When Donald Trump’s apologists complain about dual loyalty, what they’re really complaining about is people who love their country more than they love Donald Trump.
We saw a damning example of that with the attacks on Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine-born Jew who came to America with his family as a refugee when he was three years old and grew up to be a decorated soldier who received a Purple Heart when he was wounded in combat by a roadside bomb while serving Iraq in 2003. As per The New York Times, “Since 2008, he has been an Army foreign area officer—an expert in political-military operations—specializing in Eurasia. Colonel Vindman has a master’s degree from Harvard in Russian, Eastern Europe, and Central Asian Studies. He has served in the United States’ embassies in Kiev, Ukraine, and in Moscow, and was the officer specializing in Russia for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before joining the National Security Council in 2018.”
That wasn’t enough to protect Vindman from a vicious smear campaign—and one that touched on a classic anti-Semitic trope—ahead of his closed-door testimony, in his dress uniform, before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday. Vindman’s’ opening statement, released beforehand, made clear his account would line up with the whistleblower account of Trump demanding a probe of the Biden’s if Ukraine ever wanted to see the military aid the U.S. had already committed to providing.
That was too much for Team Trump, which jumped into action Monday night to defend Dear Leader. On her Fox News show, Laura Ingraham highlighted that Vindman was born in Ukraine, and then claimed he was “working inside the White House apparently against the president’s interest.” That prompted her guest, former Bush DOJ lawyer and infamous torture defender John Yoo to comment, “Some people might call that espionage.”
On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade explained that Vindman, since he was born in Ukraine “has an affinity to the Ukrainian people.”
On CNN, recently hired Trump defender former GOP Rep. Sean Duffy went even further, suggesting that Vindman was more loyal to Ukraine than the United States, declaring, “It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy, but his main mission was to make sure that Ukraine got those weapons.” Duffy added, “We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from.”
Going back to Trump’s birther assault on Obama, the accusation that their enemies are somehow not real Americans has become the very foundation of Trump’s Republican party.
As Seth Mandel, editor of the Washington Examiner, tweeted Monday night about Fox News’sattacks on Vindman, “If you objected (as you should have) to Bob Menendez accusing David Friedman of dual loyalty at a hearing, and to Dianne Feinstein accusing Amy Coney Barrett of being loyal first to Rome (as they used to call it), but are quiet about the attacks on Vindman, you are a hypocrite.”
Of course, the hypocrites attacking Vindman have had little to say about Rudy Giuliani’s now arrested partners, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Which isn’t to say that those two acted because they were born in the Soviet Union, but to note the hypocrisy.
The only remaining principle is power, and defending Trump at all costs. If that means smearing people as somehow less American or outright disloyal, so be it.
After Ambassador Bill Taylor’s opening statement to the committee last week painted a detailed picture of the quid pro quo Trump officials demanded of the Ukrainian government, the White House press secretary attacked him as part of “a group of radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.” And then Trump himself get involved, first slamming Taylor as a “Never Trumper,” and an hour later declaring that Never Trumpers “are Human Scum.”
Taylor is a West Point graduate who served six years in Vietnam as an infantry officer and with the 101st Airborne division. He had also served as part of every administration since 1985 as a career diplomat before retiring. He returned to take the Ukraine assignment after a personal plea from Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
None of that matters to Trump or his media allies. It’s about absolute loyalty to Trump or you will be attacked and smeared. Love of country doesn’t matter. Service doesn’t matter. The American Dream doesn’t matter, or the American promise. So far as they’re concerned, citizenship itself is predicated on single loyalty: Either you’re with Trump, or you’re against America.