One of the many reasons I love the English language so much is its great number of words. In fact, no less than the United Kingdom’s august Oxford University judges that it’s “quite probable” that English is the wordiest language of all. (Full disclosure: It’s also the only tongue in which I’m fluent.)
And America’s chattering classes have recently provided wonderful examples of English’s “wordiness” in their descriptions of the note-taking qualities of former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton, whose newly released White House memoir portrays the President as such an utter, and indeed impeachable, cur on foreign policy issues.
Over the last few months, we’ve been told that Bolton’s note-taking is;
These words aren’t all synonyms, but you get the idea. And these terms were used to buttress the narrative that Bolton’s note-taking was world-class, and that because of his diligence, (and apparently sterling integrity), President Trump had ample reason to worry about any of his allegations becoming public, because.voluminous, contemporaneous – and thus presumably indisputable – documentation would be available.
But here’s something pertinent that’s barely been reported: However painstakingly and thoroughly and carefully and comprehensively and completely and conscientiously and precisely and rigorously and exactingly and extensively and commitedly and energetically and devotedly and determinedly and faithfully and accurately (yes, I’ve used a thesaurus) Bolton took his notes, it turns out that by far the best word to describe them now is fundamentally different.
That word is “non-existent.”
Because buried in the latest Bolton coverage is this not exactly trivial tidbit: the former Trump aide’s statement that “All of the notes that I took were destroyed before I left the government.”
And they weren’t destroyed by Trump loyalists hoping to stage a cover-up. They were destroyed by Bolton himself. And the icing on the cake: Bolton attributed his decision to a common U.S. officials’ desire to make sure that “anything I said” in various government meetings wouldn’t “be in the papers the next morning.”
So as Bolton acknowledged (in the National Public Radio interview transcript linked just above) “Well, look, this, the book is my best recollection.”
I’d be the last person to rule out with absolute certainty the possibility that Bolton’s memory is so…elephantine…that he was able to reconstruct with perfect accuracy every one of the …multitudinous…incidents and Trump outrages he describes. But assuming the best of intentions from Bolton (an assumption that seems shaky at best even leaving aside oft-voiced suspicions that the author has trashed Mr. Trump mainly for the money), that would be the only a priori basis for believing his allegations. That and the apparently widespread eagerness of the President’s critics to accept whatever claims are made about him, whether there’s the slightest shred of evidence for them or not.
Not that none of Bolton’s indictment has been confirmed – although in the case of his description as a “drug deal” the President’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals Hillary Clinton and now presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, the confirmer has been a former colleague on the National Security Council staff who harbors globalist policy prejudices as strong as his own.
But it’s also important to note that at least some of Bolton’s more sensational allegations – concerning Mr. Trump’s supposedly selfish and politically inspired curry-favoring of Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, including to the point of approving the set up of concentration camps for China’s Muslim minority Uighur population – have been explicitly denied by someone else “in the room” (to use a piece of Bolton’s book title). That was U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, who’s never been accused of being a simple Trump toady even by those who disagree with this Trump-ian views on trade policy.
Many Never Trumpers no doubt will respond to the absence of any documentation by parroting Bolton’s claim that “I’m blessed with a pretty good memory” in order to defend the book’s credibility. Much more reasonable would be to wonder (if you haven’t already) what led the President to appoint this classic Swamp creature and over-the-top neoconservative hawk in the first place.