After John Bolton’s de­par­ture, who will save Trump from him­self?

The Saline Courier Weekend - - OPINION - DON­ALD LAMBRO Don­ald Lambro has been cov­er­ing Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics for more than 50 years as a re­porter, ed­i­tor and com­men­ta­tor.

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton, a for­eign pol­icy hawk, re­signed this week in protest over Pres­i­dent Trump’s plans to meet with ex­trem­ist Tal­iban lead­ers at Camp David.

The White House main­tained that Trump had fired Bolton, but it soon be­came clear that Bolton had clearly of­fered his res­ig­na­tion Mon­day night, after months of ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences on for­eign pol­icy mat­ters.

This lat­est res­ig­na­tion has served to fo­cus re­newed at­ten­tion on the chaotic his­tory of Trump’s in­abil­ity to re­tain high­level ap­pointees through­out his pres­i­dency.

A New York Times “anal­y­sis of 21 top White House and cab­i­net po­si­tions back to Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s first term shows how un­usual the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s up­heaval was through the first 14 months of a pres­i­dency,” the news­pa­per said.

“Nine of these po­si­tions had turned over at least once dur­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, com­pared with three at the same point of the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, two un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and one un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.”

Bolton, Trump’s third na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and the pres­i­dent had bit­terly fought over the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s tough­est for­eign pol­icy chal­lenges, in­clud­ing Iran, North Korea and Afghanista­n, among other is­sues.

At the root of their dif­fer­ences was how they viewed the worst dic­ta­tors on the planet.

Trump con­tin­ues to praise Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, de­spite Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in U.S. elec­tions and its seizure of the Crimean Penin­sula that was con­demned by Amer­ica’s al­lies.

Bolton be­lieves, as U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have shown, that Moscow was be­hind the cy­ber­war dur­ing the 2016 elec­tions. Trump said Putin told him Rus­sia had no part in it, and the pres­i­dent be­lieves him.

Bolton wouldn’t trust North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as far as he could throw him. Trump de­scribed their talks as a “love” af­fair. At his sec­ond sum­mit with Kim in Hanoi, Viet­nam, Trump or­dered that Bolton not be in­cluded.

Bolton has ar­gued that the Tal­iban are cut­throats and can­not be trusted, op­pos­ing the U.s.-tal­iban ne­go­ti­a­tions that Trump has been seek­ing.

He has good rea­son not to trust any agree­ment with the Tal­iban.

“It gets worse,” The Wash­ing­ton

Post’s Marc A. Thiessen wrote this week. “The Tal­iban team with whom the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been ne­go­ti­at­ing in­cluded five se­nior Tal­iban com­man­ders -- the ‘Tal­iban Five’ -- who were held at Guan­tanamo for 13 years be­fore Obama freed them in ex­change for U.S. Army de­serter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. They in­clude Mul­lah Fazell Ma­zloom, who, ac­cord­ing to his Guan­tanamo mil­i­tary file is ‘wanted by the UN for pos­si­ble war crimes while serv­ing as a Tal­iban Army Chief of Staff’ and has ‘op­er­a­tional as­so­ci­a­tions with sig­nif­i­cant al-qaeda and other ex­trem­ist per­son­nel.’”

Bolton is the cel­e­brated “fire bell in the night” who was warn­ing Trump not to deal with bad ac­tors be­cause they will dou­ble-cross you up one side and down the other.

Both he and oth­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gued that Trump didn’t have to ne­go­ti­ate with Tal­iban ex­trem­ists to pull out of Afghanista­n, or at least draw down our forces there.

Bolton’s crit­i­cism of Trump’s shoot­from-the-hip style, with­out know­ing what or who he is deal­ing with across the ta­ble, or their sub­ver­sive mo­ti­va­tions, was of­ten spot-on.

He leaves of­fice the same way he en­tered it, with both guns blaz­ing, of­fer­ing a clear-eyed as­sess­ment of our en­e­mies and try­ing to keep Trump from giv­ing away the store.

He leaves be­hind him some pretty good re­views from his crit­ics.

“Per­versely, con­sid­er­ing how out of sync he was with Mr. Trump’s pri­or­i­ties, Mr. Bolton man­aged to ac­com­plish a fair amount,” a Post ed­i­to­rial said Wed­nes­day.

“Last week he helped per­suade Mr. Trump to tor­pedo an agree­ment with the Afghan Tal­iban ... just be­fore it was to be signed,” the news­pa­per said. “Ear­lier this year, he in­duced the pres­i­dent to set aside State’s work on a pos­si­ble in­terim deal with North Korea on its nuclear pro­gram, and in­stead de­mand that dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Un im­me­di­ately com­mit to giv­ing up all weapons of mass de­struc­tion.”

It’s not a stel­lar record, but one that for the time be­ing kept us from go­ing down the wrong road.

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