted he had where you've gotta be able really to influence the president's thinking based on your ability to influence all those other people that are trying to get in there car and carry the president's favor and persuade him you kind of WanNa be that last person in the room who gets to talk to the president and really shape the opinion that he he has and the policy he's GonNa take and you know it's sort of. I think one reason why Bolton was seen as such an odd choice for this is that he's combative and most national security security advisers. I think that who have been successful in that job are probably ones who are more diplomatic. Do you know what I mean. I mean people who know oh how to sort of get along with others to a certain degree can be not just policy wonks but can be politicians can be people who know how to Finesse S. The process and how to get people to buy into an idea or if they can't get them to all be on the same page can at least present the president with here. Are Your best options. Here's but I think that you ought to do so interesting. It really raises this question of like what was this guy doing all this time because John Bolton and was there for more than a year and you know there was some reporting that had really been sidelined completely from the team and earlier this summer summer the president of course went to North Korea shook hands with Kim Jong UN and it's not the John Bolton was there Tucker Carlson was right and I think this is one one of the questions that I and a lot of people have been asking who cover the Space John Bolton. Why are you here? What do you hope to achieve in a White House in which you're very very right he had been I think marginalized quite early on it was pretty clear that he didn't have a Lotta choose? You tried to sort of you know hoard all this power himself that didn't work and so what did he hope to gain particularly when not only is Donald trump firm his insistence that we not engage in more foreign wars donald trump would go out and publicly mock John Bolton as a war-mongerer say things like I listen to you we'd be on wars everywhere and so you know to see the president undercutting cutting-edge National Security Advisor at certainly made me wonder Why is he hanging around and I think you know one answer to that may be that I think that Bolten? I'm probably decided look. I'm GONNA give it the best shot I've got. I'm here in the room. I might be able to exercise some influence over policymaking but it it raises this really you know kind of still to me befuddling question of you know would could you be more useful in some other way I mean could he be more useful in the outside and how much punishment and humiliation is one person really willing to take just to say that sure you know the White House national security advisor Yeah I mean it gets I I wonder under how you judge the wins and losses for someone like John Bolton because he definitely went head to head with the president on a lot of things but he also did accomplish some real goals. So how do you think he thinks of his time. In the White House I would guess that he would probably count president trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal as as a top achievement he was more than just skeptical of it. I mean he regarded it. In many ways president trump does as horrible deal so I think he'll count that it is a win and maybe a big enough to justify the entire process of humiliation and frustration that he went through. Can we talk talk about where John Bolton's leaving things he walks out the door because he's leaving just as a number of situations when it comes to foreign policy are hot or at least lukewarm. I mean you have North Korea where it we don't quite know what's happening but certainly trump is interested in developing that relationship in some way and having some kind of in there you have Venezuela were had the simmering situation with the two presidents and it's really unclear where that's GonNa go and of course you also have Iran where you know we scuttled our nuclear deal with them and the president has offered to meet with them but it's unclear where that's going to and these are all situations that you theoretically want a national security advisor to be involved with sort of steering the ship. Yeah I think that's right and all those things that you said are true. Those are crisis Lisa spots. If you look at the three now advisers that trump has had in that position I would argue that they've essentially all been week none of them. Them have really been steering the ship Mike Flynn the first one I mean lasted I mean a matter of literally a matter of days before he had to resign after lying about his interactions with the Russian ambassador during the transition and then ultimately pleading guilty to lying to the FBI so he was out and you know you had HR McMaster coming in who I think was very focused on strategy folks plans and getting things in place which is important but that didn't necessarily give him a lot of clout in a lot of juice and you know he didn't go too far with President Trump and Bolton came in and we've talked about all the ways that they didn't sit well with each other so when you think about it I mean he's had three national security the advisers none of whom have been particularly effective one big reason for that though is that Donald Trump runs donald trump's foreign policy he is someone who operates the gut by instinct he does listen to people around him and what they have to say. It doesn't mean he takes their advice. He certainly didn't take the advice of his visit visors on the wisdom of meeting with Kim Jong on North Korea he constantly contradicts what the CIA and the intelligence agency say about whether Iran's complying lying with its end of the nuclear agreement at that we've now pulled out of so really raises the question. Could anyone really be an effective national security adviser with the president elect Donald Trump who may sit there and listen to you but at the end of the day he is making the decision that is different from the way other presidents of operate. Yes they make the decision at the end of the day but it's really after taking on board and incorporating thinking about the policy and the implications with there being told by their advisers trump just doesn't operate operate that way and frankly you see him working now with so many different acting secretaries and acting directors you know it seems sometimes like half the national security establishment is filled by temps and that seems to suit the president just fine so does it matter that John Bolton lost his job. I mean I guess we're used to thinking of this. Position is kind of like the Governor Li someone you know with their hand on the wheel which is clearly not what it is so doesn't does it matter that John Bolton's out. I think it matters that he's out and I think it matters that there's never really been ineffective national security adviser because there is not a national security process in this administration. There never has been Bolton. Just didn't even pretend to want one so in some way he was he. was you know being honest about what the reality Alex is in the trump administration but you see the effects of this kind of policy making by Wim it is chaotic. It's shambolic. It's inconsistent and and there's a reason for that it's not just because Donald Trump is sort of you know an ID who reacts to the world and has these theatrical tendencies and things that he can persuade dictators to do what he wants them to do by force of personality. It's also that there's no process. There's no one really setting things up to make sure that the president has the Information Shen that he needs to go out and make good decisions again not the advice anyway but this is the way that policy gets done in this administration. It's kind of a one man band and I think that you see the results of that. You know I think that when Donald Trump was campaigning he positioned himself as this this figure who was going to come in in and make deals because he knew how to do it and politicians that preceded him were naive and the policy process was broken well. He's had you know going on three years now to show us what the sort of the trump style of foreign policy making is and it's objectively. It's a mess will president. Trump says he's is going to nominate someone new next week any ideas about who that might be at this point. I've less interested I guess in who the president is going. I'm to be picking as opposed to what type of person is. He GonNa pick. You know say what you will about kind of put Mike Flynn aside. He was there so briefly that it's hard to evaluate you know him as as as as a person functioning in the White House. HR McMaster John Bolton had real national security chops they had experienced. They were people who were not afraid to speak their mind. I think they took to the role of being the honest broker as the national security adviser is often called took that you know pretty seriously and maybe not so much the brokering part in Bolton's case but they took seriously the job so what I'm looking for is the president going to pick someone who is a kind of loyalist cheerleader. who has the same ideas as the president or is he going to pick somebody who believes in the process and believes in that position of national security advisor as one one that needs to be strong and independent Yes loyalty you've been faithful to the administration's policies but somebody who's going to speak truth to power and and Shane Harris. Thank you so much for joining me. It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me Shane. Harris covers intelligence national security for the Washington Post all right. That's the show if you are a listener in Texas little bit of news for you and a couple of weeks. I'm going to be an Austin stint taping a conversation with Senator Jeff Flake. We're going to get into a show but you can hear it a little bit early. If you swing by. It's all part of the Texas Tribune

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