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Being John Bolton

President Donald Trump receives a briefing from senior military leadership accompanied by national security adviser John Bolton in the Cabinet Room of the White House, April 9, 2018. (Carlos Barria / Reuters)

This afternoon, I recorded a Q&A with John Bolton, here. He’s an old friend of National Review and an old friend of mine. Bolton has served in every Republican administration from Reagan on. Most recently, he was national security adviser to President Trump. His memoir of that experience, The Room Where It Happened, has kicked up a great fuss.

The Left damns him for being too late: Why didn’t you speak up during impeachment? The Right damns him for being too early: Why didn’t you wait until after the election, if you had to write the frickin’ book at all? Both sides have used the T-word, “traitor.”

In our podcast, I ask Bolton about Bolton — as all interviewers do — but also about Trump, the subject of his book (as many don’t). We touch on Russia, Ukraine, North Korea, Turkey, Afghanistan, Venezuela, etc.

Momentous things are happening in the world. They always are, but some periods are more momentous than others. Our period is not only momentous but screwy. Virtually everything is seen through the lens of Trump. Does it — whatever “it” is — help him or hurt him? Are you for him or against him?

“Somehow our entire political discourse is now torqued around Donald Trump,” says John Bolton in our podcast. “When I got into politics, for Barry Goldwater in 1964, I was intrigued by ideas and philosophy. And I still am.”

Bolton goes on to say that his first job in Washington was as a summer intern for Vice President Spiro Agnew, whom he admired highly. He soon learned a lesson: “Putting your faith in one person is a mistake; putting your faith in a philosophy remains the way to go.”

Today, says Bolton, “if you agree with something that Trump does, then the Left is insanely in opposition, and if you shift your position on that, or are against Trump on a different issue, the entire Right is appalled at what you’re doing.” Both sides, he says, are afflicted with “TDS” — Trump Derangement Syndrome — in their own ways.

For decades, John Bolton was a hero on the right (for good reason). He’s the same guy he always was. But he finds himself in a very strange position, in a very strange time, as we discuss. Again, our ’cast is here.

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