‘MediaBuzz’ host Howard Kurtz weighs in on why despite Trump team labeling critics as ‘scum’ and witnesses like John Bolton as ‘disloyal,’ they are anything but. While there may be some ‘never-Trumpers’ in the administration, those like Bolton were merely doing the jobs they were hired to do.
The world is clearly spinning off its axis when Politico is questioning whether John Bolton has become a “hero of the Resistance.”
The reason is that as President Trump’s national security adviser, he “raised alarms about the politically questionable role informal actors were playing in shaping U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine.”
Whether people like Bolton, who clearly disagreed with his boss on a range of issues before being fired last month, isn’t the point. When faced with the unusual circumstances surrounding the private back-channeling over aid to Ukraine, he did his job—telling aides, according to testimony, that “they should have nothing to do with foreign policy” and should “brief the lawyers.”
As the impeachment drama has unfolded, people caught up in the investigation are drawing fire for being disloyal to Trump.
It was the president who tweeted: “Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”
But—leaving the rough language aside—is everyone who offers information unhelpful to the president a Never Trumper? Bolton, a full-throated conservative hawk, was the president’s pick after two previous national security advisers were forced out.
In our tribal politics, does every former friend, aide and ally whose professional path diverges automatically get branded an enemy?
I got a taste of this yesterday when I said the closed-door testimony of William Taylor was a setback for the president. You know who agreed with me? John Thune, the Senate Republican whip, who said of Taylor’s testimony that “the picture coming out of it…is not a good one.”
I further noted that Taylor is a career foreign service guy, first named ambassador to Ukraine by George W. Bush, and lured out of retirement by Mike Pompeo to be acting ambassador. That hardly fits the resume of a Never Trumper.
But I got slammed by pro-Trump tweeters as unfair to the president as they insisted we didn’t know what Taylor had testified. Sorry, his lengthy opening statement was made public.
The president’s preferred narrative is that he’s constantly being undermined by the Deep State. And sometimes that’s true. The senior administration official dubbed Anonymous—who ripped Trump as amoral in a New York Times op-ed and is about to publish a book—is certainly no friend of the president.
But not everyone—certainly not John Bolton—fits under that umbrella. As the Times pointed out yesterday:
“The witnesses heading to Capitol Hill do not consider themselves part of any nefarious deep state, but simply public servants who have loyally worked for administrations of both parties only to be denigrated, sidelined or forced out of jobs by a president who marinates in suspicion and conspiracy theories.
“But it is also true that some career officials, alarmed at what they saw inside the corridors of government agencies, have sought ways to thwart Mr. Trump’s aims by slow-walking his orders, keeping information from him, leaking to reporters or enlisting allies in Congress to intervene.”
The paper has another piece on former top aide Steve Bannon and friends setting up a pro-Trump war room, built around a small radio show. And their message:
“Stop calling the inquiry a ‘witch hunt’ and a ‘deep state’ conspiracy, they said by way of guidance to the president and his advisers, because it’s deluding too many Trump supporters into a sense of complacency.
“Stop insisting that polls showing majority public support for the impeachment inquiry are ‘fake news’ — because they aren’t.
“Stop dismissing everyone who testifies about the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine as a radical unelected bureaucrat.”
Radical unelected bureaucrat was the phrase in a White House statement aimed at Bill Taylor.
Sometimes in politics, there’s a rough parting of the ways. Trump was friendly with Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, Anthony Scaramucci, Omarosa, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and many others, and now he’s not. Some of them betrayed him, or turned out to be crooks; others he simply soured on.
But those who are caught up in the Ukraine investigation are not necessarily anti-Trump backstabbers. They can also be people who tried to do the right thing and now want to tell the truth.