Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/30/2020: The Almost All Bolton Edition

No, that’s not my Christmas tree, that’s John Bolton.

 Reluctantly Taking Down The Christmas Tree Day has finally arrived.

I’m sad. This was one of the Marshall’s loveliest trees ever; a neighbor said just yesterday that seeing it through our big living room window cheered her up every day. I always dread this, and not just because of the inevitable prickle wounds: the world seems a darker and more pessimistic place without a bit of Christmas in evidence. However, there’s no avoiding the chore: this tree is so dry I am taking down ornaments by snapping off the ends of branches by my fingers.

1. On Bolton. I suppose this qualifies as a sub ethics train wreck to the Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck, which is itself a sub ethics train wreck to the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck…

  • Former Trump National security advisor John Bolton, a hawkish loose cannon who gets along with no one, was another example of a doomed appointment by the “We’ll appoint the best people” President. A  falling out and  acrimonious dismissal were so predictable, just as with Moochie, Bannon, Omarosa and other dubious personalities.

And, of course, the President is a dubious personality himself.

What a great witness!

  • Bolton, like Omarosa, wasted no time cashing in on his truncated White House experience, and wrote a book for Simon & Shuster scheduled to be released in March of 2020. This conduct alone is signature significance for an untrustworthy snake. Once, now long ago, no respectable member of a Cabinet or high official in an administration would write a tell-all book revealing incidents and words  learned in trust and confidence while that administration was still trying to govern, and many would refuse to reveal such information ever.

Though Bolton’s venal disloyalty has entered “Everybody does it” territory, it is still wrong, still unethical, and still the mark of a Judas.

  • Bolton’s book was submitted to the White House pre-publication for review, and some snake snaked the snake, leaking the draft to the New York Times, which, of course, published excerpts. It was unethical and a breach of trust for someone to leak the draft. It was incompetent and unethical for the White House not to protect Bolton’s property.

And the Times engaged in the Constitutionally protected act of document laundering, benefiting from (and ultimately encouraging )theft and facing no consequences for doing so.

  • In the book, Bolton states that the President made it clear that he would use the threat of withholding military aid to pressure the Ukraine into investigating alleged corrupt practices by the Biden fil and pere, as well as suspected Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. This was represented by the impeachment cheering section in the media (and social media) as a “bombshell.”

It’s not a bombshell, and that statement doesn’t advance any legitimate impeachment argument one atom. First of all, it’s hearsay. At best it is evidence that the President told Bolton that. It can’t be used to prove that this is what occurred between the President and Zalinski. Second, Bolton gave an interview last year that confirmed the President’s characterization of his conversation—no quid pro quo. Writes Matt Margolis:

John Bolton described the call very similarly to how President Trump has described the call and to how President Zelensky has described the call. No quid pro quo. No blackmail. No linkage between investigations and aid. It looks like we already know what Bolton really has to say… at least what he had to say before he held a grudge about being fired.

  • But the key point is this: it doesn’t matter if it was a quid pro quo, if the quo was a legitimate U.S. concern, like getting the facts on influence-peddling by Vice President Joe Biden, or Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Bolton’s book doesn’t say that President Trump announced that he was trying to get the Ukraine to knee-cap the man whom he feared as his Democratic opposition in 2020 (why would anyone fear Joe, who will be watching Barney by the time the election rolls around?) and it’s highly unlikely  Bolton will say so.

Using foreign aid to pressure foreign countries into doing what Presidents want, from trade deals to UN votes, is a well-established Presidential tool that has only suddenly become an “abuse of power” because this particular President did it. The claim that the President’s motive was “to dig up dirt” on a political opponent, thus “cheating” to win the election, is completely evidence-free,  based on “Orange Man Bad,” and nothing else.

  • For the life of me, I cannot fathom why the Trump White House disputes the “quid pro quo” claim. “Quid pro quo” is what foreign affairs and diplomacy is. Yet attorneys  for White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Attorney General Barr, both of whom were reportedly singled out by Bolton as parties to these conversations, deny Bolton’s  claims. From the National Review:

“John Bolton never informed Mick Mulvaney of any concerns surrounding Bolton’s purported August conversation with the President,” an attorney for Mulvaney said. “Nor did Mr. Mulvaney ever have a conversation with the President or anyone else indicating that Ukrainian military aid was withheld in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of Burisma, the Bidens, or the 2016 election.”

“There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. “If this is truly what Mr. Bolton has written, then it seems he is attributing to Attorney General Barr his own current views–views with which Attorney General Barr does not agree.”

  •  Alan Dershowitz correctly pointed out in his presentation this week that even if all of the Bolton’s claims are true, there is no impeachable offense. Thus some are speculating that the President’s resistance to Bolton testifying before the Senate is another diabolical Trump set-up, a Lucy football trick. Build up “resistance” certainty that Bolton’s testimony will complete the soft coup, and then have it fizzle, like the Mueller Report.

Time for Wilfred Brimley again…“Mr Trump, are you that smart?”

  • The dishonesty of the news media in this episode is palpable. Hilariously, The Atlantic (Ken White: how can you work for a publication like this?) praises Bolton for moral courage—for accepting cash to dish about what he learned on condition of confidentiality. I guess any act that can harm the President is per se moral courage to the “resistance” media. It also says,

His fervent belief in supporting America’s allies and confronting its adversaries led him to speak up against Trump, who violated that principle by delaying aid to Ukraine in order to pressure it into investigating a political rival.

100% misrepresentation, and disgusting. Joe Biden was the previous administration’s Vice President, and  investigating him on that basis, given the strong clues of Biden warping U.S. policy in return for a rich, undeserved sinecure for his ne’er-do-well son, was valid and  unassailable. There has yet to be (I know I already said this) any evidence that the investigation was related to Slow Joe’s fanciful Presidential hopes.

2. Not Bolton. The Houston Astros hired veteran manager Dusty Baker as the manager to change its culture while getting the team back to the World Series without cheating. What a great story! Dusty was unfairly fired by the Washington Nationals in 2017 for not being sufficiently tech-savvy, despite making the play-offs every year. Despite a record of routine success with five teams, Baker’s team made it to the World Series only once (he lost), and he didn’t think he’d get another chance at a World Championship in a sport that was hiring young, inexperienced managers while dumping the experienced ones, like Baker, who use their heads rather than computers to make out the lineups.

Not only is Dusty getting another chance as a septuagenarian, he’ll be managing the American League in the 2020 All-Star Game, because he replaced A.J. Hnch, who would have had the honor had he not been sacked after his team was exposed as having won the 2017 World Series the way Goldfinger won at cards and golf.

19 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/30/2020: The Almost All Bolton Edition

  1. I’m sad. This was one of the Marshall’s loveliest trees ever; a neighbor said just yesterday that seeing it through our big living room window cheered her up every day. I always dread this, and not just because of the inevitable prickle wounds: the world seems a darker and more pessimistic place without a bit of Christmas in evidence.

    Request permission to remind you of this in December, when you’re whining about putting up the Christmas tree, like you do every year. 😉

    • Permission granted. It’s like flying to Hawaii: the trip is horrble and i bitch about it the whole way, but one I get there, I don’t want to leave. Or directing a big stage production: it’s one crisis after another, stressful, ridiculously under compensated, and yet the final result is often wonderful—and you have to dismantle it anyway.

  2. In a 2010 interview on the Fox Business Channel, former White House National Security Advisor Bolton stated that he would have no problem lying to the public to protect national security.

    Listening to what he said, he tells the truth. Diplomacy is a branch of power-politics. And if war is politics by other means, then it makes perfect sense that lies & lying are part of the job, because politics is — it logically follows — a kind of war-making. But more importantly: lies & lying run through all phases and all aspects of politics. Count on the lie, do not count on the truth.

  3. My thoughts on Bolton:
    When Trump appointed Bolton my reaction was WTF? In my opinion; Bolton has an extremely fragile ego, he turns on absolutely anyone that negatively impacts his ego, he’ll flip is opinions over night and then back again in three months, he’ll lie straight to your face, the man simply cannot be trusted; plus he seems to always favor bullets over diplomacy. His working relationship with Trump was doomed before it started. Again my opinion; Bolton is a snake in the grass and now Trump is his target.

    • To be fair, Bolton is a byproduct of the Democrats/”resistance”/ MSM efforts to make it difficult for Trump to succeed by stigmatizing him and his administration. His appointees were warned early on that they would be assassinated in the media, if not bankrupted by being dragged into investigations. Never-Trumpers and vengeful Bush and McCain allies removed a chunk of Trump’s talent pool. Instead of “If my President needs me, I’ll serve,” Trump got “I think I better organize my sock drawer.” Thus he was stuck with egotists like Rudy, Bolton, Bannon. incompetents like Ben Carson, and a lot of generals, who still see serving the President as a patriotic duty. If the President asked me, despite everything I’ve written about him, to come to the White House to help build an ethical culture, I’d accept, but I would do so knowing that my career would probably be wrecked as a result.

      • Unbelievable how furious EVERYONE inside the beltway is that a rank amateur took the big prize. Vicious little bastards, aren’t they.

  4. I’m fairly certain that the main, if not only, reason the White House is denying the quid pro quo aspect of the situation is because the Democrats said that it was quid pro quo. It’s solely to completely disagree with what the impeachment camp is stating. ‘Give them an inch, and they’ll take the White House’.

    • I have begun to think it’s a bit of a point of pride with Trump. He’s described the phone call as being “beautiful.” He takes great pride in being a great negotiator. One critical aspect of negotiation is schmoozing. I’m sure he set out to smooth talk the Ukrainian guy into being a buddy and helping him out. Standard negotiation stuff. No demand, just a suggestion, a friendly request. No arm twisting. Be respectful of your opposite number, and you may get him to give you what you want. Making a demand is not good negotiation technique. Therefore, no quid pro quo is important to him.

      Just a thought.

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