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The Room Where It Happened
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The Room Where It Happened
A White House Memoir
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As President Trump's National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves. The result is a White House memoir that is the...
As President Trump's National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves. The result is a White House memoir that is the...
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  • As President Trump's National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves.
    The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bolton has produced a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. What Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations," he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump's Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy—and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them.

    He shows a President addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government. In Bolton's telling, all this helped put Trump on the bizarre road to impeachment. "The differences between this presidency and previous ones I had served were stunning," writes Bolton, who worked for Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43. He discovered a President who thought foreign policy is like closing a real estate deal—about personal relationships, made-for-TV showmanship, and advancing his own interests. As a result, the US lost an opportunity to confront its deepening threats, and in cases like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea ended up in a more vulnerable place.

    Bolton's account starts with his long march to the West Wing as Trump and others woo him for the National Security job. The minute he lands, he has to deal with Syria's chemical attack on the city of Douma, and the crises after that never stop. As he writes in the opening pages, "If you don't like turmoil, uncertainty, and risk—all the while being constantly overwhelmed with information, decisions to be made, and sheer amount of work—and enlivened by international and domestic personality and ego conflicts beyond description, try something else."

    The turmoil, conflicts, and egos are all there—from the upheaval in Venezuela, to the erratic and manipulative moves of North Korea's Kim Jong Un, to the showdowns at the G7 summits, the calculated warmongering by Iran, the crazy plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David, and the placating of an authoritarian China that ultimately exposed the world to its lethal lies. But this seasoned public servant also has a great eye for the Washington inside game, and his story is full of wit and wry humor about how he saw it played.

About the Author-

  • John Bolton is the former National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump. He served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006. He has spent many years of his career in public service and held high-level positions in the Administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Ambassador Bolton is also an attorney, and was in private practice in Washington, DC, from 1974 to 2018, except when he was in government service. Ambassador Bolton was born in Baltimore in 1948. He graduated with a BA, summa cum laude, from Yale College and received his JD from Yale Law School. He currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 29, 2020
    Former national security advisor Bolton (Surrender Is Not an Option) harps on his foreign policy pet peeves (Iranian aggression in the Middle East, North Korea's nuclear threat), critiques former colleagues (Jim Mattis, Nikki Haley), and defends his decision not to testify in the House impeachment inquiry in this lacerating yet tiresome slog through his time in the Trump administration. Readers eager to hear what Bolton has to say about the Ukraine pressure campaign (namely, that Mick Mulvaney probably came up with the idea of using security assistance as leverage against Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky, and that the policy was "baked in" to White House dealings with Ukraine) will have to skip ahead to the last 50 pages. First, Bolton runs down seemingly every meeting, meal, phone call, and international summit of his 18-month tenure, touting his own achievements, such as pushing Trump to finally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and blaming failures on a lack of policymaking structure within the White House and on Trump's vindictiveness, erraticism, and habit of forming competitive "bromances" with authoritarian leaders. The book's most serious allegations, including that Trump offered to "take care of things" when Turkish president Recep Erdogan complained about a U.S. Justice Department investigation, are buried within the avalanche of details. The bombshell to chaff ratio in this well-informed yet self-serving account is tilted punishingly in the wrong direction.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2020
    The latest tell-all--or, at any rate, tell-some--indictment of a dysfunctional presidency. Bolton, a foreign policy hard-liner, writes that Donald Trump first courted him to serve as deputy secretary of state. Nothing doing, Bolton responded: "State could not be run successfully from that level." It took back and forth before Bolton finally got to be in charge of something, named national security adviser. Given Trump's contempt for the intelligence community, it stands to reason that Bolton's job would be fraught, but he lasted a surprisingly long time--17 months, several lifetimes in the Trump administration. Bolton found allies and foes, but mostly the latter: He mistrusted Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster from the beginning while he suspects Mike Pompeo of negative leaks at the end of his tenure. But the author directs most of his ire toward Trump, and the book, while thoroughly self-serving--where was this information during impeachment proceedings?--delivers a damning portrait of a man quick to suck up to despots and seek their aid in holding onto his office. Instead of begging for China's help in the coming election, as many media outlets portrayed a meeting with Xi Jinping, Bolton writes that Trump "stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome." Such muted statements, he writes, resulted from the government's pre-publication review, which often amounted only to a directive to "take out the quotation marks." Readers who supply the missing punctuation will find a Trump who is whiny, self-absorbed, unprepared, and spectacularly ill-informed at every turn--hardly breaking news. Notes Bolton in closing, though, it's worth considering that a second-term Trump might be an unintended boon: "Democrats will find themselves far more pleased substantively with a 'legacy'-seeking Trump...than conservatives and Republicans," whose political coffins Trump would nail shut. More confirmation of malfeasance than fresh news, but the message is clear: Voter, beware.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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