Bolton's caution isn't cowardice
June 24, 2020
You hear it often: “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
It’s a distortion of a Shakespeare quote. The Bard actually scripted Jack Falstaff to say, “the better part of valor is discretion,” to rationalize Falstaff’s pure cowardice.
Today, the amended phrase can imply either that it’s better to mix caution and courage or that it’s better just to be cautious.
I want to apply the first modern interpretation to former Ambassador John Bolton, who has fallen into disfavor from all corners over “The Room Where It Happened,” his tell-all book about his 17 months as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser.
Most Trump-loyal Republicans say Bolton is a turncoat.
The Trump crew tried to get a temporary restraining order to halt the book’s publication, even after Bolton and White House staffer Ellen Knight apparently spent months excising secrets from it, and even though advance copies have been publicly reviewed.
Trump’s stormtroopers say the book divulges state secrets while calling it a pack of lies. That’s a head-scratcher. As Susan Hennessy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution observed, “There’s no such thing as a classified lie.”
Democrats say Bolton should have spilled the beans at Trump’s failed impeachment trial. Bolton was apparently a witness to Trump’s apparent attempt to extort Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing an investigation against Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, in return for Congressionally approved aid to the beleaguered nation.
Democrats call Bolton a coward for waiting until now to talk about that and other apparently impeachable Trump offenses mentioned in the book.
I disagree, and I’ve never been a fan of Bolton’s eagerness to send Americans into combat, just because he thinks that if America is the biggest kid on the block, we should throw our weight around.
In recent weeks, however, I’ve learned that Bolton has a reputation for unvarnished honesty. I disagree with his hawkish leanings, but he seems to be principled.
He and I also share the opinion that Trump is not worthy of the Oval Office.
Bolton says he didn’t rush into the impeachment hearings because he knew the outcome. With Bolton or without, the Senate’s Republican majority, which cowers before our ill-tempered and erratic president, would never have convicted Trump of charges related to that apparent extortion attempt.
That was where Bolton showed discretion. The brave part is that he is still publishing the book, and I don’t think the promise of royalties is his sole reason for getting it out there.
Based on what I’ve read about the book, I think Bolton’s main motivation is to warn us that Trump is dangerous.
The book apparently demonstrates Trump is shockingly uninformed, cowardly, and constantly dishonest.
It also depicts Trump as unwilling or unable to distinguish between benefit to his re-election campaign and the good of the country.
If Bolton helps to defeat Trump in November, I think it would be a patriotic achievement, but I’ll still wish Bolton would back off on his hawkishness.
Steve Hansen writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: