Neither Bolton, nor Trump is the real problem | Politics | Al Jazeera

Neither Bolton, nor Trump is the real problem

Bad as Bolton is, he is not the problem. Bad as Trump is, he's not the problem. The problem is 'them' - Republicans.

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    A supporter holds up a bumper sticker at the California Republican Party election night party in Irvine, California [Phil McCarten/Reuters]
    A supporter holds up a bumper sticker at the California Republican Party election night party in Irvine, California [Phil McCarten/Reuters]

    John Bolton is back!

    Bolton is ridiculously bad. But the key two words in the above sentence are not his name, they are "is back".

    Bad as Bolton is, he is not the problem. Bad as Donald Trump, who brought him back, is, he's not the problem. The problem is "them" - Republicans. Self-designated conservatives.

    In case you need a guide to what's wrong with Bolton, besides his moustache, recall the Iraq War. Not hard to do, since it's still going on. And still unwon, by anyone. It was brought to us by - among others - John Bolton. He still believes it was a good thing. He helped massage the "evidence" that the Iraqi regime had weapons of mass destruction. Before that, in 2002, he wanted to go to war with Cuba. Why? Because they were developing weapons of mass destruction! Though that wasn't true either.

    Now he wants another war. What for? To stop weapons of mass destruction. As he wrote in a New York Times op-ed, "To Stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran".

    He is adamantly against the Iran nuclear deal. He says it's a horrible deal because it has "sunset provisions" that would allow Iran to leap into nuclear development action after 10 or 15 years. So what should we do? The US - or Israel, encouraged by the US - should launch a strike! That - according to Bolton - "could set back its programme by three to five years." But the internationally backed Iran deal looks like it will delay Iran's nuclear development by far more than that. Also, if military action is just a strike, it would motivate Iran to move to nukes as fast as possible. If it means a land war, it would be far worse than the war in Iraq.

    Bolton came to us in the Bush-Cheney administration. George W Bush wanted to make him ambassador to the UN. To most observers that seemed strange, since Bolton hated the UN then, as he does now, and thought it shouldn't exist.

    It wasn't strange. It's them. That's what they do.

    Trump appointed Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt's a perfect example of "them". Not only he is responsible for the EPA being sued by 14 states, most of his money came from the kinds of polluters he is supposed to regulate. That's part of their grand tradition.

    Ronald Reagan put Anne Gorsuch Burford in charge of the EPA. She cut the agency's budget by almost a quarter and the staff by 30 percent. She cut back on enforcement against polluters. She "came under fire for accepting expensive dinners from industry and striking sweetheart deals with those companies. She later served time in jail for lying to Congress about a conflict of interest involving a former employer. Gorsuch herself was cited by Congress for contempt after refusing to turn over documents during the investigations. By Gorsuch’s own admission, the resulting political meltdown paralysed the agency, preventing it from getting any actual work done." Her son, Neil Gorsuch, is now on the Supreme Court.

    George W Bush appointed a "moderate" Republican to head the EPA, Christine Todd Whitman. During her short time in charge, the number of smog days went up 32 percent. Completion of Superfund clean-ups of the worst pollution sites was cut in half. "[A] multi-million-dollar verdict ... was changed in Monsanto's favour just days after Whitman received a forty-five-minute 'briefing' on the case." But when she came out in support of the Kyoto Protocols, the Bush administration found her too liberal and forced her out.

    The Trump administration steams with the odours of financial scandals. Donald and his family appear to be using the White House as a means to promote their private businesses - People with policy interests staying in Trump hotels and signing up for membership at Mar-a-Lago; Trump condos being sold to shell companies; US visas being offered to foreigners who buy Kushner real estate; the Secret Service leasing space in Trump Tower for $130,000 a month.

    Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and leading adviser on the Middle East, went to the Gulf looking for money. Qataris said no and the US foreign policy turned against Qatar. Saudis gave him funds, and the US started supporting Saudi Arabia's interests in the region. Michael Flynn lobbied for Turkey. Paul Manafort laundered money. The Health and Human Services Secretary with the incredibly apt name, Price, had (allegedly, apparently, obviously) used non-public knowledge he acquired on House and Senate committees to make lots of money in stocks. He also got in trouble for running up over $400,000 chartering flights. He did offer to reimburse the government $52,000 for doing so. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, ran up a bill twice as high as Price's, including a trip to Fort Knox to fondle gold with his wife. Ben Carson threw his wife under the bus, blaming her for his over-spending. Forbes had Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on their list of the 400 richest as worth $2.9bn. He claimed it was actually $3.7bn. Then an analysis of the disclosure forms he filed with the government had him down to a mere $700m in assets. Zounds! He was struck from the Forbes 400. However, the Paradise Papers revealed some of what Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose, including his stake in a shipping company that gets millions from Russians close to Putin. How close? Putin's son-in-law is one of them.

    Both Bush and Cheney were much luckier or much better at keeping their personal misdealings from becoming media events. When W was young and playing around with energy companies, he did some deals that looked, on the face of them, to involve serious insider trading. It was his good fortune that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigator assigned to the case had been one of the personal attorneys of his father, President George H W Bush. The fortune he made from his investment in the Texas Rangers baseball team came from serious abuses of eminent domain and using public financing for private gain. Dick Cheney made Halliburton very rich. Then they made him rich. Then, when he was their CEO and privy to the fact that they were going bankrupt, he sold most of his shares before that became known. Bill Frist, the Republican Senate Majority Leader was accused of insider trading. Tom DeLay the Republican House Majority Leader was convicted of money laundering. Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who dealt primarily with Republicans, was found guilty of far too many crimes to list anywhere.

    Trump has clearly tried to block investigations into his relations with Russia. But it's not just him. It's them. The Republicans running the House and Senate committees investigating his ties to Russia have done their level best to limit, twist and finally stop the investigations into the Russian connection. This is nothing new. The Bush White House fought an investigation into 9/11. Various Republican senators joined in. One of their tactics was to malign anyone who called for an investigation and the investigators themselves. They also blamed the FBI. So even that's not fresh and new for Trump.

    The current president is appointing lots of judges. Almost all of them very conservative. The credit shouldn't go to him. It goes to them. It was Mitch McConnell and his solid cadre committed to opposing all things Obama, that left so many seats open.

    Some of Trump's judicial selections have been so bad that they were fit only to be subjects of late night comedy. George W Bush led the way there also. He nominated Michael Wallace, the first nominee to the federal appeals court in 25 years to be rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association, and Terence Boyle, who was among the most frequently reversed judges in the federal system. It was Ronald Reagan who nominated Jeff Sessions to be a judge. He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee twice. The first time he sounded like the racist he was accused of being. The second time, he changed his testimony as he would have to do when questioned as Trump's attorney general. Back then, it was to modify and even deny what he said the first time. More recently, it was to admit that what he had denied must be true since the facts were on the record. There was a Democratic majority in the Senate back then. Sessions was rejected.

    "The wall!" Trump cries out. "Who's gonna pay for it?"

    "Mexico!" his crowd chants back.

    Even that's not new. The Reconstruction of Iraq. Who's gonna pay for it?

    "The costs of any intervention would be very small." - Glenn HubbardWhite House economic adviser, October 2002.

    "Iraq will not require sustained aid." - White House Office of Management and Budget
 Director Mitchell Daniels, April 2003.

    "There are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction," Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, February 2003.

    "We are talking about a country that can really finance its own reconstruction ..." Paul Wolfowitz, 
deputy secretary of defense, March 2003.

    It's not him, Bolton. Or even him, Trump. It's them.

    The views expressed in this article are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.


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