President Trump loves books about himself and hates books about himself. If you write a book praising him, he will respond by not reading it and praising it. If you write a book criticizing him, he will respond by not reading it, condemning it and you, and possibly trying to ban it and prosecute you.
This is how he has responded to his former National Security Adviser John Bolton's new memoir, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, which comes out next Tuesday. Trump called Bolton a "traitor," a "liar," "Wacko John Bolton," "incompetent," a "sick puppy," a "disgruntled boring fool," and "a dope," but neglected to call him someone he hired. Trump called Bolton's book "a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad" and "pure fiction," which prompts the question: Why does the president want to ban a work of pure fiction and criminally prosecute its author?
In a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, the Justice Department said Bolton's book "contains classified information" and "will damage the national security of the United States." The president, meanwhile, said he considers "every conversation with me as president highly classified." Presumably, this includes his perfect conversations with world leaders, one of which he released last year, thereby damaging the national security of the United States. The Justice Department should look into that.
According to excerpts of Bolton's memoir published by the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, Trump thought Finland was part of Russia, didn't know Britain has nuclear weapons, talks about himself rather than listens during intelligence briefings, thought it would be "cool" to invade Venezuela, expressed a desire to execute journalists, supported China's concentration camps, and sought its government's help in getting himself re-elected by orienting trade negotiations for his own political benefit.
These revelations elicit a dual response: "Holy sh--!" and "This does not surprise me at all." Reading the excerpts, we learn new details about what we already know: Trump doesn't know what he's doing, but he's doing it for himself. New facts about Trump confirm old truths about him, namely that he shouldn't be president.
In terms of effecting political change, Bolton's book will be as inconsequential as the United Nations resolutions he made a career out of deploring. The few Republican lawmakers who read it will pretend they didn't, out of fear of offending Trump.
In addition to making Bolton $2 million richer, the book will make more people hate him than already do. Trump's critics abhor Bolton for not testifying in the House's impeachment inquiry when he had the chance. Trump's supporters are attacking Bolton because Trump is attacking him, and Trump is attacking Bolton because Bolton is, one presumes, telling the truth about him. That is the worst thing you can do to him.
Anyone who tells the truth about the president can expect massive publicity, most of it coming from the president himself. Trump's attacks have made Bolton's book a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon. Last month, the Lincoln Project's "Mourning in America" ad went from a must-see video to an impossible-not-to-see video after the president tweeted about the group. (I bring this up both because it's a good example and because I am a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project and want the publicity of a cyber-attack from the president, @realDonaldTrump, who can reach me, @WindsorMann, on Twitter.)
Because I don't have an advance copy of Bolton's book, I don't know if it's worth reading, but it was definitely worth writing. Everyone who has a story to tell about this president should tell it, so long as it's true. We're better off knowing more, regardless of whether Bolton is financially better off.
The only benefit to working in the Trump administration is that you can write a tell-all memoir after you leave. Your real service to the country can begin when your service to Trump ends. Please, by all means, tell all.
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