Was John Bolton Ousted Because He Refused to Be a Cable News Warrior For Trump?


Bolton Says Trump Lying About His Firing

“He got hired because the president has seen him on TV,” a Republican strategist once told the New York Times of Larry Kudlow, after President Donald Trump poached him from CNBC to serve as an economic adviser. “To stay hired, he’s going to have to continue to be on TV. A lot.”

Kudlow has managed to pull that off, appearing constantly on cable news to proselytize skeptics on even the parts of Trump’s economic agenda he has historically disagreed with.

John Bolton, on the other hand, failed the cable news test.

Trump hired Bolton as national security adviser back in March 2018. They shared some common beliefs, but also some glaring differences in attitude (Bolton is a famed hawk and Trump has frequently expressed his distaste for foreign military adventurism). But Bolton had served as a Fox News analyst for almost a decade, and Trump liked his appearances on the tube.

Ironically, Bolton’s reluctance to appear on cable news while serving in the administration seems to have contributed to his messy ouster, which was revealed by presidential tweet on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Times White House reporter Eli Stokols argued: “What broke the relationship was that Bolton couldn’t master the highly performative demonstrations of loyalty and agreement Trump expects from staff.”

The New York Times and the Washington Post both have fairly comprehensive accounts of what led to the bust up between Bolton and Trump, which according to CNN came to a head Monday night with a “bitter argument” in the Oval Office over the president’s… unconventional plan to host the Taliban at Camp David. Per that reporting, Bolton and Trump had long standing and intractable differences in opinion over how to handle Iran, North Korea, Russia and other fairly major foreign policy issues, with the Taliban meeting serving as a final straw.

But Bolton has been sidelined for a while, and the clues t0 his quiet dissent have been public for some time. When in late June Trump held his showy summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Bolton was banished — or fled? — to Mongolia (Fox News host Tucker Carlson was in North Korea with Trump, however).

Disagreeing in private is one thing, but refusing to boost the president in public is a position that has proved fatal for Trump officials in the past — and one Bolton stubbornly adhered to throughout this summer.

CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported Tuesday that Bolton was reluctant to defend Trump on television, and pulled out of two Sunday show appearances during the G-7 summit last month because he felt “uncomfortable defending” the administration.

Those appearances would have occurred August 25th, just days after Trump said that Russia should be readmitted to the Group of 7. According to Times reporter Maggie Haberman, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told colleagues at the time that Bolton didn’t want to defend Trump’s call to readmit Russia to the G7.

An NBC spokesman confirmed to Mediaite that there were discussions about Bolton appearing on Meet the Press that Sunday, but the interview ultimately didn’t go forward.

While the clash over Trump inviting the Taliban to Camp David for a weekend getaway may have been the last straw, Bolton’s refusal to be a cable news warrior for Trump seems to have already bludgeoned the camel.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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Aidan McLaughlin is the Editor in Chief of Mediaite. Send tips via email: aidan@mediaite.com. Ask for Signal. Follow him on Twitter: @aidnmclaughlin