|JABIN BOTSFORD / THE WASHINGTON POST|
The concept of what constitutes duty to country in contemporary American politics has undergone a seismic shift that the narcissistically self absorbed Donald Trump has only served to accelerate. Lapel-pin patriotism -- "see, I'm wearing the flag, so I gotta love my country" -- is an obvious manifestation, but opting for a megabuck book deal in lieu of answering the call to patriotism is the new normal.
Given the choice between trying to save the country or feathering his nest, John Bolton is taking the money -- a reported $2 million deal with Simon & Schuster for a tell-all book that is likely to be only a tell-something -- and running from his obligation to come forward as possibly the key witness to the Ukraine scandal shenanigans, which did not erupt fully formed from a single extortionate phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky but came together over months of plotting by the president and Rudy Giuliani and their henchmen to find ways to try to influence the 2020 election as Moscow had so thoughtfully done in 2016.
Bolton, Trump's third national security adviser, famously told White House aide Fiona Hill that "I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," a reference to two players in the president's scheme to extort Zelensky into dishing dirt on Joe Biden and his son, but has decided to not appear before House impeachment investigators, let alone make a star turn at the televised public hearings that began on Wednesday.
This although Bolton "was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far," according to a letter from Bolton's lawyer to House Democrats that sounds an awful lot like a book promotion.
Others with books contemplated, in the works or just out include a West Wing insider known only as Anonymous, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, chief of staff John Kelly, defense secretary Jim Mattis and Donald Trump Jr.
Haley deserves special mention.
Trump's former U.N. ambassador not only has adeptly played a game of licking Trump's wingtips while tut-tutting over his more egregious excesses, but has proven expert at promoting her own new book, With All Due Respect, in which she claims that Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to recruit her to work against the president in order to "save the country."
The nerve of them!
Meanwhile, Anonymous deserves special scorn.
A Warning, which is to be released on November 19, is written by "a senior official in the Trump administration" and paints the chilling portrait of the president as cruelly inept and a danger to nation and world that we have read and heard about so often in the accounts of people who don't cower behind a veil of anonymity.
A more appropriate would seem to be Almost A Warning.
Anonymous writes breathlessly that senior administration officials considered resigning en masse last year in a "midnight self-massacre" to sound a public alarm about the president's conduct, but rejected the idea because they believed it would further destabilize an already teetering government.
This almost patriotism prompts Charles Pierce to write at Esquire:
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Anonymous can bite me. I have no intention of shelling out a dime to read about how someone almost ran into the burning house to save the baby, or about how someone almost gave up their seat in the lifeboat when the great ship went down, or about how someone almost dove into a freezing river to save a busload of nuns, or, for that matter, about how someone almost decided not to be a part of the most monstrous executive administration since the (un)death of Vlad The Impaler. I am not interested in someone's heartfelt account of their near-collision with actual integrity. I decline to be fascinated by the tale of how someone nearly ran into courage on the street but had to catch a bus instead. Like I said, Anonymous can anonymously bite me.According to Dahlia Lithwick at Slate, Kelly does not yet have a book deal, but is using the threat of one as insurance against Trump going after him personally. How's that for doing the patriotic thing?
"This is the way democracy ends," concludes Lithwick, "Not with a bang but with a book deal."