If Bolton sees Trump as a US threat, shouldn't he support Biden?

Bolton thinks Trump literally puts the nation's future in jeopardy, but he's not prepared to support his only competitive rival. That doesn't make sense.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks alongside National Security Adviser John Bolton during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
President Donald Trump speaks alongside National Security Adviser John Bolton during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file

After working side-by-side with Donald Trump for a year and a half, former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton came to several conclusions about the sitting American president. In fact, Bolton wants the public to know that Trump is ignorant, impulsive, erratic, corrupt, and unfit for the Oval Office.

Just as importantly, Bolton told ABC News' Martha Raddatz that the president poses a "danger for the republic," and if Trump wins in November, the crisis facing the nation would grow far more severe. "The concern I have, speaking as a conservative Republican, is that once the election is over, if the president wins, the political constraint is gone," he said. "And because he has no philosophical grounding, there's no telling what will happen in a second term."

Given all of this, common sense suggests Bolton will support Trump's rival. Except, as NPR's Steve Inskeep discovered, that's not the case.

"Having seen [Trump] in operation for 17 months, I just cannot vote for him again," Bolton told Inskeep. "I'm planning to write in the name of a conservative Republican, identity to be determined yet. But I will not be voting for Donald Trump, and I will not be voting for [presumptive Democratic nominee] Joe Biden."

In the ABC interview, Bolton added that he wants Trump to lose, but he's "certainly not" going to vote for the Democratic ticket.

This doesn't quite add up as well as Bolton may think.

The political world saw a similar dynamic unfold in 2016. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, described then-candidate Trump as a "lunatic" who couldn't be trusted with the nuclear codes. Offered a chance to walk all of that back, and chalk it up to middle-of-the-campaign hyperbole, the Florida Republican did the opposite. "I've stood by everything I ever said in my campaign," Rubio said in the summer of 2016.

But the senator nevertheless said he'd support Trump's candidacy -- because as far as Rubio was concerned, a "lunatic" in the White House would be preferable to a Democrat.

Four years later, Bolton has taken that posture to an entirely new level. The far-right hawk saw Trump up close, determined that the president is a danger to the nation, and believes he'd be even worse if rewarded with a second term. But Bolton still can't bring himself to cast a ballot for Trump's only major-party rival.

The logic breaks down quickly. If Bolton genuinely believes that one major-party presidential candidate is an actual threat to the republic, then he has a straightforward decision to make: either he's going to vote to protect the republic and its future or he's not.

That's it. By his own calculation, it's a binary choice.

To say that one presidential candidate literally puts the nation's future in jeopardy, but he's not prepared to support that candidate's only competitive rival, leads to two possibilities: either Bolton doesn't sincerely believe his own convictions, or he's not overly concerned with the fate of the nation.

I can appreciate the significance many voters place on partisan and ideological loyalties, but Bolton hasn't just characterized Trump as a bad president. Or an inept leader. Or a man lacking in wisdom and character. Rather, Bolton literally described the president as a "danger for the republic."

To be sure, Bolton seems sincere, but when he rules out voting for the only candidate who stands a credible chance of removing this danger to the United States, it suggests he hasn't fully thought through his stated principles.