Like two mean girls scorned…

Donald Trump, the twelve-year-old mean girl, routinely mocks his opponents’ appearance, insults their spouses, shouts “Nyah-nyah, nobody likes you!” at them, and takes great pains to declare — the moment all of his top appointees decide they have no more soul left to sell and run away from him with the scraps of their dignity — that those “best people” he keeps hiring were in fact “losers” and “babies” and “idiots” and whatever other mean girl words he can both remember and spell.

One of the former best people who has since become a target of Trump’s childish invective is John Bolton, a career Republican establishment pencil-pusher who has spent his professional bureaucratic life trying to paint an image of himself as a tough, no-nonsense military man. Trump fell for the image. When his own intrinsic cowardice about foreign affairs came into direct contact with Bolton’s blustering hawkishness for wars he will never have to fight, the two phonies realized they could never live together.

In the aftermath of their parting, Trump, as is his wont, took pains to emphasize that he had unceremoniously fired the loser, to which, unsurprisingly, Bolton, an image-driven man desperate to preserve his ersatz pride, replied that he had in fact resigned, and furthermore that, as he added coquettishly, he would have “more to say” about all this later. 

Well, it is now, apparently, “later” at last. Bolton has submitted the manuscript for his upcoming tell-all book — i.e., glorified gossip column — to the White House for the national security vetting process legally required of all such books written by former White House officials; and lo and behold, key passages having to do with the hottest issue of the day, Trump’s impeachment trial, have somehow gotten themselves leaked to the media. Who woulda thunk it?

The Democrats are citing the leaked account of Bolton’s private discussions with Trump about withholding Ukrainian aid as grounds for calling Bolton to testify at the senate trial, which Bolton, who stands to make a ton of cash from sales of this book now, and even more if he testifies, says he is willing to do. Meanwhile, many Republicans — and not only Trump idolaters — are saying Bolton’s book sets a dangerous precedent that could undermine the necessary discretion that this president and any future one must be able to count on in order to freely hash out hard decisions with his closest advisors. As is typical in today’s political climate, both sides are right, and both sides are also wrong.

The whole impeachment case against Trump rides on the claim that Trump withheld promised military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of pressuring the Ukrainian government into digging up dirt on the family of Trump’s potential 2020 presidential rival. Trump and his defense team are directly denying that charge. That’s the impeachment issue in a nutshell. If a person with intimate knowledge of the situation and a firsthand account of Trump’s stated reasons for withholding aid is willing and able to testify to this knowledge under oath, would that not be pertinent information regarding the main charge in the case?

On the other hand, anyone’s words, spoken in private, during a non-binding conversation with a close advisor — someone whose role is precisely to serve as a sounding board and quasi-friend for the express purpose of getting all ideas out in the open for appraisal, so to speak — could be thrown back at him after the fact, out of their full context, and framed as incriminating evidence against his motives, could they not? And isn’t there, furthermore, a lot of common sense in the argument that if a president can’t even trust his national security advisor to respect the confidentiality of a private conversation, then he will never be able to speak openly with any advisor about anything?

At the heart of this quandary is the revolting fact, more glaringly apparent each day, that what we are really watching here is the apotheosis of our modern social media shaming culture — Maoist-inspired gossip-mongering elevated to the status of political debate. Trump is one of the leading purveyors and beneficiaries of this shaming culture. Bolton is trying to get revenge against Trump’s shaming tactics by fighting fire with fire. (Or shall we say, fighting “Fired!” with fire.) 

Hell hath no fury like a mean girl scorned, and that applies both ways in this case. Actually, that is not quite true. Hell hath indeed another fury worse than this battle of the vain self-promoting phonies, and America is currently being licked into oblivion by its flames.

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