cover image The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir

The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir

John Bolton. Simon & Schuster, $32.50 (592p) ISBN 978-1-982148-03-4

Former national security advisor Bolton (Surrender Is Not an Option) harps on his foreign policy pet peeves (Iranian aggression in the Middle East, North Korea's nuclear threat), critiques former colleagues (Jim Mattis, Nikki Haley), and defends his decision not to testify in the House impeachment inquiry in this lacerating yet tiresome slog through his time in the Trump administration. Readers eager to hear what Bolton has to say about the Ukraine pressure campaign (namely, that Mick Mulvaney probably came up with the idea of using security assistance as leverage against Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky, and that the policy was "baked in" to White House dealings with Ukraine) will have to skip ahead to the last 50 pages. First, Bolton runs down seemingly every meeting, meal, phone call, and international summit of his 18-month tenure, touting his own achievements, such as pushing Trump to finally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and blaming failures on a lack of policymaking structure within the White House and on Trump's vindictiveness, erraticism, and habit of forming competitive "bromances" with authoritarian leaders. The book's most serious allegations, including that Trump offered to "take care of things" when Turkish president Recep Erdogan complained about a U.S. Justice Department investigation, are buried within the avalanche of details. The bombshell to chaff ratio in this well-informed yet self-serving account is tilted punishingly in the wrong direction. (June)