John Bolton had a lot going for him: Insight into the Trump administration and the will to spill it. A captive audience of corporate journalists eager to elevate him. But days after the release of his hotly anticipated book, the emergent picture of Bolton is one of a relentlessly self-promotional, score-settling opportunist—the consequence of releasing a book that reportedly casts him as an infallible do-gooder.
Bolton’s choice to tell his version of history prompted former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to respond with a story of her own. It’s not flattering, but it does fit with the tried-and-true maxim that Washington is much more “Veep” than “West Wing.”
Releasing an early excerpt from her forthcoming book, Sanders reflected on a 2019 state visit to London. “Bolton was a classic case of a senior White House official drunk on power, who had forgotten that nobody elected him to anything,” she wrote. Here’s an Axios rundown of the excerpt:
“Bolton apparently felt too important to travel with the rest of us,” Sanders writes. “As we were ready to depart for the Winfield House,” the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London, “we loaded onto a small black bus.”
“We waited and watched as Bolton sped by and left us in the dust. The discussion on the bus quickly moved … to how arrogant and selfish Bolton could be, not just in this moment but on a regular basis.”
“If anyone on the team should have merited a motorcade it was [Treasury Secretary] Mnuchin, but he was a team player and didn’t seem to mind traveling with the rest of us.”
“Often Bolton acted like he was the president, pushing an agenda contrary to President Trump’s.”
- “When we finally arrived at the Winfield House, [chief of staff] Mick Mulvaney, typically laid-back and not one to get caught up in titles or seniority, confronted Bolton and unleashed a full Irish explosion on him.”
“Let’s face it, John,” Mulvaney said, according to Sanders. “You’re a f—— self-righteous, self-centered son of a b——!'”
“That epithet … was the culmination of months of Bolton thinking he was more important and could play by a different set of rules than the rest of the team. … Bolton backed down and stormed off.”
Sanders added more context in a thread on Twitter.
Read a few excerpts from my soon to be released book “Speaking for Myself,” including a behind the scenes account of John Bolton, a man drunk on power who ultimately betrayed America when he didn’t get his way. https://t.co/nADrFC7HJk
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) June 22, 2020
You can picture it in Selena Meyer’s White House, senior staff crammed into a small bus, pulled over by foreign police only to watch a lower-ranking official zip by in his motorcade, later high-fiving after the chief of staff berates him as a “f-cking self-righteous, self-centered son of a b-tch!” The scene is straight out of “Veep,” from the gossipy bus, to the inflated ego, to the colorful language. Even Sanders’ decision to tell the story after Bolton’s book release is like a “Veep” plot line.
Washington’s halls of power are crammed with the “self-righteous, self-centered” type, most of whom are bumbling manipulators, not clever geniuses. It’s why “Veep,” despite being a comedy, provides a more accurate depiction of D.C. than any other rendering. It seems we now know Bolton was perfectly cast.