Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy and state Senator Kerry Roberts welcomed public affairs strategist Clint Brewer to the studio.
During the third hour, Roberts and Brewer gave their take on John Bolton’s new book and discussed his discontent with the way that Trump would “wing” decision making. They both agreed that Trump has had a pattern of hiring and firing but added that he’s been unable to establish any loyalty from many of his key administration.
(John Bolton clip plays)
Leahy: Book deal Bolton guys. John Bolton. The book is available now. The judge said it could be. It was out there already. Attorney General Barr told John Bolton, well you know, you didn’t follow the procedure. There is a procedure we have here, John.
If you are a former government official, you have to submit anything to the White House Counsel for review to see if they are revealing any national security secrets. And under the law, John, if you don’t do that then the government gets the proceeds of your book. I don’t know. What’s your take on this Clint? What do you think of old John Bolton?
Brewer: John’s always been a little too hawkish for me. I think even Trump made the quip that John Bolton never met a country he didn’t want to blow up.
Leahy: Or a former boss. (Laughs)
Brewer: For all of their collective histrionics I think Trump and Bolton are made for each other. (Leahy chuckles) I always thought that was a bad appointment. It’s a time-honored tradition. You roll out of the White House and you write a book. It’s part of the D.C. two-step. It is certainly not a surprise. I’m not going to read it, let’s put it that way. I think it’s just Bolton being Bolton. This is pretty deformed for him.
Roberts: As somebody said that of course, the name of the book is The Room Where it Happened. And somebody said why were they even in the same room in the first place? They were a mismatch from the start.
Leahy: That’s Clint’s point. I think a lot of people would tend to agree with that. Of course, the problem that the president has is he keeps selecting people that end up hating his guts. Go ahead, Kerry.
Roberts: And of course what critics hope is that at some point in time people say what is it with this guy because everybody he’s associated with ends up not liking him? And you know what? I’d just say that was not true in business.
Coming into the presidency you had a long line of people who have been with him loyally for years. It might just signal the fact that the corruption runs deep in Washington. And when you try to hire people who’ve got Washington experience they may have an agenda that’s not yours.
Leahy: Clint Brewer, the list of people who have been hired by the president to run the government that have turned on him, it’s pretty long. Rex Tillerson who I never understood why he selected him to be Secretary of State. The former Exxon CEO. He was kind of an imperial Secretary of State.
He wouldn’t implement the president’s agenda. The president fired him. But the president hired him. Former secretary of defense James Mattis who apparently was hired wouldn’t implement the president’s agenda. Had a big public disagreement. Put his hand up for virtue-signaling sainthood and left and then criticized the president. Former Chief of Staff General John Kelly criticized the president. We have a bit of a pattern here.
Brewer: Yes, it’s a pattern. The problem I’ve got with it is everything you said is true. They are all really qualified people though. That’s my problem with it. I would like to see a White House that can bring in people like that and make it work. Tillerson, heck, at Exxon he had his own foreign policy they were so big. It’s not like he was new to the situation.
Mattis, you’re not going to find a guy with a better service record. And Kelly, I think he hung in there pretty long before he got fed up. I would just like to see and I think a lot of Americans would like to see just a little more harmony. (Leahy laughs) A little more working together. Maybe you need to bring in somebody that’s a step below that quality of person so that they don’t have at center put so much of their own agenda. I mean, you might have reached the laws of diminishing returns with the resumes of some of those folks.
Leahy: I’ll take a little different view than you on Tillerson and Mattis and Kelly to a degree. I think they did not ultimately recognize the constitutional authority of the President and his authority to pursue his own agenda.
And their job was not to pursue their agenda but to pursue his. I think Tillerson had that problem. Mattis definitely had that problem. I’ve talked to a lot of people in the military particularly our own Neil McCabe who said that guy was a bad hire from the beginning.
Brewer: When you are building an administration or really any government office, loyalty is the only true currency. Right? If you have people who are loyal to you then you can get a lot done. If you don’t then you can’t. Trump coming from outside of politics he had generations of high-level operatives or public servants around to draw from. He had to start from scratch. To his credit, he went out there to try and get the best and brightest. They weren’t people that were terribly loyal to his personal agenda.
Leahy: Not even a scintilla of loyalty from what I can tell. But maybe not.
Brewer: No. When you look at past administrations when George W. Bush came in you saw a lot of people from his father’s past administration staffing the first two years so the government runs correctly. You saw that.
Leahy: It’s kind of interesting you use that phrase. So the government runs correctly.
Brewer: I mean you keep the trains running on time. Running the West Wing is quite an operation.
Leahy: Have you been to the East Wing?
Brewer: It’s been some time. But yes I have.
Leahy: State Senator Kerry Roberts, have you been in the West Wing?
Roberts: It depends on whether you consider or not extending across the parking lot into the executive office building. I’ve been in the executive office building. I’ve been in the parking lot. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: I went on a tour many many years ago. I’d not been in the West Wing. That’s a pretty heavy experience to be there, isn’t it?
Brewer: I didn’t quite get the full tour. My point is that going back is that you’ve got to look at how people get appointed and why. And the president didn’t have that pool of people to pull from.
Leahy: No, not at all.
Brewer: And to Senator Roberts comments about his business and how he had an extensive business network. I think he relied on that network. And I think CEO’s in general like generals. They like to hire generals. That’s a thing. You see a lot of former generals on boards in large corporate settings. I just don’t think he picked well.
Leahy: I completely agree with that. I don’t think he picked well at all. Question for state Senator Kerry Roberts. Kerry, was that a reflection of the fact that he just didn’t have the connections or just didn’t have the vetting? That’s part one. Part two. If he’s re-elected, will he pick better in the second term?
Roberts: Wow. That’s really a good question. Of course part of Bolton’s point in his book is that Trump wings it.
Leahy: Let me just stop for a minute. Clint, would agree that Trump wings a lot?
Leahy: I think everybody would. His instincts are pretty good.
Roberts: Yes. And of course, that’s Bolton’s big criticism is that he doesn’t have a plan. He just shoots from the hip and he cites his comment from Art of the Deal.
Leahy: But actually not having a plan is a bit of a plan. In other words, being tactical and reacting in real-time to events out there. That’s what he’s doing.
Roberts: It can be both a blessing and a curse. You’ve got the ability to react to things as they unfold. You can think quickly on your feet. You can move and you’re not bogged down. But on the other hand, there are some things that require continuity and predictability.
Leahy: That’s a very good point.
Roberts: And Bolton’s point is that that is foreign policy. Foreign policy is a place where you need consistency. So that’s why Bolton will get some traction but not among the people who love Trump.
Leahy: 30 seconds. Clint, what happens to John Bolton’s career?
Brewer: I think he goes back into the pool of former officials like he was before and probably teaches somewhere and does a bunch of media and everybody forgets about him.
Leahy: I think everybody forgets about him and his career is over.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Donald Trump” and “John Bolton” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.