John Bolton is not a popular man at the moment.
The former White House national security adviser’s tell-all memoir about his time working for President Donald Trump is being panned by pretty much everyone in the United States – Republicans; Democrats; even apolitical book reviewers.
“The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much,” says The New York Times.
“It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.”
The Washington Post is a little less brutal, but does note that Mr Bolton is “utterly lacking” in self-criticism.
All reviewers seem to agree that he should have revealed the explosive information in his book months ago, during the impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump.
That’s a view very much shared by Democrats in Congress, who could not convince Mr Bolton to testify when they were building their case against the President late last year.
“As damning as the allegations against the President are in that book, they were equally damning of John Bolton for keeping it concealed at a time when it really mattered to the country,” Congressman Adam Schiff, who led the prosecution during Mr Trump’s impeachment trial, told CNN today.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she was consulting with her colleagues to determine whether they should subpoena Mr Bolton to testify now, albeit belatedly.
The most scathing criticism of Mr Bolton, however, has come from Mr Trump and his supporters in the Republican Party.
The President himself has dismissed his former adviser as a “wacko”, “sick puppy” and “disgruntled, boring fool”.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has gone even further.
In a curt statement released today, which he then republished on Twitter, Mr Pompeo said Mr Bolton’s book was full of “lies, fully-spun half-truths and outright falsehoods”, and labelled his former colleague “a traitor who damaged America”.
Pretty serious, as insults go.
For a little added spice, Mr Pompeo’s statement came with the headline: “I Was In The Room Too.” That is a delightfully petty reference to the title of Mr Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened.
His use of the word traitor has been echoed by others, including at least one White House official, along with media figures friendly to the President.
You might wonder why Mr Pompeo is so riled up, given the book mostly targets his boss. Well, he does get a mention in it.
Mr Bolton writes that during Mr Trump’s meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in 2018, Mr Pompeo slipped Mr Bolton a note reading simply: “He is so full of s***.”
The “he” in question was Mr Trump, not Kim.
Mr Bolton also claims the President spent months pestering Mr Pompeo to deliver Kim an autographed CD of Elton John’s song Rocket Man as a gift.
Mr Trump had initially nicknamed Kim “little Rocket Man” – because the dictator really liked to test-fire missiles – but as the President warmed up to Kim, he turned the disparaging moniker into a term of endearment.
“Getting this CD to Kim remained a high priority for several months,” Mr Bolton says.
Neither of these anecdotes are particularly flattering for Mr Pompeo, whose own public image casts him as one of Mr Trump’s most loyal allies.
Despite the less than complimentary reactions to Mr Bolton’s book, it is currently sitting at number one on Amazon’s bestseller chart for the United States.
Incidentally, the book in fourth place is Too Much and Never Enough – another upcoming takedown of the President, this time authored by his niece Mary Trump.
And the former national security adviser is not taking the criticism without firing back.
This week Mr Bolton sat down for a prerecorded interview with veteran ABC News anchor Martha Raddatz. The whole thing is set to air on Sunday, US time, but parts of it have already been released.
In those excerpts, Mr Bolton delivers a scathing assessment of the Trump White House.
“You describe the President as erratic, foolish, behaved irrationally, bizarrely. You can’t leave him alone for a minute. He saw conspiracies behind rocks and was stunningly uninformed. He couldn’t tell the difference between his personal interests and the country’s interests,” Raddatz says in one of the clips, quoting Mr Bolton’s book.
“I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job,” says Mr Bolton.
“There really isn’t any guiding principle (to his presidency) that I was able to discern, other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election.
“I think he was so focused on the re-election that longer term considerations fell by the wayside.
“So if he thought he could get a photo opportunity with Kim Jong-un at the demilitarised zone in Korea, there was considerable emphasis on the photo opportunity and the press reaction to it. And little or no focus on what such meetings did for the bargaining position of the United States.”
Mr Bolton also claims he has no intention of responding to whatever additional criticism Mr Trump hits him with.
“I’m not really going to respond to that,” he says.
“I think it’s unbecoming of the office of President. I think it degrades the political civil discourse in our country, and (I’m) just not going to respond to him.”
We’ll see how long that lasts.