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John Bolton’s book tells us very little that we didn’t already know about President Trump’s foreign policy. He paints a picture of a president who is ignorant — unaware, for example, that Britain is a nuclear power and that Finland is not part of Russia. Trump has few fixed foreign policy views; at times he has been inclined to invade Venezuela, at other times losing interest in the country. But Bolton does reveal, according to the excerpts and reports published so far, that the real problem with Trump is not his ignorance or his policies but his character.
Trump has for the most part settled into conventional Republican policies. He has cut taxes for the rich, rolled back regulations, appointed conservative judges and lavished money on the Defense Department. He departs from the Reagan formula in two major areas — immigration and trade — and on these issues, he has changed much of the party, which is now comfortable with tariffs, subsidies and mercantilism as well as severe restrictions on immigration.
I don’t agree with many of these policies. But what has always worried me more is Trump’s character. He is a man for whom his own personal and political interests are paramount and override any other concerns — of decency, morality, even law. Bolton is not the first top aide to dissent — Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis and John Kelly have all made clear their low opinion of Trump — but he is the first to provide details. And the details are damning.