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Bolton for the exits: Trump’s dismissal of a hawkish national security adviser is one more cause to worry


It ends, as things do in the Age of Trump, not with a bang or a whimper, but with a tweet: “I informed John Bolton [Monday] night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore...I asked John for his resignation.”

It was a rare bit of candor from a president who rarely lets truth get in the way of public pronouncement. There were indeed huge rifts between Trump, who at least on paper styles himself as opposing foreign interventions, and Bolton, who has never seen a plan for military escalation he didn’t endorse.

So why did Trump ever bring on Bolton, whose instincts and track record were unmistakable, if he didn’t want someone to offer sometimes uncomfortable advice on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and other hot spots?

The answer is depressing, as so many things are with this administration: Trump, after firing his last national security adviser, the broadly respected H.R. McMaster, was seemingly seduced by a series of obsequious television appearances Bolton made.

As wrong as Bolton has been on many matters — his fingerprints could be seen on plans threatening American military intervention in Iran and Venezuela — his presence at least provided a healthy corrective to a president naively disposed to aligning with the some of the world’s worst authoritarian regimes, provided they butter him up. With no illusions, Bolton saw Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and their ilk for who they were — as tyrants and enemies of American values.

That an impulsive president has now dispensed with him in order, apparently, to be more comfortably surrounded by sycophants means America’s role in the world will be that much more at the mercy of the whims and ego of a mercurial president.

Hold on.