National Security Adviser John Bolton has been making the media rounds over the past few days, and two recent articles play up his influence in the Trump administration. Could that be a problem?
On Tuesday, Bolton was the subject of a profile in The Atlantic, which describes him as a "quiet hero" who has helped avert "catastrophic failure" at times. "Bolton sometimes sounds less like a national security adviser than a lawyer clawing back the utterances of an uncontrollable client," writes The Atlantic. Later, the piece describes Bolton as the "shadow president of the deep state." For example, Bolton reportedly convinced President Trump to keep some troops in Syria after announcing a withdrawal, although Trump at the time insisted this wasn't a reversal.
Meanwhile, a separate report in The Washington Post describes Bolton as "the hawkish whisperer in Trump's ear, nudging a president unschooled in world affairs toward Bolton's preferred strategies."
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If there's one thing Trump hates, it's the perception that he's being controlled. Look no further than the Post's reporting that one of the things contributing to former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon's ouster was his appearance on a Time magazine cover with the headline "The Great Manipulator," with the Post writing that Trump "takes offense when others take credit for his accomplishments."
So it's easy to imagine Trump having a similar problem with this Bolton coverage. After all, if Trump hated that Time headline, he surely can't be a fan of the Atlantic's framing: that Bolton "could be our best hope." But Bolton seemed to consciously attempt to avoid this perception by saying that Trump is the ultimate decision-maker, telling The Atlantic three different times, "I am the national security adviser — not the national security decider."
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