John Bolton’s new book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is so important, so revealing, that this site will devote 2 posts to dissecting it. First, we will look at how Bolton’s pro-Israel world view is critical — it explains why Donald Trump appointed him national security adviser. A later post will take a larger look at Bolton’s dangerous, ill-informed warmongering, especially his desire to attack Iran.
One revealing fact is that John Bolton’s account almost entirely leaves out Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israel gambling magnate and the Republican Party’s biggest campaign donor, even though it was Adelson who got him his job in the White House. It was not only the critics at Lobelog who noted the Adelson-Bolton connection (“Trump’s Choice Of Bolton Satisfies His Biggest Donor”). Even the more cautious New York Times reported in a 2018 profile of the billionaire that Trump “installed a longtime Adelson ally and Iran hard-liner, John Bolton, as his national security adviser.”
Bolton’s book describes in some detail his maneuverings to get a high foreign policy post, only rewarded after Trump had been in office for more than a year, but he just mentions Adelson once — to note that at the first (failed) summit conference between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, in Singapore in 2018, Kim talked about visiting one of Adelson’s casinos there. Maybe Bolton just name-checked Adelson to send him a coded thanks?
In fact, Israel, somewhat surprisingly, does not appear that often in Bolton’s book. He does mention that he speaks to high Israeli officials regularly, and he also notes that he visited Israel four times during the two years that the memoir covers, where he had immediate access to his old friend, Benjamin Netanyahu. (He apparently couldn’t find the time to visit Latin America or Africa.)
Palestine/Palestinians appear in the index only three times — in a book that is more than 500 pages long. Bolton says proudly that in the Administration’s first months, “I warned Trump against wasting political capital in an elusive search to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute. . .” He’s delighted that Trump also followed his advice to defund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has aided Palestinian refugees since 1949.
Bolton is also happy that Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and he can hardly hide his glee that the move “utterly failed to produce the crisis in ‘the Arab street’ regional ‘experts’ had endlessly predicted.”
Other than these few mentions of Israel, nothing. By contrast, Bolton’s index cites “Iran” 240 times, and his tone throughout this long book will remind classics scholars of Cato the Elder’s famous calls for Rome to exterminate its rival across the Mediterranean, Carthage, in 151 B.C. “Carthago delenda est — Carthage must be destroyed.”
Let’s be clear: John Bolton’s harsh, uninformed views were shaped long before he met Sheldon Adelson. He may leave Adelson’s help in getting him the job out of his memoir because he’s embarrassed, but he has no shame about his unreflective pro-Israel opinions.
Bolton’s knee-jerk support for Israel is, on reflection, puzzling. He describes himself as an America-first conservative nationalist. Yet he is is willing to mortgage U.S. international policy to a foreign state that does not have America’s own best interest at heart. He’s prepared to send U.S. pilots, soldiers and sailors to die in attacks against Iran, without once explaining how Teheran threatens our own security.
In fact, Bolton’s zeal to fight Israel’s wars is part of his memoir’s central revelation; he turns out to be a worse human being than even Donald Trump. Our next post will examine this truth at more length.