By “out” I don’t mean officially published, but the review copies of Bolton’s book have been distributed to major media. And reviews and news stories about what it contains are already out as well. Federal prosecutors may be “mulling” criminal charges against Bolton to keep his mouth shut, but it’s too late. Even if a copy is never sold, what’s in the book will be all over news media.
That said, based on this review, I have no plans to read it.
“The Room Where It Happened,” an account of his 17 months as Trump’s national security adviser, has been written with so little discernible attention to style and narrative form that he apparently presumes an audience that is hanging on his every word.
Known as a fastidious note taker, Bolton has filled this book’s nearly 500 pages with minute and often extraneous details, including the time and length of routine meetings and even, at one point, a nap. Underneath it all courses a festering obsession with his enemies, both abroad (Iran, North Korea) and at home (the media, “the High-Minded,” the former defense secretary Jim Mattis). The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much. It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.
Still, it’s maybe a fitting combination for a lavishly bewhiskered figure whose wonkishness and warmongering can make him seem like an unlikely hybrid of Ned Flanders and Yosemite Sam. His one shrewd storytelling choice was to leave the chapter on Ukraine for the end, as incentive for exhausted readers to stay the course.
But, in addition to revealing new dimensions of corruption that are remarkable — even for Trump — the book also deals a huge blow to one of Trump’s leading arguments for reelection: the idea that opponent Joe Biden is soft on China, while Trump is bristling with toughness toward that country.
The Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have obtained Bolton’s book. It reveals that Trump directly asked President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection, telling Xi that if China increased agricultural imports from the United States, it would aid his electoral prospects.
Do read the whole column. I’m sure there will be more nuggets in the headlines tomorrow.