Thursday, June 18, 2020

Bolton, Trump, and Venezuela: Just As Crazy As You Think

I am not going to read John Bolton's memoir. Maybe when we're back on campus and the library has it, I'll look at the Latin America parts, but I am not sure it will tell us much beyond what we already know. The Washington Post has some juicy parts about Venezuela, for example.

In one May 2019 phone call, for example, Russian President Vladimir Putin compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, part of what Bolton terms a “brilliant display of Soviet style proganda” to shore up support for Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro. Putin’s claims, Bolton writes, “largely persuaded Trump.”


Bolton attributes a litany of shocking statements to the president. Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that the South American nation was “really part of the United States.” 

For instance, driven by a desire to please Florida Republicans, Trump talked tough about his desire to oust Maduro throughout much of 2018. But Bolton portrays Trump as inconsistent and worry-worn when presented with the opportunity to support Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s president in January 2019. Though Trump approved of a proposal from Bolton to publicly declare the United States recognized Guaidó rather than Maduro, within 30 hours Trump was already worrying that Guaidó appeared weak — a “kid” compared to “tough” Maduro — and considering changing course. “You couldn’t make this up,” Bolton writes. 
Bolton, in my opinion, is full of crap. I was one of the people who really feared a U.S. invasion of Venezuela, but it took a while for me to understand that Trump doesn't actually want to use military force abroad*. He just wants to pretend that he wants to. And this is actually good. Pretend all you want. But I don't think this is Putin's influence. This is just Trump ignoring Bolton's insane desire to use military force in Venezuela. And Bolton, don't forget, thinks invasions solve everything.

The rest of the quotes are basically just writing that Trump says stupid and untrue things all the time, which is of course accurate and well-known. But the bottom line is that Bolton wanted to invade and Trump didn't. In this particular case, Bolton was far more dangerous than Trump.

Bolton has nothing new to say beyond what we already know. If he had something new, he would've testified to the House and gloried in the impeachment spotlight. But since he had nothing much, he just hinted about his book to boost sales, hid, and waited until he could get some headlines when the book came out. 

A charlatan got together with a narcissist, then wrote a book. Don't bother to buy it, you've been watching the movie already anyway.

* At home is another matter entirely.


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