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EDITORIAL: Bolton charges change nothing

York Dispatch Editorial Board
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and John Bolton, right, national security adviser, attend a briefing from Senior Military Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House on April 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

While it adds fresh depth and new details, John Bolton’s book about his time in the Trump White House hasn’t told voters anything they don’t already know about the president:

  • He’s ill-informed and intellectually incurious.
  • He’s relentlessly self-serving.
  • He views dictatorial foreign leaders as admirable and seeks to curry their favor.
  • He sees nothing wrong with asking foreign powers for political help at home.

While these charges range from troubling to disqualifying to impeachment-worthy, they are a day late to Trump’s critics and a dollar short to Trump’s defenders.

We know, for instance, that the president would gladly solicit help from foreign governments to achieve his own political goals because he has admitted as much and been impeached for it. He remains in the Oval Office (or, depending on the level of protesting going on outside the White House, in his underground bunker) because, with the exception of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, congressional Republicans simply do not care.

They don’t care that he funnels tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into his own golf courses and resorts.

They don’t care that he incites racial animosity.

They don’t care that he is an incessant liar.

They don’t care that he has completely abandoned any pretense to responding to an ongoing pandemic that has claimed 120,000 American lives and 33 million American jobs.

They don’t are that he routinely traffics in conspiracies and unfounded allegations.

They don’t care that he habitually debases women, African-Americans, Muslims, immigrants, the disabled, military officials, his predecessors in office, and former members of his own administration, including Bolton.

Republican office-holders like Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey have abandoned long-held party principles in service to the always-self-serving whims, needs and demands of President Trump.

Which is why the former national security adviser’s book, for all the explosiveness of his allegations (the Trump administration wouldn’t have fought so relentlessly to block publication if there were no “there” there), won’t change a thing.

Of course, this would likely not be the case were Bolton less concerned with serving himself than his country. He threatened to sue if subpoenaed by the House during last winter’s impeachment inquiry and, while saying he’d be willing to testify at the Senate impeachment trial, knew Trump-defending GOP Senate leaders weren’t about to take him up on the offer.

Bolton’s squirreliness about having information that could change the outcome of the impeachment seemed more calculated to generate interest in his then-forthcoming book than to force senators to consider his charges – especially since he could have easily called a press conference and read the very chapters that are making headlines this week, seeing as he completed his manuscript back in December.

There is, then, no small degree of Schadenfreude at word that Bolton may have to forfeit any earnings from the book. While a U.S. District Judge rejected the government’s efforts to block publication of the book, he noted that Bolton has not obtained a required letter from the government certifying the book contains no classified information. This opens the door to the Trump administration filing criminal charges against Bolton or, more likely, demanding profits from the book.

That won’t elicit any tear-shedding in Washington, where Republicans are tarring Bolton as a turncoat and Democrats are dismissing Bolton, along with suggestions they use the charges to revisit Trump’s misdeeds – particularly in the current moment, fraught with an ongoing pandemic, a deep recession and continued protests against racial inequities and police brutality.

Despite what NPR called, “some of the most serious charges against a president ever leveled by a top former aide,” Bolton’s book won’t change a thing.

Not because those charges aren’t true but, in part, because Bolton didn’t level them when it mattered — and, in even larger part, because when it comes to President Trump’s deceit, corruption, self-dealing and lawlessness, his supporters and congressional enablers simply don’t care.