00:58 - Source: CNN
John Bolton: Putin thinks he can play Trump like a fiddle

Editor’s Note: Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is vice president of communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow her at @jrpsaki. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. Read more opinion articles at CNN.

CNN  — 

Former national security adviser John Bolton wrote a forthcoming book detailing, among other things, how President Donald Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 election and told him to go ahead with building concentration camps for Uyghur Muslims. We should not feign shock.

This is entirely consistent with the portrait of an unstable, ill-equipped, self-obsessed President long susceptible to flattery and manipulation, who has been living in the White House for going on four years.

Jen Psaki

After all, President Trump encouraged China to investigate the Biden family in a public statement from the White House. And that wasn’t even that surprising, given it happened during an impeachment investigation focused on his threat of holding back military assistance to Ukraine unless it launched an investigation into his political opponent.

And he’s never shown genuine compassion for human suffering, choosing to detain separated immigrant family members at the nation’s southern border in inhumane facilities.

Bolton’s book is being promoted with great fanfare at a time when a number of his former colleagues on the national security team have already spoken out about the President’s instability, electoral-driven national security strategy and overall alarming behavior in great detail.

Bolton is not a game-changing hero. The man sat on his eyewitness accounts of the President of the United States asking for political help from a foreign power during an impeachment trial. He held back on his view that Russian President Vladimir Putin can play Trump like a fiddle and on details of Trump’s promise to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would take care of a Turkish firm under investigation by the Southern District of New York.

He didn’t even previously share that President Trump gave a wink and a nod to the Xi regime’s decision to build concentration camps.

Bolton is a money-grubbing pretend patriot. And the other sycophant members of Trump’s inner circle like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were apparently perplexed behind the scenes at Trump’s behavior but saw no other option than to try and implement Trump’s policies – from building border walls and caging children to pulling back diplomats from their posts and looking the other way.

But our focus shouldn’t be on John Bolton’s efforts to rewrite his own history. And sadly, it shouldn’t even be on the specific unpresidential incidents, outlined by Bolton in detailed accounts by President Trump’s hand-picked cabinet members that, during a normal presidency, would have prompted months of investigations and not just outrage, but action from within the President’s own party.

There isn’t going to be another impeachment trial and there shouldn’t be. Not because Trump’s actions, including new details in Bolton’s book don’t warrant a serious inquiry, but because a legislative debate about whether or not an action is impeachable is not going to help remove Trump from office at this point. And the Republican Senate has no backbone.

We need to go big. All of the observations, accusations and specific anecdotes are about one person – Donald Trump – and whether he is fit to lead the country and the lasting damage he would inflict if given four more years. And that is the context in which we should talk about this moving forward.

A line in Bolton’s book sums it up pretty clearly, “The Trump presidency is not grounded in philosophy, grand strategy or policy. It is grounded in Trump.”

Imagine what an unchecked Trump foreign policy would look like in a second term – without any care for public opinion, for criticism, for oversight. Would he be negotiating hotel trademark deals in exchange for holding back on criticizing human rights conditions in China with President Xi instead of talking about electoral politics? Americans should never have to contend with that possibility.

Right now, during a global pandemic, a recession and an important movement to address police brutality and deep-seated racial inequity in the country, outrage over John Bolton’s long overdue diary of his time in the White House feels pretty disconnected from the challenges Americans are facing every day.

But even in this moment – we need to highlight the risks and the stakes of re-electing a man who has been described by the very person he hand-picked to lead his national security team as “erratic” and “stunningly uninformed.”

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    It would take decades for the United States to recover from a second Trump term. It would take more than undoing damage to our global relationships. It would mean healing our wounded democracy, restoring our ability to carry out free and fair elections, regaining our security and our economic prosperity.

    That’s a lot bigger than the issue of the clumsy self-reinvention of John Bolton. It’s about what kind of country will be left to us once Donald Trump is finally out of office.