Were they anything other than agenda-driven egotists, one might feel sorry for John Bolton and Stephen Miller. After years of looking into the corridors of power at the White House from the outside, they hitched their stars to an unlikely candidate, who would defy conventional wisdom to win the presidency and welcome them into the West Wing and the rarified air of the Oval Office.
And a few days ago, both came agonizingly close to having that president implement their warped agendas, only to be thwarted by that president himself!
One can only imagine what Bolton’s and Miller’s conversation was like at the bar in the Trump International Hotel in Washington after their boss, after having seemingly given the green light to what they had sought for years, changed his mind at the last minute.
To his credit, President Trump, despite incessant urging and pressure — someone would say egging on — decided not to use the awesome force of the United States Government against an avowed and potentially dangerous foe, nor against people living here illegally. At least for now.
The president’s reasoning for both 11th hour reversals was sound: bombing Iran, and potentially killing more than 100 Iranians to retaliate for what have might be an accidental downing of an unarmed drone, was disproportionate. And rounding up and deporting families before giving a Congress an opportunity to find a more humane solution, was not fair, especially to the children whose lives would be turned upside down.
What Trump seemed to rely on in these cases was instinct. It may be his most potent political weapon. It was grossly underestimated in 2016, and will be an important factor in 2020. Even after hearing all the high falutin and potentially base-pleasing arguments in favor of bombing Iran and rounding up illegal immigrants, something told him to hold off. He just seemed to sense that it was not what he should do right now. Trump had the wisdom and courage to step back from the brink of irresponsibility to give things a little more time.
Down the road, of course, actions may need to be taken. But by pushing the “pause” button on what could have been disastrous for our country and the world, the president impressively listened to his “better angels” and showed himself to be a leader not easily taken down a primrose path by men who have spent their careers advocating for dramatic things.
Some have questioned the decision-making process which brought the president close to taking actions he ultimately decided against. Does that really matter? At the end of the day, the president made the right decisions. How he got there is a footnote. Putting our troops in harm’s way should always be an agonizing decision for a president, as should uprooting families who have lived here for many years. He deserves praise, not criticism, for his reluctance.
There are pretty straightforward explanations for both cases. Detractors have bemoaned that he inquired about potential casualties in Iran only at the last second. How do they know that? It’s perfectly possible that the president knew of potential casualties from the beginning and was increasingly bothered by it. He could have sought confirmation shortly before the mission was to begin, and decided against going forward because he just did not think it was right. What’s wrong with that?
And how can anyone fault him for delaying action against illegal immigrants in response to appeals from Congressional Democrats? Isn’t working with Democrats what he is supposed to do? Imagine the outcry if he had ignored their requests to find a compromise.
For now, thankfully, the president has spared us the divisive and dangerous implementation of the goals of two of his most senior aides.
Therein lies what may be the most worrisome aspect of all of this. Bolton is well known for advocating military action against Iran, and Miller is equally well known for being anti-immigrant. They are entitled to their views, of course, but they have sworn an oath to the Constitution and thereby to the American people, and need to think about what is best for the country. They did not serve the president or nation well by bringing him and us so close to the dual trauma of costly and controversial international and domestic battles.
Mark Weinberg served as White House assistant press secretary from 1981-89 and was promoted to the rank of special assistant to the president in 1988. He served as director of public affairs in former President Reagan’s office in 1989 and 1990. He is the author of “Movie Nights with the Reagans” (Simon & Schuster).
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.