Like Donald Trump, John Bolton, who was the President’s former national security advisor, believes in the America-First philosophy. Indeed, he has been making the case for this political approach for decades. Given this fact, how can we explain Bolton’s decision to resign as national security advisor and to author a scathing book about Trump?
The answer has something to do with intelligence, defined here in two separate ways. When a president has to make important decisions, he relies on reports from trained experts, what are called intelligence reports. After reading such carefully prepared documents, the president then uses his personal intelligence to assess the situation and to plan an eﬀective strategy. What bothers Bolton so much about Trump is that he rarely reads intelligence briefings, and when he makes major decisions for our country, instead of using his own intelligence, he relies on his gut feelings. But as Bolton shows throughout his book, because Trump was never properly prepared for meetings with people like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Xi Jinping, he always got played by these skilled political leaders. Therefore, instead of advancing America’s interests, Trump unwittingly promoted the agendas of other countries. Moreover, Bolton was horrified by the fact that what governed all of Trump’s decisions was his desire for re-election rather than the good of the country.
Ultimately, I am not a fan of Bolton’s book. But I think it is a valuable work because it explains precisely why Trump has failed so miserably when it comes to managing and controlling the Coronavirus. Instead of relying on intelligence reports or human intelligence, he used his own feelings to set the agenda for combatting the virus. For example, while intelligence agencies were saying in February that the virus could infect millions of Americans, Trump was telling the public that it would magically disappear. Rather than listening to the experts, who were encouraging him to mandate shelter-in-place, he was making the case for keeping the economy open. The CDC gave Trump clear guidelines for determining when it would be safe to reopen, but Trump made the case to the public to open the country well before the virus was contained.
And now we are paying the price. Not just because COVID-19 is rapidly spreading, but also because we will have to shut down portions of the country in order to get the Trump virus under control, which will have a negative impact on the economy. Because Trump does not respect intelligence, we are now experiencing multiple crises (an out-of-control virus and a ﬂagging economy) in this country simultaneously, and until Trump takes intelligence seriously, the situation will only get worse.