National Security Adviser John Bolton has been cited as the primary driver behind the rising chances of a conflict with Iran, a country where he has long advocated regime change. But according to reporting from the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, some of the reporting that Trump is growing frustrated with Bolton and his push for war isn’t quite right.
Instead, she said, the president is frustrated at the narrative that Bolton is leading him by the nose.
“Trump is not frustrated with Bolton’s positions – he already knows they don’t agree – but with the media narrative that Bolton is leading him around,” she tweeted. “If anything, it is Bolton who has privately expressed frustrated with Trump in last few weeks. Trump views Mideast as a quagmire not to be drawn into deeper.”
The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker added: “And the media narrative that a senior official is Trump’s puppet master can be the kiss of death . . ."
Haberman’s recent report in the Times, co-authored by her colleagues Eric Schmitt and Mark Landler, suggested White House officials themselves see Bolton’s days as potentially numbered:
Mr. Bolton, officials said, has quietly voiced frustration with the president, viewing him as unwilling to push for changes in a region that he has long seen as a quagmire. That, in turn, has led people in the White House to view Mr. Bolton with deepening skepticism, with some questioning whether his job is in trouble.
Haberman noted that Trump really is frustrated with Bolton over the issue of Venezuela, where the administration had positioned itself behind an attempt to oust authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro by an opposition leader, an attempt that fizzled out. She also said that other White House personnel are unhappy with Bolton, and “staff members are trashing him within earshot of Trump frequently.”
But even if Trump is skeptical of Bolton’s push for war, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to avoid it. The longer Bolton says on, the greater than risk becomes. Conflicts can arise when two sides misread signals and escalate, creating a vicious cycle that allows the tensions to spiral out of control. Bolton can be instrumental in allowing that to happen, or pushing it along if he wants, and Trump may be swept away by events that he feels he can’t contain. Ultimately, though, the presient knew Bolton was a warmonger when he hired him — and he bears the responsibility for putting such a dangerous man in power.