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The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir

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As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves. The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bol As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves. The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bolton has produced a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. What Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting re-elected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy - and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them. He shows a President addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government. In Bolton’s telling, all this helped put Trump on the bizarre road to impeachment. “The differences between this presidency and previous ones I had served were stunning,” writes Bolton, who worked for Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43. He discovered a President who thought foreign policy is like closing a real estate deal - about personal relationships, made-for-TV showmanship, and advancing his own interests. As a result, the US lost an opportunity to confront its deepening threats, and in cases like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea ended up in a more vulnerable place. Bolton’s account starts with his long march to the West Wing as Trump and others woo him for the National Security job. The minute he lands, he has to deal with Syria’s chemical attack on the city of Douma, and the crises after that never stop. As he writes in the opening pages, “If you don’t like turmoil, uncertainty, and risk - all the while being constantly overwhelmed with information, decisions to be made, and sheer amount of work - and enlivened by international and domestic personality and ego conflicts beyond description, try something else.” The turmoil, conflicts, and egos are all there - from the upheaval in Venezuela, to the erratic and manipulative moves of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, to the showdowns at the G7 summits, the calculated warmongering by Iran, the crazy plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David, and the placating of an authoritarian China that ultimately exposed the world to its lethal lies. But this seasoned public servant also has a great eye for the Washington inside game, and his story is full of wit and wry humor about how he saw it played.


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As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves. The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bol As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves. The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bolton has produced a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. What Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting re-elected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy - and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them. He shows a President addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government. In Bolton’s telling, all this helped put Trump on the bizarre road to impeachment. “The differences between this presidency and previous ones I had served were stunning,” writes Bolton, who worked for Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43. He discovered a President who thought foreign policy is like closing a real estate deal - about personal relationships, made-for-TV showmanship, and advancing his own interests. As a result, the US lost an opportunity to confront its deepening threats, and in cases like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea ended up in a more vulnerable place. Bolton’s account starts with his long march to the West Wing as Trump and others woo him for the National Security job. The minute he lands, he has to deal with Syria’s chemical attack on the city of Douma, and the crises after that never stop. As he writes in the opening pages, “If you don’t like turmoil, uncertainty, and risk - all the while being constantly overwhelmed with information, decisions to be made, and sheer amount of work - and enlivened by international and domestic personality and ego conflicts beyond description, try something else.” The turmoil, conflicts, and egos are all there - from the upheaval in Venezuela, to the erratic and manipulative moves of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, to the showdowns at the G7 summits, the calculated warmongering by Iran, the crazy plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David, and the placating of an authoritarian China that ultimately exposed the world to its lethal lies. But this seasoned public servant also has a great eye for the Washington inside game, and his story is full of wit and wry humor about how he saw it played.

30 review for The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Pauline

    What has the country come to if I’m marking a book by John Fucking Bolton as “To Be Read”?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Just as a thought experiment, would you, in 1943, have read a tell-all memoir about Adolf Hitler written by a disgruntled Rudolf Hess? A. Give my hard-earned money to one of the Nazi Party's former leaders? Are you crazy? B. Not read the latest dirt on Hitler? How could I resist? C. I would have to read it of course, but it would be a stolen copy. D. I'd wait for the Goebbels book, it would be better written and have juicier stories. E. With Alan Turing's capable help, I would invent the internet and Just as a thought experiment, would you, in 1943, have read a tell-all memoir about Adolf Hitler written by a disgruntled Rudolf Hess? A. Give my hard-earned money to one of the Nazi Party's former leaders? Are you crazy? B. Not read the latest dirt on Hitler? How could I resist? C. I would have to read it of course, but it would be a stolen copy. D. I'd wait for the Goebbels book, it would be better written and have juicier stories. E. With Alan Turing's capable help, I would invent the internet and Goodreads, then review the book without having read it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marius von Heinen

    As a Norwegian, I simply find American politics amusing. Why? Because they are not like the politics in Norway. Our "far-right" is "far far left" compared to the US. We're different from you guys. I find French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Swedish, and British politics just as amusing because they are different (more similar than the US though). As Trump would probably tell people that this book is made up of lies and recommend everyone to not read it, I just had to get it and read it. And I did. Lik As a Norwegian, I simply find American politics amusing. Why? Because they are not like the politics in Norway. Our "far-right" is "far far left" compared to the US. We're different from you guys. I find French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Swedish, and British politics just as amusing because they are different (more similar than the US though). As Trump would probably tell people that this book is made up of lies and recommend everyone to not read it, I just had to get it and read it. And I did. Like all political books, it's a tough, slow and rather boring read to be honest, but it's still an important enough book for Trump to tweet about it. The book is somewhat, as expected, revealing. If it's true or not is not up to me to tell, but most of it does fit the description of Trump that we're already used to "across the pond". Personally, I do not see why anyone would spend their time writing this, if it is all lies. It's not exactly a page turner, but some of the situations described are well worth the read. Would recommend this to people who want a nuanced view on the "Trump vs. former employees". For all the people just making "reviews" to complain about Bolton, the Mueller-rapport and Trump and shit or trying to give this book shitty reviews just to stop people from buying it, please ... I beg you .... Fuck off. This is not the place for your shit. Go somewhere else. Any social media or whatever, just not here. This is a "sacred" place to some, so please respect it. I wrote my first review because you guys pissed me off.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    I suppose it was the fact that President Trump was so set against this book being published that sparked my initial interest - what was it that he was trying to cover up? I live in the UK, but I do like to try and educate myself as to what’s happening on the other side of the pond. However, am I really doing that by reading something like this? It’s difficult to decide what’s true here and what isn’t to be honest. I actually had real difficulty in finishing this book, and very nearly gave up alto I suppose it was the fact that President Trump was so set against this book being published that sparked my initial interest - what was it that he was trying to cover up? I live in the UK, but I do like to try and educate myself as to what’s happening on the other side of the pond. However, am I really doing that by reading something like this? It’s difficult to decide what’s true here and what isn’t to be honest. I actually had real difficulty in finishing this book, and very nearly gave up altogether - I found it slow and boring, but hey, I’d paid 18 of my English pounds, and finish it I would! Bolton came across as arrogant, full of his own self importance, and why did he stay quiet when it really mattered! Who knows, I may have missed something important, because I admit to doing a fair bit of skimming, but my advice is to save your money, and buy something really worth reading, because for me, this definitely wasn’t.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    2.5 stars, rounded up for now Update after finishing: I don't feel like I learned a lot, aside from learning that this guy is a pompous ass. He really finds fault with just about everyone ...except himself. Of course he paints the picture of a stupid and incompetent Trump (like I said, nothing I didn't already know) but he didn't help with the impeachment, nor does he offer his solution to making a Trump a one-term president. Voting for a third candidate (Independent, etc) is not a solution, but 2.5 stars, rounded up for now Update after finishing: I don't feel like I learned a lot, aside from learning that this guy is a pompous ass. He really finds fault with just about everyone ...except himself. Of course he paints the picture of a stupid and incompetent Trump (like I said, nothing I didn't already know) but he didn't help with the impeachment, nor does he offer his solution to making a Trump a one-term president. Voting for a third candidate (Independent, etc) is not a solution, but a complete waste of a vote. Hopefully he'll vote for Biden even if he won't admit it. Also, the book is boring and would have done well to be about half the length. Anyway, don't waste your money on this. Borrow it, borrow it, read reviews, or whatever. This guy doesn't deserve to make a dime. ---- Update 6/30: Downrated to 3 stars and I don't expect that rating to go up. I'm not liking the author at all. And nothing else really surprises me. Hoping to finish by the end of the week (I just finished chapter 11, so not too far to go). Update 6/25: Finally reading this and these are my early impressions: Book is boring AF so far. Author is a self-important douchebag. Nevertheless, I will persist. ---- Pre-release thoughts: What is the world coming to where I find myself reading books written by Republicans??????? But, hey, if Trump wants the book suppressed, I definitely plan to read it. Will I pay my hard-earned money for it? Absolutely not. I'll borrow a copy. And I'll adjust my rating accordingly after I read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Perhaps one of the most anticipated political books of the summer, I chose to leap on the John Bolton memoir before reviews filled Goodreads and other platforms I frequent. Written based on his time working inside the White House, Bolton not only brings first-hand knowledge of events, but also offers insights into what he witnessed during his time as National Security Advisor. With a long history of work within various Republican administrations, John Bolton was not a man wet behind the ears whe Perhaps one of the most anticipated political books of the summer, I chose to leap on the John Bolton memoir before reviews filled Goodreads and other platforms I frequent. Written based on his time working inside the White House, Bolton not only brings first-hand knowledge of events, but also offers insights into what he witnessed during his time as National Security Advisor. With a long history of work within various Republican administrations, John Bolton was not a man wet behind the ears when being considered for a position in the Trump Administration. His experience and hawkish approach to international politicking surely caught the attention of Trump and some of those within his inner circle. Bolton hit the ground running, explaining that every day in the Trump White House is fraught with chaos and ever-changing views on hot button issues. Bolton sought to steer the president in a few directions that would follow policy to support those views that arose in the campaign, at times doing anything to reverse the Obama trajectory. From America’s role in the Syrian civil war to Russian involvement on world events, Bolton showed how Trump’s opinions would change with the blowing of the wind, wanting America out of military involvement and yet not letting its greatest adversary to think it weak. This Russian sentiment baffled me throughout, as Trump would speak poorly about Putin and yet relied on him to win his seat in the Oval Office. Bolton also explores issues with China at length, clashing with one of the world’s economic superpowers at every turn, and yet Trump offered them the chance to keep him in power by ‘helping’ with the 2020 election (a la Putin 2016). Dismantling NATO and contemplating destabilising the leftist Venezuelan autocrat also played heavily on Trump’s agenda while Bolton was National Security Advisor, with many offhand and somewhat outlandish ideas coming up regularly before POTUS could be talked away from the ledge. Bolton spends much time throughout the book exploring the Trump view at finally getting some concrete progress with the North Koreans, with in-depth discussions of their two summits and the ‘love affair’ the media explored through the flowery diplomacy that took place, yet nothing substantial came to pass. Of equal interest and importance is the means by which Trump sought to dismantle the nuclear weapons treaty with Iran that had been negotiated during the Obama Administration. Trump seemed keen to change the rules and make sure America came out on top, while making sure that many new how horrible Obama was as POTUS (second only to Bush 43, whom Trump appeared to loathe even more). Bolton is happy to offer blunt views of Trump and those in the know, at times sharing views with other Cabinet officials as they watched the continued implosion of all things Trump. Bolton also sheds light on the constant sentiment that Trump is one who holds firm views of people, fleeting as the interactions change from day to day, including a strong dislike for some of America’s greatest allies, while praising those who are firmly in the column of ‘enemies of the state’. Bolton provides some insight into the Ukrainian interactions that fuelled the fire towards impeachment, offering his own ideas from the facts he knew. That Bolton and Trump eventually fell out is of no shock to anyone, as those who refuse to be sycophants are apt to become, but the recent vilification of anything Bolton might have to say only furthers my belief that there are hard truths in this book that many who nurse from the presidential teat would have us deny as a new round of false news. This book is full of detail and great narrative that will be ideal for those who want some additional insights into how the Trump White House ran things, both from an international and domestic perspective. I’d recommend this to those who enjoy all things political, as well as the reader who has no trouble hearing truths that may run counter to the POTUS circus. I have never hidden my dislike of the current American administration, particularly the ringleader of the shenanigans. While I understand that media outlets will offer their own spin on events, I have come to appreciate those on the inside who offer up books about the events they witnessed. Some would call it smear campaigns or falsehoods to trip up POTUS, though I wonder how many people could have colluded with such a similar narrative, as well as what purpose it would serve to exert such energy to bring down a man who seems able to do it on his own. Bolton is by no means a Democrat seeking to dismantle the GOP machine, which only makes some of his views all the more insightful. He offers praise where it is needed and critiques things that seem to lack the insight to keep America from running amok (alas, we are well past that). Bolton does come across as a know-it-all at times, feeling that he is the smartest man in the room and all others should bow to his intellect, which is seen in many tongue-in-cheek sentiments expressed in most chapters, as well as in recollected conversations with others. While that may be the case, Bolton’s views are steeped in some well established views of international politics and diplomacy, something that adds to the flavouring of the book and leaves the reader to wonder why someone would purposely skew things that can be substantiated so effectively. With thorough chapters that explore many insightful areas that are sure to pique the interest of the politically minded individual. While some may call Bolton too close to Trump, it is this closeness that offers the reader some of the many views from behind the curtain. Why would someone like Bolton want to find himself on the outside with this book, upsetting POTUS, thereby making him an enemy of the administration? Knowing Trump’s penchant for such things, Bolton’s better off pissing from outside the tent inwards and letting the truth ‘hang out’. Kudos, Mr. Bolton, for such a refreshing book about the inner workings of Trump’s Administration. I could not ask for anything more! Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Graham

    BOLTON: I'm willing to testify if subpoenaed. REPUBLICANS: He's just trying to sell a book! ME: Then why offer so many damn spoilers?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    He wouldn't testify. I won't be opening my purse. You?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bren

    No, I am not done yet. Not even close. Rarely do I wrote a book review of a book I have not finished. But it needs to be done. This book by Bolton is gigantic. It will take me awhile to finish it. I will read it at my leisure. But as anyone who knows me knows..I do not like Trump. Originally I was not going to buy this because I think Bolton is a coward who cares more about profit then doing the right thing. But..he's still way better than Trump. And I am curious. And Trump does not want people to buy No, I am not done yet. Not even close. Rarely do I wrote a book review of a book I have not finished. But it needs to be done. This book by Bolton is gigantic. It will take me awhile to finish it. I will read it at my leisure. But as anyone who knows me knows..I do not like Trump. Originally I was not going to buy this because I think Bolton is a coward who cares more about profit then doing the right thing. But..he's still way better than Trump. And I am curious. And Trump does not want people to buy the book. Says it may have classified information. So, I want it. The book I mean. And I want to rate it a perfect five even if it is not. That's how childish I am! Anyone who screws Trump over..well..they can't be all that bad. Besides, the book could be pulled any day and I want to read all the Classified stuff and all the writings Trump does not want us to see. The book I just reviewed before this one is all about the power of the mind..let's all of the Never Trumpers try to see in our minds Trump losing the election in November. And I want Biden to win Mississippi. Will do a proper review when who le book is finished. But it's pretty good so far!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Thing Two

    Where in the hell was all of this when Mueller was testifying? Where was this during the impeachment trial? Bolton had a chance to go down in history as a patriot, instead he’ll go down as a footnote. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook...Biography/memoir ...narrated by Robert Petkoff. ...John Bolton reads his epilogue. ...There are professional reviews.... ...There is the publishers summary.... and ...Other readers who are much more qualified to review this book, than me. ...Seriously scholars, political geeks, history buffs... don’t need my unqualified review. That said... ....I listened to 20 hours and 52 minutes- ‘knowing’ I wasn’t understanding half of it. But.... ...Half of it I did! I figure my half-ass-effort of Audiobook...Biography/memoir ...narrated by Robert Petkoff. ...John Bolton reads his epilogue. ...There are professional reviews.... ...There is the publishers summary.... and ...Other readers who are much more qualified to review this book, than me. ...Seriously scholars, political geeks, history buffs... don’t need my unqualified review. That said... ....I listened to 20 hours and 52 minutes- ‘knowing’ I wasn’t understanding half of it. But.... ...Half of it I did! I figure my half-ass-effort of listening/ understanding this book still counts or something. Some of it went right over my head. But..... ITS A FRICKEN DISASTER inside the White House... A FRICKEN FRIGHTENING NIGHTMARE!!! I felt it took ‘forever’ for John Bolton ( in chapter 1), to explain his process of getting hired by Trump as the national security advisor. Bolton worked for Fox news. Trump kept telling Bolton that they shared the same views. Trump wanted Bolton inside the White House so -in part - he could control - dictate - what he wanted said on Fox News. Why else is all other news FAKE? Trump can’t control other networks. Now that I’ve finished this book - it makes more sense to me now ‘why’ Bolton took extra time in having us see how ‘grueling’ ( felt grueling to me), it was before he had an official job [ with an inbox], in the White House. Basically... nothing seemed easy... But it never looked liked Bolton was begging for a job from Trump. ... not from what he wrote. It was Trump who was constantly going after Bolton. Since this book has come out - Trump ‘tweeted’ “For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, ‘begged’ me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying “don’t do it, sir”” NOT TRUE! Red flags were going up ABOUT TAKING THE JOB - ‘before’ Bolton took it- spending 453 days on the payroll. How he lasted 453 days -is beyond me. When Bolton tried to advise Trump on National security issues...they didn’t agree...( especially over a deal with Afghanistan) and other foreign affairs. Trump wanted to allow leaders of the Taliban to visit Camp David in just days before the anniversary of the 911 terrorist attacks to finalize peace talks. The idea was strongly opposed by Bolton. Bolton and Trump also disagreed about striking in Iran. Trump ‘strongly’ didn’t agree with Bolton > so....... Trump fired him. That’s 3 national security advisors fired by Trump! Guess Trump wants a puppet for an advisor. I don’t think Bolton is a peach-of-a-man - squeaky clean himself - but even though I had to slog through his book- I thought parts were revealing and interesting ( in a juicy gossip type of way). Reading about Bolton’s very first day on the job was like a horror-comedy act from Saturday Night Live. Things were chaotic- ‘really’ chaotic. The crisis in Syria was horrific; overpowering all other government business in the White House Bolton survived his first day... His first 4 days sounded like a nightmare. My guess - very few days were easy-breezing. Mostly ... this book was too ‘detailed’ for the average reader .... I understand the importance, but it was too tedious to read. Dates, time of day, and number of minutes for every meeting, every conversation, page after page, just gets tedious to read! Like I said... I understand the reasoning of documentation... But it was TOO MUCH!!! The New York Times said, “the memoir was ‘bloated’ with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much”. I AGREE... Guess that’s it for my review! The end!!! ( haha) The elephant in the room - ( the guy hidden behind the wizards curtain).... Yep..., no surprise... is Trump!! Trump is arrogant- is not stable - and he definitely rigged the last election.... WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL THAT HE DOESN’T succeed again!!! Bottom line: VOTE IN NOVEMBER.... But NOT for Trump!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I did not enjoy this book. In many ways, I wished I had not read it. I guess I am tired of reading about an out of control two-year-old playing in the White House and disgracing the country. Prior to this it never bothered me who was in control of the government. I just figured the rotation back and forth between conservatives and liberals kept the country more or less in balance, until now. I did not learn anything new in this book, but it reinforced what other books have said. It did provide mo I did not enjoy this book. In many ways, I wished I had not read it. I guess I am tired of reading about an out of control two-year-old playing in the White House and disgracing the country. Prior to this it never bothered me who was in control of the government. I just figured the rotation back and forth between conservatives and liberals kept the country more or less in balance, until now. I did not learn anything new in this book, but it reinforced what other books have said. It did provide more inside information on what was happening at any given time in the White House. Bolton comes off as an arrogant know-it-all obsessed with Iran. Bolton’s information only confirms my opinion that Trump will see a second term as a welcome mat to become a dictator and dissolve our democracy. Sorry this is not my usual neutral review. I guess I am tired and fed up. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is twenty hours and fifty-two minutes. Robert Petkoff does a good job narrating the book. Petkoff is an actor and audiobook narrator. He has won the Audie Award and multiple Earphone Awards.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    I only read 34% of this, I could not do more! Bolton continued to brag about himself and his great ideas. He acted like he was the only adult in the room, even above the generals. Those great ideas were the idiot plans I had previously attributed to Jared or other severe right wingers. Now I know! He also bashed Obama's plans and how they needed to go down. He still is a war hawk and wanted to bomb the hell out of things. He has enough blood on his hands from the Bush administration to last a lif I only read 34% of this, I could not do more! Bolton continued to brag about himself and his great ideas. He acted like he was the only adult in the room, even above the generals. Those great ideas were the idiot plans I had previously attributed to Jared or other severe right wingers. Now I know! He also bashed Obama's plans and how they needed to go down. He still is a war hawk and wanted to bomb the hell out of things. He has enough blood on his hands from the Bush administration to last a life time! I had bought the audible book so if I didn't like the book I could return it, real perk!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    A Dictator with Small Hands he came down the elevator A man with a purpose to Take over America with his racism and bigotry And what some claim to bem his charm I sat eating popcorn Choking on its kernels. He was not a Dapper Dan but became Teflon Don Not classy but crassy Yet some people loved him The children hid under cover The grownups could not believe I knew the man was a sociopath, a liar and a narcissist. I knew he wanted to create concentration camps and murder all journalists And I never took it back A Dictator with Small Hands he came down the elevator A man with a purpose to Take over America with his racism and bigotry And what some claim to bem his charm I sat eating popcorn Choking on its kernels. He was not a Dapper Dan but became Teflon Don Not classy but crassy Yet some people loved him The children hid under cover The grownups could not believe I knew the man was a sociopath, a liar and a narcissist. I knew he wanted to create concentration camps and murder all journalists And I never took it back even when people called me paranoid. While I was peeved that Bolton Would not testify At least he left us this, But I will not read it because I have had enough. But Trump has done his job well, People don’t believe in anything unless it comes from his own lips It is racism that pushes them on And they would love a Civil War But he has lost his health And is losing his mind He can barely walk and barely talk He could even have Alzheimer’s like his pappy had and basically, he is just not happy. but if we can keep his finger off the button or prevent another Civil War Maybe we can all get through this until November’s election. But I will tell you this: He wants to be a dictator above all else.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    What a fascinating inside scoop. I was impressed by the sheer detail and clear accuracy of this book. I'm more disapointed in anything, that the country has been run this way for this long. As a Republican, I am aboslutely not voting for Trump, between all the trusted accounts like Mattis or Bolton, his refusal to take racism seriously, and his denial of Coronavirus' threat. People will disagree, but it's so obvious now that he conned us. I'm sick and tired of defending every moronic or selfish thin What a fascinating inside scoop. I was impressed by the sheer detail and clear accuracy of this book. I'm more disapointed in anything, that the country has been run this way for this long. As a Republican, I am aboslutely not voting for Trump, between all the trusted accounts like Mattis or Bolton, his refusal to take racism seriously, and his denial of Coronavirus' threat. People will disagree, but it's so obvious now that he conned us. I'm sick and tired of defending every moronic or selfish thing he does, and seeing him act like an authoritarian on a daily basis is making a mockery out of the US.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris A

    While I'll never forgive Mr. Bolton for staying quiet when it mattered, I'm quite confident that everything in the book is accurate and at least it is in time to help Trump lose the election. Those who refuse to believe it are simply continuing to lie to themselves about the huge mistake they made in 2016. It's not too late to wake up and snap out of it. Or, if you're fully aware and STILL support this traitorous president, it's never too late to re-grasp your lost conscience and turn your life a While I'll never forgive Mr. Bolton for staying quiet when it mattered, I'm quite confident that everything in the book is accurate and at least it is in time to help Trump lose the election. Those who refuse to believe it are simply continuing to lie to themselves about the huge mistake they made in 2016. It's not too late to wake up and snap out of it. Or, if you're fully aware and STILL support this traitorous president, it's never too late to re-grasp your lost conscience and turn your life around. Just. Do. It.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ross Blocher

    Ah, The Room Where It Happened. The title is the coolest thing about this book, borrowed from the infinitely more engaging Hamilton, which actually has art and a point. This is, of course, the tell-all somewhat-redacted account of Trump's White House from one of his top appointees, John Bolton, who served as National Security Advisor for 17 months (aka 47 Scaramuccis: an eternity in Trump's revolving-door administration if you're not related to him). In it, we get another, closer glimpse inside Ah, The Room Where It Happened. The title is the coolest thing about this book, borrowed from the infinitely more engaging Hamilton, which actually has art and a point. This is, of course, the tell-all somewhat-redacted account of Trump's White House from one of his top appointees, John Bolton, who served as National Security Advisor for 17 months (aka 47 Scaramuccis: an eternity in Trump's revolving-door administration if you're not related to him). In it, we get another, closer glimpse inside this disastrous and disorganized presidency. The White House, and Trump himself, now cast aspersion on Bolton and discredit his observations (while simultaneously claiming he's divulging classified information). Trump calls Bolton "incompetent" and a "boring old fool", saying "all he wants to do is drop bombs". One wonders why he chose Bolton in the first place, and what it says about his leadership and judgment that he fills the swamp as he drains it of figures like John Kelly, James Mattis, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster (Bolton's predecessor), who all now share the same stories of Trump's malfeasance. It reminds me of the Church of Scientology, vilifying former members who all seemed to be hunky-dory when they were toeing the party line. Don't feel sorry for Bolton, though. He's a terrible person who should have never been allowed back in government. It's hard to root for one of the architects of the Iraq War as you listen to a dangerous idiot recount the faults of an even more dangerous, powerful and idiotic man. Many potential readers feel the dissonance of supporting Bolton, with good reason. Plus, this information would have been far more helpful many months ago when House Democrats asked Bolton to testify in the Trump impeachment proceedings (more on that bit of hypocrisy later). Trump is at least right that Bolton is profoundly boring, which this 500-page-plus (21 hours by audio) plod makes clear. Bolton uses his moment in the spotlight to regale us with the minutia of his tenure and decision making, when all anyone really cares about is the dirt to be dished on Trump. The dirt is there, but isolated in a sea of unnecessary details and negotiations with Venezuela and Turkey that no one asked for. My advice? You'll get all the information you need from news reports and this handy-dandy review. Bolton starts by describing his White House courtship, which began as early as the transition. Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and others would loop Bolton into discussions, sneak him in and out of meetings, and propose roles for him in the coming administration. Bolton was holding out for Secretary of State or National Security Advisor, not content with playing second-banana. Trump liked Bolton, even expressing surprise that Bolton was more hardline than himself on many issues. Of course, we the public wondered why Trump would even consider Bolton, since Trump tried so hard during his campaign to pretend he had been against the Iraq War, and stated regularly his disdain for both of the Bushes. Bolton suspects that Trump simply never understood his role in those administrations (probably correct) and just liked what he heard from Bolton on Fox News. Other sources have said that Trump held off on giving Bolton first-pick because he didn't like his mustache. Bolton claims Trump told him he liked the mustache, because Trump's father had a mustache. I think we all know the resale value on a compliment from Trump. Bolton loves compliments, though, and if anyone says anything nice about him, you'll hear about it in this book. The same goes for criticisms, which Bolton similarly views as compliments - he's happy to piss off his adversaries, and claims his "scar tissue has scars". Even at this early courtship stage, Bolton could see signs of poor leadership, communication and team building: unsupervised and conflicting philosophies with no clear chain of command to resolve differences. He admits that he fell sway to the illusion that he could succeed in imposing order where others had failed. In standard fashion, he got confirmation that he'd been hired at the same time everyone else did: in a tweet from Trump. And so, following Michael Flynn (convicted of felony) and H.R. McMaster (forced out over disagreements), John Bolton became Trump's third National Security Advisor. The room where it happened (as evidenced by the jacket design) was typically "The Oval", as Bolton repeatedly refers to the Oval Office (112 times, to be exact). I don't know how common that phrasing is in presidential parlance, but I kept whispering the missing "Office" in my head. Once Bolton is hired, we get treated to the palace intrigue as various scandals break out, administration members get frustrated or fight each other, and as Trump endangers the entire nation with his lack of preparedness or even basic knowledge of the world stage. There are multiple attestations of administration members declaring their derision for Trump. Tillerson called him "a fucking moron". Pompeo passed Bolton a note during a North Korea discussion saying "He is so full of shit." Mattis formed part of the "axis of adults": administration members fighting to keep Trump from destroying the world by ignoring his orders and hoping he'd forget about them (he often would), keeping him in the dark on certain topics, or giving him a set of options psychologically tailored to produce the desired illusion of choice. Bolton clearly dislikes Mattis, and resents what he sees as manipulation of the President. And yet, Bolton comes to do the exact same thing throughout the book. Bolton is able to confirm another piece of intrigue: Nikki Haley (who Bolton clearly despises) was seriously considered as a replacement for Mike Pence as VP in the 2020 election. Trump encourages skirmishes and back-biting, as long as he is not the target. He asks Bolton to dish dirt on other members, which "almost no one believed was conducive to building trust and confidence among his subordinates". Trump gets certain ideas stuck in his head, and once they're in there, no facts can shake them loose. Bolton spoke of numerous diatribes, such as Trump obsessing over Germany not paying for its share of defense spending (everything comes down to America getting "ripped off", and Trump doesn't want to pay for anything unless he see an immediate, financial advantage). Another oft-repeated harangue is Trump's insistence that John Kerry should be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act (for talking to Iran), no matter how often Bolton tried to explain why that is a non-starter (plus, take a look at Rudy Giuliani if you're worried about the Logan Act). Trump is pathologically anti-Obama, and anything or anybody he associates with Obama needs to be repealed or fired (Bolton seems happy to jump on this bandwagon, and doesn't seem to taste the irony of bashing Obama in a book detailing Trump's failure to meet basic presidential standards). Trump goes off on these rants at times and places when they are entirely inappropriate, such as in front of other country's leaders, or when Trump is supposed to be taking in information. He similarly reveals his ignorance in international meetings, expressing surprise that Britain is a nuclear power, going off on a rant about Pearl Harbor when preparing for a meeting with Prime Minister Abe, suggesting that Venezuela is part of the US, and asking, "Isn't Finland kind of a satellite of Russia?" When corrected, Trump often repeats the misconception later. It's almost as if he's incapable of learning. Lack of preparation is another refrain. Trump's schedule begins at 11 AM (!!!) at the "Oval", though Bolton insists Trump spends the morning making phone calls. He shows up late, doesn't prepare, doesn't read notes, doesn't listen to briefings, doesn't absorb carefully prepared security documents (short, visual content is preferred), and dominates conversations. As Trump says, "I'm a talker, I like to talk." He regularly jumps on calls with the heads of other countries unprepared, and doesn't seem to understand the significance of a call from the President of the United States, nor the fact that such calls are suppose to have objectives. He then proceeds to embarrass all of us by talking about unrelated issues: usually himself. Bolton is rightly worried that other, more intelligent, world leaders use this to actively take advantage of Trump and the US, and he points to multiple instances in which Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un conversationally outplay Trump, exposing his weak intelligence, lack of nuance, and soft spot for flattery. This is especially disconcerting when Trump takes secret meetings with Putin for which we have no notes or record. The embarrassing interactions with foreign leaders are legion. Trump is aggressive and combative with our allies such as Trudeau and Marcon, and especially women leaders like Theresa May and Angela Merkel. He plays much nicer with our competitors, our enemies, and outright dictators. Trump calls Putin to congratulate him on his "election". He tells President Xi that it was the right decision to build internment camps for the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, and jokes with Xi about maybe serving more than two terms as US president. He offers to ease investigations on a Turkish company on Erdogan's behalf. We all know about his absurd bromance with North Korea's Kim Jung Un, sending him what even Bolton characterizes as "love letters". This was one of the situations in which Bolton tried his best to steer Trump away from his intended dealings, though it's hard to stop a president who tweets essentially "meet me at the DMZ", which then happens. One bizarre interlude involves Trump repeatedly asking Mike Pompeo to deliver a CD of Elton John's "Rocket Man" to Kim Jong Un. Even worse, Trump tries to set up a negotiation with the Taliban! At Camp David! The Taliban! Bolton and others intervene to ensure that the talks fall apart before it actually happens, but Trump takes the embarrassment public by tweeting that the meeting was called off. These are the kinds of things that send the whole White House into a tailspin of damage control. Speaking of which, we get some insight into how Trump reacts to negative coverage, and how he uses outlandish behavior to distract from embarrassing behavior. For example, Trump purposefully defended Saudia Arabia's assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an attempt to distract the media from talking about Ivanka's use of private email to conduct government business (exactly what he wanted to lock up Hillary Clinton for). Another constant thread is Bolton's bewilderment that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is handling back-channel conversations with world leaders. Kushner is constantly doing other peoples' jobs and getting assigned absurdly broad tasks like "immigration", "the China trade issue", and of course his "never-quite-ready Middle East peace plan" that should belong to an experienced, qualified team. Trump complains endlessly that someone is keeping him from talking to other world leaders, which Bolton eventually discovers is Kushner, when Kushner blocks a Trump-seeking call from Israel's Netanyahu. And, of course... Bolton confirms what he should have testified before Congress: that Ukrainian military aid was directly held up (deliberately, many times) because Trump wanted Zelensky to deliver dirt on Joe Biden. If that isn't impeachable enough, we also learn that Trump asked Xi Jinping to help him win re-election in exchange for agricultural quid-pro-quo. I'm adding a lot of my own editorial here. Bolton tells all of this as a series of blandly described events, without providing much in the way of synthesis or objective lesson. Any observations or condemnations Bolton offers Trump are subtle. On one hand, this could be seen as objectivity: Bolton seems freshly surprised with each new Trump disaster, but will also give Trump full credit when he gets something "right" by Bolton's reckoning. Bolton will work hard to distract Trump from leaving NATO, but then turn around and applaud him for unilaterally abandoning some other strategic partnership Bolton doesn't like. Clearly Bolton is aware of Trump's malfeasance (I lost count of how many times he was planning to leave the administration over decision x or y), but he can't seem to muster the courage to condemn it outright or in bold terms. He describes a man who is vain, witless, corrupt and immoral, but won't call him any of these things. One of the most ignorant statements comes when Bolton muses what could happen if Trump were re-elected: "...A second-term Trump will be far less constrained by politics than he was in his first term. The irony could well be that Democrats will find themselves far more pleased substantively with a 'legacy'-seeking Trump in his second term than conservatives and Republicans. Something to think about." Okay, I thought about it. You're an idiot. To paraphrase another franchise (and confuse houses): you know nothing, John Bolton. Bolton himself has a lot to answer for, and he doesn't do it here. He never addresses his failures in the Bush administration (WMDs, anyone?), and for all the opinions he holds forth on America's role in the world, I never got any sense of what this man's moral compass is. He brushes off not participating in the impeachment hearings, calling it "impeachment malpractice", saying that house Democrats were as irresponsible as Trump in how they handled and tried to rush proceedings. Nonsense. As if that’s his decision to make on behalf of the American people. He doesn't seem to understand the legitimate pressures that necessitated quick action, nor appreciate the role of Trump's obstruction efforts. It's kind of rich that Bolton then talks about decisions he made to publish this book as quickly as he could, in terms that sound quite similar to Congress's reasons for hastening the impeachment hearings. Anyway, super boring book. If you made it this far, I hope I saved you a few hundred extra pages of reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I wanted to read this book for two reasons: 1). As a United States citizen who cares about my country, I feel it is my duty to be as informed as possible. 2). Trump's little hissy fit over the book piqued my interest and I wanted to find out what's so bad that we don't already know. I can't though. I just cannot do this book. I read a few pages but Bolton's arrogance just oozes out of the Kindle.  I can't stomach it for 652 pages, not if I want to retain my sanity. And I do.  Whatever it is that tru I wanted to read this book for two reasons: 1). As a United States citizen who cares about my country, I feel it is my duty to be as informed as possible. 2). Trump's little hissy fit over the book piqued my interest and I wanted to find out what's so bad that we don't already know. I can't though. I just cannot do this book. I read a few pages but Bolton's arrogance just oozes out of the Kindle.  I can't stomach it for 652 pages, not if I want to retain my sanity. And I do.  Whatever it is that trump wanted so badly to keep from going to the press will have to remain a mystery to me... at least until I read some other reviews from stronger people who can get through this ego trip of a book. My uninformed conclusions upon not reading this book but having paid attention for the last four years: 1) Trump does what he wants, when he wants, without thinking things through and regardless of the constitutionality of his acts.   2) Trump will do much more of this the longer he is in power.   3) Trump's unconstitutional display of power against protestors in Portland, Oregon is just the beginning.  4) Trump has no concern for human life unless it is his own. None. 5) Get the hell out and vote in November. Vote Blue. If you vote third party, you are effectively voting for trump. If you care about your country and don't wish to live under a dictator, vote Blue. DNF'ed at page 10.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen Adkins

    I got my hands on an advance copy and read it. Anyone who's bothering to read Goodreads reviews surely has already seen the leaked substance, so I won't repeat that here. What I will say is that Bolton comes across incredibly poorly in this tome (and I have no love lost for anyone in this administration): 1) His ego is endless. He has seemingly written down every piece of shameless/shameful flattery any person has ever uttered to him, and recounts all of them here, clearly tickled at all of them I got my hands on an advance copy and read it. Anyone who's bothering to read Goodreads reviews surely has already seen the leaked substance, so I won't repeat that here. What I will say is that Bolton comes across incredibly poorly in this tome (and I have no love lost for anyone in this administration): 1) His ego is endless. He has seemingly written down every piece of shameless/shameful flattery any person has ever uttered to him, and recounts all of them here, clearly tickled at all of them and taking them seriously. (Meanwhile, he endlessly talks about his clever stratagems of getting in people's heads with provocative tweets or speeches; it seemingly doesn't occur to him that some of this flattery might be less than gospel.) 2) He is incredibly petty. There is no slight so small that he's not willing to square it here; very early in his NatSec tenure, Mike Pence acts as chair/convenor of a meeting; Bolton makes sure we all know what a grievous etiquette failure that is and that Bolton made sure that didn't happen again. Good to know you're focused on the big picture, John. 3) His pettiness seems actively misogynistic when it comes to women. While he clearly thinks he's smarter than pretty much everybody else he encounters in his work life, his descriptions of women who work in the White House (Nikki Haley, Kristjen Njielsen) are particularly venomous, and gratuitously cruel. What exactly is the point of repeating a sexist slur Trump tells him Tillerson used to describe Haley to her face, particularly if Bolton doesn't know that it happened, other than to humiliate Haley in print? And Haley and Njielsen are relentlessly derided for their lack of intellectual firepower and strength of will, in ways and words that are stronger than say, his criticisms of Jared Kushner or Steve Mnuchin. His description of the FLOTUS staff as sorority mean girls seems tellingly trivializing. 4) He's even more of a chickenhawk than I realized (and I remember being appalled by UN Ambassador Bolton during the GWB years). The number of treaties he salivates getting out of, or fantasizes getting out of because of their sheer pointlessness, had me looking for a treaty he would actually defend (either in history or now) I could not find one in this 500 page book. 5) He lacks all self-awareness. At one point, he recounts himself describing James Mattis (who he seems particularly to resent, along with the other generals who serve in the administration. I suspect it has to do with the chicken side of his chickenhawkery) as "having a high opinion of his own opinion," and being good at not doing what the President wants him to. Both of those things clearly apply to Bolton himself, as *his own book* amply demonstrates, but I see no evidence that he recognizes this (or any other meaningful character weakness). And the fact that Bolton describes a White House where pretty much *everybody* is good at not doing what the President wants them to do, or manipulating the President for their own ends, that ultimately makes this book such a sour read. I've long thought that this Presidency reminded me of the late years of Henry VIII's reign, but that still gives the President too much credit. While Henry was whimsical, vengeful and consumed by rivalries and intrigues, he could still remember what he thought from day to day, and track when advisors hadn't done as he'd asked.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    While I’m not exactly a fan of Bolton’s, I do appreciate how thorough his ‘tell-all’ is - despite coming short of telling all. My guess after reading this, that telling all would require an entire set of encyclopedias, several bottles of aspirin and excessive quantities of alcohol. I cannot offer a comprehensive theory of the Trump Administration’s transformation because none is possible. Washington’s conventional wisdom on Trump’s trajectory, however, is wrong… Trump was always bizarre, but While I’m not exactly a fan of Bolton’s, I do appreciate how thorough his ‘tell-all’ is - despite coming short of telling all. My guess after reading this, that telling all would require an entire set of encyclopedias, several bottles of aspirin and excessive quantities of alcohol. I cannot offer a comprehensive theory of the Trump Administration’s transformation because none is possible. Washington’s conventional wisdom on Trump’s trajectory, however, is wrong… Trump was always bizarre, but in his first fifteen months, uncertain in his new place, and held in check by an ‘axis of adults’ he hesitated to act. As time passed, however, Trump became more certain of himself, the axis of adults departed, things fell apart, and Trump was surrounded only by “yes men.” ‘Yes men’ who never read the government’s “operator’s manual,” leaving things to go ‘to Hell in a handbasket’ as my grandmother would have said. What happened on one day on a particular issue often had little resemblance to what happened the next day, or the day after. Few seemed to realize it, care about it, or have any interest in fixing it. And it wasn’t going to get much better, which depressing but inescapable conclusion I reached only after I had joined the Administration. Caught by surprise by his ‘victory’ at the polls, Trump’s team was not prepared, and Trump ’didn’t understand much of what the huge federal behemoth did before he won, and he didn’t acquire much, if any, greater awareness during the transition, which did not bode well for his performance in office.’ There’s another quote, also within the first 1% of this book, that offers another opinion of Trump. Charles Krauthammer, a sharp critic of his, told me he had been wrong earlier to characterize Trump’s behavior as that of an eleven-year-old boy. “I was off by ten years,” Krauthammer remarked. “He’s like a one-year-old. Everything is seen through the prism of whether it benefits Donald Trump.” Trump often comes off in this, unsurprisingly, more like a whiny toddler threatening a major temper tantrum than presidential. Not exactly shocking news, but there are plenty of other comments from others that support this opinion, as well as note his dangerous incompetence. Shocking, I know… This is a very dry account, with zero entertainment value, or mesmerizingly beautiful writing, it’s, as Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” It’s politics, and it’s written by John Bolton, so don’t expect more, but if you’re interested in what the future could hold based on the past almost four years, politically speaking, it’s worth reading, if for no other reason than it is, indeed, worse than you could ever imagine. Vote.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    Bolton seems to have kept very detailed notes so this is a blow by blow description of the chaotic decision-making with respect to various crises. Nothing new here, just more of the background. I don’t agree with anything this man stands for. His views are appalling. His Trump enabling was despicable. He did nothing to help us get rid of Trump through impeachment. So now he wants our money in exchange for his sharing his negative views of Trump. Well, most of us were smart enough to recognize Tru Bolton seems to have kept very detailed notes so this is a blow by blow description of the chaotic decision-making with respect to various crises. Nothing new here, just more of the background. I don’t agree with anything this man stands for. His views are appalling. His Trump enabling was despicable. He did nothing to help us get rid of Trump through impeachment. So now he wants our money in exchange for his sharing his negative views of Trump. Well, most of us were smart enough to recognize Trump’s deficiencies before the election. (Although we didn’t know that his narcissism and stupidity would actually kill a lot of us.) So Bolton really has nothing to offer us, and he didn’t get my money. He didn’t even dish juicy dirt about the administration. I’m always willing to hear more of that. This book is really dull and it’s author is a smug, pompous, arrogant asshole, just like his former boss. May we please never again have a Republican president, if for no other reason than to keep Bolton and his ilk out of government jobs.

  22. 4 out of 5

    George Bradford

    I received a free copy of this book. And after reading it I can say I paid a fair price. The author is a pompous blowhard. And that makes reading this poorly written book very difficult. He cannot string more than three sentences together without bragging about himself in an unrelated matter. His arrogance is titanic. I use that metaphor on purpose. This is a guy who thought going to work for this president would turn out well. History speaks for itself on that. And no one with common sense would I received a free copy of this book. And after reading it I can say I paid a fair price. The author is a pompous blowhard. And that makes reading this poorly written book very difficult. He cannot string more than three sentences together without bragging about himself in an unrelated matter. His arrogance is titanic. I use that metaphor on purpose. This is a guy who thought going to work for this president would turn out well. History speaks for itself on that. And no one with common sense would have predicted otherwise. Oh, but he did get a book deal for his service. Here is that book. And it’s jammed full of things everyone already knew before reading this book. To wit: (NO SPOILER ALERT BECAUSE YOU ALREADY KNOW ALL OF THIS) - Jared has too much power - Trump doesn't read, doesn’t get stuff - Trump really really doesn’t get foreign policy - Foreign leaders manipulate Trump - Trump is hot for Putin - Trump blessed Xi's concentration camps Okay, maybe the blessing of the PRC’s Human Rights Criminality is a new piece of information. But it is in no way surprising. This is not a good read. It is not educational. It adds nothing new. It is poorly written. And author — like most of the characters in the story — is a coward out to profit from his cowardice. I would have given this minus (negative) stars if it were possible.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    In all candor I debated whether to purchase and read John Bolton’s new memoir THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED: A WHITE HOUSE MEMOIR. Apart from stealing the title from a song from the Broadway show “Hamilton” I believe that Bolton’s approach is about maximizing his book royalties rather serving democracy, something he claims he has done throughout his years in government service. By eschewing an appearance before the House Impeachment hearings for his own self-serving interests is rather hypocritical In all candor I debated whether to purchase and read John Bolton’s new memoir THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED: A WHITE HOUSE MEMOIR. Apart from stealing the title from a song from the Broadway show “Hamilton” I believe that Bolton’s approach is about maximizing his book royalties rather serving democracy, something he claims he has done throughout his years in government service. By eschewing an appearance before the House Impeachment hearings for his own self-serving interests is rather hypocritical and Bolton showed his true colors. In the past whether arguing for an invasion of Iraq or other foreign adventures one at least saw a man whose beliefs were clear, in the present instance I wonder except for the fact that his reputation for never finding a war he didn’t like remains. After reading Bolton’s somewhat self-serving memoir one gets the feeling that had people listened to him the world and the United States would be in a better place. This is somewhat arguable as I am trying to evaluate Bolton’s book in a measured and objective manner, but it is difficult. Much of the book is about finding fault with others particularly former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and former Chief of Staff John Kelly who make up what Bolton refers to as “the axis of adults.” Though much of the criticisms he points to Bolton always seems to emerge correct, with a little side inuendo about his own views, and nasty comments about the agendas and obstructionism of others. Bolton argues that these men who were supposed to save the country from Donald Trump’s most inane actions in reality served him poorly as their approach to reigning him in led to second guessing and conspiracies that undermined what they were trying to accomplish. After digesting Bolton’s 500-page diatribe concerning the Trump administration there is little I disagree with in terms of his insights into the president and his policies or lack of thereof. There is extraordinarily little that is new and surprising if you have been following the last three and half years closely of a convoluted approach to governing and a lack of honesty and forthrightness. Bolton is correct in finding Trump’s decision making erratic and unconventional seeing activity in the West Wing as that of a “college dorm” and is amusing when he quotes the Eagles song, “Hotel California” to describe personnel decisions as “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Bolton’s sarcasm and dry humor is ever present in the narrative and his writing is somewhat “snappy” and noticeably clear. Bolton rages against bureaucracies particularly the State Department which never seemed to operate quickly enough for the National Security Advisor and “always seemed to be giving things away.” Bolton’s reasons for taking the position in the first place knowing what he did about Trump places him as a member of the “axis of adults” particularly in what transpired later under his watch be it the failure of US Venezuelan policy, trying to control Trump as he upended all norms in his approach to Kim Jung Un, failure to impact Russian policy, trade policies regarding China or events in Ukraine. In every situation and decision Bolton was involved with he would recapitulate his past approaches and knowledge of the issues at hand to reinforce his arguments, i.e., Syrian use of chemical weapons and the American response. He despises James Mattis who he argues was “looking for an excuse not to do much of anything” and refused to cooperate with any action that might be a deterrent to Bashir al-Assad. To his credit, Bolton’s openness in describing certain figures is striking. His commentary is caustic and at times nasty as he goes after South Korean President Moon Ja-in and his “soft” approach to the north. In referencing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he points out how Abe always feared that Trump “would give away the store” in dealing with Kim. This is also clear when describing his fears pertaining to the Helsinki Summit with Vladimir Putin as he wrote, “I was not looking forward to leaving him alone in a room with Trump.” When boiling down Bolton’s opinion predictably his most virulent commentary focuses on Trump as anything the president seemed to want, summits with Kim, Putin, Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, or Chinese President Xi Jinping became exercises in damage control. The media has made it clear over the last three and half years that Trump seems to have this obsession with dictators and government leaders he jealously views as “strong men.” However, as Bolton correctly points out Trump has no understanding of these “strongmen.” They have figured out how to flatter Trump and manipulate him. In reference to Erdogan, Trump could never quite comprehend that he was a radical Islamist who supported the Moslem Brotherhood, helped finance Hamas and Hezbollah, and was anti-Israel. But this did not stop Trump from abandoning the Kurds who were our allies in fighting ISIS at the behest of the Turkish president. Trump was further obsessed with withdrawing American troops from the Middle East and Afghanistan, constantly pointing out that NATO allies were not carrying their own weight, building his border wall and on and on. If one word is used by Bolton repeatedly to describe the Trump administration it is “dysfunctional,” and his commentary just reinforces Trump’s lack of fitness for the presidency. The lies build on other lies producing policy that supported Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammad Bin-Salman who was responsible for the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi because of a large arms deal with the Saudis which was in the interest of American national security among many examples. Bolton describes a president flailing about making new threats every day, taking away security clearance away from former CIA head John Brennan, his behavior surrounding the death of John McCain, his handling of immigration-putting children in cages, and of course his total lack of leadership and falsehoods pertaining to the Covid-19 crisis. But in making these criticisms Bolton seems to never fail to pat himself on the back. In reference to the Venezuelan crisis he writes, “The regime wonders if the US military threat is credible, but they are most afraid when John Bolton starts tweeting. Now that was encouraging!” In reference to trade negotiations with China and other controversial issues over and over Trump would have people argue to try and reach decisions. Resolution was rare and even worse according to Bolton one day there would be one outcome, then the next day another, and possibly even an hour later Trump would tweet something that would undermine the process. In reference to Covid-19 Bolton remarks that “the NSC biosecurity team functioned exactly as it was supposed to. It was the chair behind the Resolute (Trump’s desk) that was empty.” Bolton’s description comes across as if he were guiding a child prone to tantrums when he did not get his big deal with China etc., but what he was most afraid was that after abandoning the Kurds, Taiwan could be next. Bolton repeatedly points out Trump’s lack of historical knowledge and perspective which led to lectures but more importantly an inability for Trump to engage material based on the past and had rather negative implications for negotiations in the present, as well as developing sound policy. It is clear from Trump’s own remarks he had no compunction bout asking foreign leaders for help for his reelection in 2020. Remarkably during negotiations with Xi “he then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.” Further, the reference to a Trump tweet that led to a meeting with Kim at the Korean DMZ Bolton’s view is clear in reference to the president, “he couldn’t tell the difference between his personal interests and the country’s interests.” It is interesting that Bolton left the details of the Ukraine debacle to the end of the book hoping to maintain the reader’s interest. His chapter dealing with Ukraine possesses a great deal of detail, but his commentary is somewhat verbose and does not get to the core of the evidence as he hides behind his own bewilderment. His excuse for not testifying is that it would not have made a difference because Republicans in the Senate would never have voted for impeachment, instead he argues that the House Democratic impeachment leaders committed malpractice and are responsible for their own failure to succeed. Bolton’s rationalization does not hold water as his checkbook seemed to be his only driving force. In the end Bolton’s book is a monument to his own ego. He has written a book based on the fastidious notes he has taken providing minute and, in many cases, extraneous information that was not necessary. Bolton does provide some interesting insights and pure gossip, but the book’s length and structure leads one to doze at times trying to get through details that were best left on the editor’s floor.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It is truly appalling that someone who purports to be a public servant would maintain silence in the face of so much corruption going on in the same room, however this review is not about John Bolton, but this book he has written. Bolton's perspective comes with the assumption he is the smartest person in the room. Everyone else is a dummy, inexperienced, or otherwise lacking the ability to perceive the nature of evil in the world. That may be what he is going for, but he just comes off as a mon It is truly appalling that someone who purports to be a public servant would maintain silence in the face of so much corruption going on in the same room, however this review is not about John Bolton, but this book he has written. Bolton's perspective comes with the assumption he is the smartest person in the room. Everyone else is a dummy, inexperienced, or otherwise lacking the ability to perceive the nature of evil in the world. That may be what he is going for, but he just comes off as a monstrous, spiteful, warmongering chickenhawk. All of his choices rely on using sticks, and he has no flexibility at all. Therefore, as a diplomat, he is a useless ass, but there is such a lack of self-awareness that you watch him patting himself on the back with "clever" tactics to avoid responsibility and accountability, dodging here and there, always aiming higher, always just a little bit short, mostly because he is entirely untrustworthy and vile, though he trumpets himself a patriot. Along the way, he takes down a whole group of diplomats who are catty to a fault. In the end I really wonder what any of them are doing in government. That being said, some come off better than others, but the fact we perceive them through the distorted Bolton lens (where his own image is so blurred) lends them no credence. He did keep good notes, however, which would be terrible news for Trump's team, except the book is also such an overwhelming self-indictment of Bolton and his terrible judgment. Do his opinions matter at all? I don't think so. Trump, fwiw, comes off as you likely expect: a man of no morality who is fixed primarily on the public's perception of himself, without genuine beliefs, malleable to a fault, hilariously disloyal, and astonishingly unintellectual. I hate what this book says about America, but I cannot one-star the book, despite the narrator's self-absorption. I think it is important people read it, because clearly half of America's voters are brainless too. No matter how you feel about Trump (I abhor him), I strongly feel people like Bolton should never be in government. He is a dangerous man who happily has no power anymore and, I hate to admit it, Bolton being out of government is to Trump's credit. :-( That Trump also hired him (after such a long romance when his defects would be glaring) and thought Bolton's ideas worthy at all tells us much about how empty of brains is the room where it happened.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Seems there are indeed hawks that pick out other hawks' eyes. I couldn't care less. I never did plan to pay anyway for hawks. Next!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ben Haskett

    I don't really read comics, but a quick Google search confirmed that in the Batman comics, Penguin and Joker have been known to team up from time to time. In one instance, they escaped from an asylum or prison or something together, only for Joker to, later, intentionally sabotage the plan of taking Commissioner Gordon hostage. This resulted in a standoff that threw the whole plan into chaos and left Penguin passed out on the floor. If you can imagine Penguin later writing a memoir about that fi I don't really read comics, but a quick Google search confirmed that in the Batman comics, Penguin and Joker have been known to team up from time to time. In one instance, they escaped from an asylum or prison or something together, only for Joker to, later, intentionally sabotage the plan of taking Commissioner Gordon hostage. This resulted in a standoff that threw the whole plan into chaos and left Penguin passed out on the floor. If you can imagine Penguin later writing a memoir about that fiasco, then you can probably imagine the tone of The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton. I'm not a fan of many of Trump's policies, so it's eye-roll-inducing to read about Bolton cheering when something goes “right” in this administration, and lamenting when one of their (in my opinion) awful goals fizzles because of Trump's unpredictability. It's probably not fair to compare Bolton to a supervillain (or Trump, or anyone else in his administration) and, in fact, the mainstream media has a habit of endearing former Trump administration officials. Everyone hates them when they're in office, and everyone seems to love them the moment they leave. I'm always reminded of that scene near the end of that movie Red Dragon, where Edward Norton confuses Ralph Fiennes into embracing the child he's taken hostage through insults. Bolton seems to have missed that fire department safety net, thanks in large part to his unwillingness to testify in the impeachment hearings without a subpoena. And now, it seems that nobody likes poor John Bolton -- the left dislikes him because he didn't testify, and the right dislikes him because he wrote this book. For what it's worth, though, I don't think Bolton minds or ever expected anyone to like him. In fact, speaking of John Kelly in this book, Bolton said, "I asked him to keep me posted, and he said simply, 'Okay, pal,' which told me he didn’t have a lot of friends left at the White House." Yikes. While I can't deny I developed a little bit of respect for Bolton's I-don't-give-a-f***-if-you-like-me attitude, this book was still a thoroughly unenjoyable read. I thought I might go crazy from all the times me mentioned enduring "eight years of Obama mistakes;" and no treaty, executive order, or deal went unprefaced by his distaste for it, regardless of which administration authored it. Bolton dislikes EVERYBODY. He insults literally anyone and everyone else in the administration, current and former. Everyone's an idiot, everyone's inexperienced, misguided, and wrong-headed. He calls Mnuchin a panda hugger, for crying out loud. Further, I was expecting a tell-all book, and The Room Where It Happened was far more interested in National Security. That can be interesting, too, but if someone invites you to a party, you'll be pretty disappointed if you show up and discover they meant Tupperware party. And sure, you might still buy something, but it's not the beer and pretzels you were expecting. But since I’m at the Tupperware party, I might as well try to get some enjoyment out of it, and Bolton’s approach to foreign policy in the Middle East, China, Russia, etc., were at the very least sort of fascinating. Anyway, when Bolton does talk about Trump, the book is similar to any of the other tell-all books out there, which is a little interesting if for no other reason than the fact that Bolton backs up a lot of the most salacious claims of the last three and a half years, albeit in a dryer choice of words. His biggest issue was how fickle Trump is. They'd get 90% into a process, and Trump would change his mind. Sometimes 100%. He'd "work" on something, see negative media coverage, and do a 180 on a dime. Or, also common is that Trump's decisions would be based on how he assumed the media would cover it. Everything was always about reelection, even from day 1. He never had a plan with North Korea, just thought the images of him and Kim Jong-un would play well in the media. Same with any other conversation with any other world leader. One particularly interesting passage was about Trump’s first meeting with Kim Jong-un: “I could tell from both Pence and Ayers that they were somewhat in shock, and Ayers said Trump wanted ‘to keep the meeting small’; it would just be Trump, Pompeo, and the interpreter on the US side, and Kim and his interpreter on theirs. There would be the absolute minimum number of people present to hear what Trump said. By this time, Trump was in a near frenzy, piling up standard-issue White House gifts (such as cuff links) to give away. One box was slightly creased, and Trump told Madeleine Westerhout harshly, ‘You’ve ruined this one, get another one.’ He then berated the White House official photographer, whom he wanted to stay only briefly while Kim Yong Chol was there. I had never seen Trump so wrought up.” Here’s another quote that, I feel, displays Trump’s priorities: "The next morning, February 20th, was the big day. Having stayed up well into the night watching Cohen testify, Trump cancelled the preparatory briefings [the following morning]. I worried that his every instinct would be to do something to drown out Cohen's hearings in the media, which he could only do with something dramatic and unexpected. Walking out [of trade negotiations] would certainly achieve that objective. So too, however, would making a deal he could characterize as a huge success, even if it was badly flawed. The flaws wouldn't catch up until later." And here’s one that displays Trump’s approach to Russia: "We held a second NSC meeting on July 27th to take another look at our efforts, with all the operating agencies reporting they were substantially better prepared than they had been at this stage of the 2016 campaign and much more aware of the kinds of threats they would face in their respective areas. We followed up this NSC meeting with a briefing in the White House press room on August 2nd, featuring [several people] and myself. Each official told the story of what their agency was doing, which we should have done earlier, and the briefing was well received, if grudgingly, by the press. One story called the briefing an administration show of force to show we were actually doing something on election meddling. Unable to criticize the adequacy of the effort, media therefore turned to saying Trump was following one policy and we were following another. Unfortunately, there was something to that, as Trump repeatedly objected to criticizing Russia, and pressed us to not be so critical of Russia publicly.” The bottom line is the same as any other negative book about Trump’s presidency: That doofus stinks, and we should vote him the heck out of there come November. Whereas Fire & Fury painted him like an endearing dimwit, and Fear and A Warning painted him like a villain, The Room Where It Happened paints him as an unlikable celebrity, who keeps taking bad roles in movies and then berating his various agents and managers for not getting him better work. In other words, he doesn’t really want to be a good president, he just wants to play one on TV. (The short version: I do not recommend this book unless you’re really interested in reading about national security from the point of view of a hawkish republican. There are some startling moments, but most have already been reported on again and again in the press, while others only reinforce earlier reports of Trump acting stupid. If you still really want to check it out, I recommend you stick to the final chapter and epilogue, since that covers the whole Ukraine thing and touches on why he didn’t want to testify. The rest of the gooshy stuff has already appeared in better books.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zora

    Duty! To! Inform! Too little too late Please take your book, Mr. Bolton, bend over, and shove it up your ass repeatedly. In hardcover.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    If the controversial administration of a one of the most influential countries in the world is trying to make this book disappear, it is going to be a book that I want to support with my $.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Owlseyes

    https://www.politico.com/amp/news/202... https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nyti... If he really wrote what follows, it's more and more likely that HE WAS FIRED https://www.businessinsider.com/john-... https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/06/17/po... This is really 'embarasskin'.... Sounds like he's "part of the resistance",...is he? https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nyti... (view spoiler)["I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations https://www.politico.com/amp/news/202... https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nyti... If he really wrote what follows, it's more and more likely that HE WAS FIRED https://www.businessinsider.com/john-... https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/06/17/po... This is really 'embarasskin'.... Sounds like he's "part of the resistance",...is he? https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nyti... (view spoiler)["I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations" (hide spoiler)] “[Bolton] had a separate agenda and often arrived and departed on a different plane because he didn’t want to travel on Air Force One with the rest of us.” Sarah Sanders "Bolton was a classic case of a senior White House official drunk on power, who had forgotten that nobody elected him to anything.” Sarah Sanders --- "In politics there are no immaculate conceptions". Nevada's Senator Paul Laxalt, Bolton's mentor. "Instead the new administration resembled much more closely the Eagles song "Hotel California":"you can check out anytime you like/ but you can never leave". John Bolton https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/24/... --- "A lot of people don't like you. They say you're a leaker and not a team player". (...) "That was my last conversation with Trump" (...) "...,I was a free man again". In chapter 14, of the book https://www.foxnews.com/media/chris-w... --- I have caught myself wondering about this book: could it be possible in the Cold War time? Could you conceive one national security advisor publishing a book about the innermost workings of the WH? Don't answer. I know what you thought. John McCain did it. The Romans did it. Despite its historical detail, there's one gesture to translate my thoughts on this book. This one: 👎

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Yeah, he's a piece of shit for not testifying. And he's a coward. But you bet your ass I'm gonna read this book cuz I hates me some Trump. (Going to borrow it, of course... enough of my hard-earned money goes to rich old white men so this can be my tiny little punk rock protest).

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