Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton has finally published his book, The Room Where It Happened. He is offering an explanation to the public on every TV show possible for why he did not testify at the impeachment hearings and trial of President Donald Trump. It is clear to honest viewers of the situation that had he testified, what he offered would have been the equivalent of the Whitehouse tapes that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Trump would have been removed from office. He would not have been in a position to suppress efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic that would soon follow, something he has done from the very beginning to this present day. Arguably thousands of American would not have died as a consequence. Mr. Bolton says he refused to testify because he felt the Democrats were not doing the hearing correctly, were not looking “broadly enough,” were treating the Republicans in the House improperly, with not enough respect, that putting it all in a book for the American pubic to read [when it was too late] was the correct choice to make.
I do not believe for a millisecond that he believes his own explanation. I believe it is a premeditated or post-hoc explanation for his calculated desire to make a great deal of money by publication of a book.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument and illustration that he does, in fact, believe what he is saying. That the rationale he offers now is what he really was thinking as he decided to refuse to testify. That he was not at all concerned about money, only doing his patriotic duty to the best of his ability. If so, it would stand as a monumental, classic example of the human capacity to rationalize, often subconsciously, in order to justify what it is we want to do, and still think of ourselves as a “good person.”
Rationalization is how Republican Senators failed to convict Donald Trump and remove a man who was and is a danger to the Republic. The evidence for conviction, even without Bolton’s testimony was sufficient. Only one of them did the right thing, the patriotic thing, the moral thing. The Mormon Senator from Utah. And it must be noted that his vote to convict was made easy. His job as Senator from Utah, a strongly Mormon state, was in no way at risk.
These are dark days for the United States. Just today a court has ordered ICE, an arm of the Trump administration, to release from custody hundreds of children who parents brought them to the US seeking asylum. These children are confined in close quarters as the covid pandemic rages, risking becoming ill with a disease that ravages all of the body’s organs. Very possibly doing permanent physical damage. What will Donald Trump do about this? Whatever her does, John Bolton is in significant part responsible. And all of the Republican Senators who refused to convict also share in the guilt…which is enabled by the seemingly limitless human capacity for rationalization. Rationalization—the capacity for self-deception—has the power to strangle our innate moral compass. Even our good sense. How else to explain the trashing of this planet? Rationalization may ultimately prove to be a human existentially fatal flaw.
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Dr. Judith Hand writes historical fiction, contemporary action/adventure, and screenplays. Hand earned her Ph.D. in biology from UCLA. Her studies included animal behavior and primatology. After completing a Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellowship at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., she returned to UCLA as a research associate and lecturer. Her undergraduate major was in cultural anthropology. She worked as a technician in neurophysiology laboratories at UCLA and the Max Planck Institute, in Munich, Germany. As a student of animal communication, she has written scientific papers on the subject of social conflict resolution.
Astronomy image credit: NASA: Full Hemisphere Views of Earth at Night.