Review of The Room where it Happened: A White House Memoir
by John Bolton
Published by Simon and Schuster, pp. 577 price £25.00
John Bolton is the hawks’ hawk, a maximalist who takes no prisoners — someone who even worried Trump by his views. A neo-con veteran of the Reagan, Bush père and Dubya administrations, he was never unafraid to shout his opinions. As Trump’s National Security Adviser, he has written an insider’s perception and analysis of recent history. It will be valued as a source-book by future scholars and students.
A staunch admirer of Netanyahu over many years, there is surprisingly little detail about Israel in Bolton’s book and virtually nothing about the Palestinians and the West Bank settlements —apart from the fact that Trump, Putin and Netanyahu all wanted to end the Iranian presence in Syria, albeit for different reasons.
Bolton has his dislikes and critical targets, describing Jared Kushner as lightweight and inconsequential and Nikki Haley, the former US Ambas- sador to the UN, as an opportunist whom he originally believed was posi- tioning herself to displace Pence as Vice-President for the 2020 election.
While Bolton vehemently opposes the Russians and views its leadership as the KGB in civilian clothing, he describes Putin as “totally in control, calm, self-confident”. And Bolton says that he didn’t look forward to leaving Trump alone with him. It is clear that Bill Browder, the American Jewish financier, now living in the UK and instigator of the US Magnitsky Act, which targets the Kremlin’s henchmen in respect of their misdemeanours, is an obsessive irritant for Putin.
John Bolton paints a pastiche of many contemporary issues. The EU is depicted as Britain’s “George III” — the king who lost the American colonies in 1776 — and Brexit akin to the American War for Independence. Bolton surmises that Iran quietly kept its nuclear ambitions alive after 2004 and points to the attempted sanitising of the facilities at Turquzabad, Lavizan and Parchin — and therefore strongly supports Trump’s withdrawal from Obama’s agreement with Tehran. As for Venezuela, Bolton believes that it is the Cubans who really run Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
The book is more “West Wing” than right wing and Trump’s vindictiveness permeates it. Melania and her ladies at his court are portrayed as a modern reincarnation of Anne Boleyn and her circle. Trump wanted to promote staffer Kelly Sadler when she publicly voiced the sentiment that John McCain was clearly of no consequence — as he was dying of a brain tumour. He told president-for- life Xi that he was the greatest Chinese leader in 300 years, regarded Hong Kong as merely a domestic matter, opposed sanctions over the fate of the Muslim Uighers and wanted any remembrance of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 to be silently interred.
Bolton, on the other hand, warned Trump that Huawei was little more than an arm of the Chinese intelligence service.
John Bolton always knew that he would not survive for any length
of time, yet he managed almost 18 months as National Security Adviser in Trump’s chaotic, revolving-door White House. The Room Where It Hap- pened caters for those who wish to comprehend the incomprehensible in modern politics.
Jewish Chronicle 16 July 2020