The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton

‘Has there ever been a presidency like this?

As soon as I saw President Trump’s reaction to the publication of this book, I added it to my reading list. I am no fan of John Bolton, but the Trump reaction had me wondering. Especially as President Trump hired John Bolton in the first place. He was not calling him ‘Wacko John Bolton’ (or ‘a sick puppy’) back then.

And now I have read the book, it confirms everything else I have read about the dysfunctional Trump administration. But back to the book. John Bolton was President Trump’s National Security Advisor for 453 days. He was very well placed to comment on what took place in and around the Oval Office during that period.

Mr Bolton’s descriptions are of chaos and conflict. He describes dysfunctional working arrangements, and a President so focussed on the personal that he seems incapable of any strategic long-term considerations. It seems, too, that President Trump has little understanding (and less respect) for the way in which international alliances and relationships work.

There’s example after example of poor judgment, and example after example of self-aggrandizement. Read about lost opportunities, misjudgements, and policy announcements via Twitter. Add in turmoil and conflict, ego and ignorance. This book was vetted before publication and, while it no doubt contains information embarrassing to the Trump Administration, it does not contain any classified information.

I picked the book up and could not put it down. As I am reading it, snippets of Donald Trump’s interviews with Bob Woodward (for his forthcoming book ‘Rage’) are being played on various news media. Everything I hear and see reinforces the picture John Bolton paints of Donald Trump in this book.

‘With Kelly’s departure and Mulvaney’s appointment, all effective efforts at managing the Executive Office of the President ceased. Both domestic policy strategy and political strategy, never strong suits, all but disappeared; personnel decisions deteriorated further, and the general chaos spread.’

This book is worth reading by anyone with an interest in either the Trump presidency or the role of the current US President in international affairs.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith