Withdraw The Book: Bolton’s COS Worried About Setting Dangerous Precedent

Written by Wes Walker on January 28, 2020

Fred Fleitz sees Bolton’s book as setting a dangerous election-year precedent. And has written an op-ed to say so. He’s writing this, not as a hit piece, but as a close friend and former staffer of Bolton.

As we know, the whole point of being an advisor to the President is the ability to have the hard conversations where you candidly express your opinions to get the best possible advice.

If this precedent is set that advisors rush off to get a tell-all book deal in an election year, what will that mean for how free Presidents will be to have the candid conversations they need to truly grapple with complex issues in the future?

Sure Bolton may get his multi-million book deal (especially if it throws Trump under the bus) … but at what cost to the American national interest?

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Fleitz reminds us that Bolton knew — or ought to have known — that the manuscript would need to be vetted by National Security Counsel for compliance with security protocols. He also knows — our ought to have known — that there are any number of moles in the NSC, eager to rush off to the press with anything even remotely damaging to the President.

Fleitz is more than happy to recount the many successes of Bolton in helping Trump implement important policies and even the criticisms of Bolton’s role as advisor were (in his view) overblown and at least partly owed to his rocky relationship with Obama holdovers.

His column speaks respectfully of an advisor under Obama who waited until AFTER the 2012 election had run its course before releasing his book critical of what he saw as Obama’s failings as President.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who stepped down in June 2011, published a devastating book titled “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” that detailed the incompetence of Vice President Joe Biden and the Obama National Security Council staff. But because he did not want his internal knowledge of the workings of the Obama administration and his interactions with President Obama to affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, Gates did not publish his book until January 2014.

Bolton should have done the same. With the release of this book, he’s not only thrown himself — and his ax to grind — into the center of this election cycle, but he’s turned him own story into a sideshow in Schiff’s impeachment circus.

How is that really in the best interests of the country?

Here is the real meat of his open letter to Bolton:

A book by a former national security adviser ahead of a president’s reelection bid may set a dangerous precedent since it could discourage future presidents from seeking advice from expert advisers on sensitive national security matters.

This is why executive privilege exists: to allow the president and other senior officials to keep certain communications and internal deliberations private if disclosing them would disrupt the functions or decision-making processes of the executive branch.

I haven’t seen Bolton’s book manuscript and I don’t know what’s in it. I take Bolton and his staff at their word that they did not leak the manuscript to the New York Times. But I believe they are still responsible for this leak since Bolton’s explosive book was sent to the leak-prone National Security Council for a security review in December 2019 so the book could be published in the spring of 2020. It also is inexplicable how such a sensitive manuscript could be sent to the NSC in the middle of the impeachment process. Under such circumstances, a leak of the manuscript was all but certain.

If a manuscript of this sensitivity was to be published at all, this should happen after the election, not in the spring of 2020. I don’t understand the need for a former National Security Adviser to publish a tell-all book critical of a president he served, especially during a presidential reelection campaign that will determine the fate of the country. There will be a time for Bolton to speak out without appearing to try to tip a presidential election.

Here’s his closing thought:

Gates established a principled precedent on how senior advisers to presidents should write about their experiences. Given Ambassador Bolton’s long and distinguished record of government service, I believe it is vital that he follow this precedent.

Would he listen to that advice?

Suppose Bolton was won over by his friend’s reasoning, is he even ABLE to pull the plug on it at this point? Or is the damage already done?

 

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