Boys Will Be Boys in the White House

CNN is reporting breathlessly that an argument — yes, believe it or not, a real shouting match — broke out in the West Wing of the White House Thursday. 

A heated argument in the West Wing between chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton over a recent surge in border crossings turned into a shouting match Thursday, two sources familiar with the argument told CNN.

Oh dear! Two men disagreed, and actually raised their voices. This is why America needed a woman president. Such violent talking would never occur in a White House led with the gentle feminine touch of a Hillary Clinton.

Having said that, one detail in this CNN bombshell caught my eye:

Trump, who was incensed about the rising levels of migrants and threatened to shut down the southern border on Twitter earlier that morning, took Bolton’s side during the argument.

Ha! “Trump…took Bolton’s side during the argument.” That’s a good one. More like “Bolton took Trump’s side.” And he always will. Trump may or may not be right about this issue, but regardless, Bolton would never for one second take any side other than his boss’s.

That’s the difference between Kelly and Bolton. Kelly, a lifelong military man, will tell the boss what he thinks, whether the boss likes it or not. Bolton, a lifelong bureaucrat and lawyer who plays tough guy on TV, will always say only, and exactly, what he believes his boss wants to hear. He did it for the Bush administration. He did it for Fox News, where his next paid expert appearance depended on his delivering the “Boltonesque” party line that the network had hired him to produce. He did it to get his current gig in Trump’s White House. And he’s doing it today, to ingratiate himself to the boss yet again. No surprise.

Of course, part of the role of a career diplomat and think-tanker is to try to affect policy by being a worm in the boss’s ear, and then, when the boss, under your subtle influence, thinks he is having an idea of his own, coming forward to “back him up on it.” Bolton apparently does that well too. But never, under any circumstances, will he run directly up against the boss in a policy discussion. That would put him at personal risk, and isolate him without a protector. He will always, when push comes to shove, be the yes-man, but one who says yes with the aggressive gruffness of a no-holds-barred maverick.

He was a lawyer (a man who gets paid to represent his paying client’s interests as though they were his own) before he became a career “government official” (a man who gets paid to represent his appointer’s interests as though they were his own). That’s just who he is.

Call me a cynic, but it’s my observation and experience that the most popular, successful, and iconoclastic mavericks, in politics as in any other arena, are rarely the genuine article.

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