If this book review of John Bolton’s tell all was a fight, a ref would’ve stopped it in the early paragraphs.
Early in my academic career, I wrote a lot of book reviews. Overtime, I only agreed to review books that I liked since telling people not to read a particular book didn’t feel like a constructive use of time.
Fortunately, Jennifer Szalai of The New York Times does not share my philosophy.
Her take-down of Bolton is exquisite. Her intro tweet to her review is an appetizer of sort:
The highlights, or if you’re John Bolton, lowlights:
“The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much. It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.”
Szalai on Bolton’s impeachment dodge:
“‘Had I testified,’ Bolton intones, ‘I am convinced, given the environment then existing because of the House’s impeachment malpractice, that it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome.’ It’s a self-righteous and self-serving sort of fatalism that sounds remarkably similar to the explanation he gave years ago for preemptively signing up for the National Guard in 1970 and thereby avoiding service in Vietnam. ‘Dying for your country was one thing,’ he wrote in his 2007 book ‘Surrender Is Not an Option’, ‘but dying to gain territory that antiwar forces in Congress would simply return to the enemy seemed ludicrous to me.'”
The finishing touch:
“When it comes to Bolton’s comments on impeachment, the clotted prose, the garbled argument and the sanctimonious defensiveness would seem to indicate some sort of ambivalence on his part — a feeling that he doesn’t seem to have very often. Or maybe it merely reflects an uncomfortable realization that he’s stuck between two incompatible impulses: the desire to appear as courageous as those civil servants who bravely risked their careers to testify before the House; and the desire to appease his fellow Republicans, on whom his own fastidiously managed career most certainly depends. It’s a strange experience reading a book that begins with repeated salvos about ‘the intellectually lazy’ by an author who refuses to think through anything very hard himself.”
Szalai with the technical knock out.