The other day, I tweeted something that got a little buzz—which tells me I was on to something. It went like this: “Let’s say you’re a conservative person. You orient your life around faith, family, community, decency, patriotism, modesty, honesty, charity, frugality, and human dignity... and your heroes are... Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, and Rudy Giuliani?”
With the curtain set to open on a new week of impeachment hearings, the only noble players in this drama seem to be the “deep state” bureaucrats whom we are supposed to fear and hate.
Indeed, one positive thing to come out of impeachment has been the chance to highlight the unheralded dignity and professionalism of the men and women who have quietly sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom—behind the scenes.
Compared to Trump and his apologists, the contrast is stark.
To help explain this, I have been asking friends to engage in the following thought experiment: Whom would you trust to check in on your family if you were away on business for a couple weeks? Whom do you want your kids to grow up to be like?
For the sake of argument, this is a binary choice. On one side are people like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, and Rudy Giuliani. On the other side are people like Ambassador William Taylor (a decorated Vietnam veteran who was picked by Mike Pompeo), former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch (the anti-corruption hero and daughter of refugees from the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany), and George Kent (a respected diplomat).
I know who I would and wouldn’t want checking in on my wife and kids.
To Trump’s apologists, though, these are the unelected bureaucrats who are orchestrating a “coup.” In my opinion, when everyone honorable—even the people your own secretary of state handpicks—thinks you’re the one who is wrong, perhaps you’re the one with the problem. Maybe that’s just me.
Still, the contrast between the white hats and the black hats is stark. And it is likely to continue this week, when (among the eight men and women slated to testify) Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Jewish refugee who fled the Soviet Union and went on to be awarded a Purple Heart, will take center stage.
In general, the people testifying against Trump have lived lives of honor and integrity and service. Many are from families who fled persecution. Many have sacrificed for their country. Compared to the Republican politicians and commentators denigrating them, these are saints.
The question isn’t just about decency. If we were trying to discern who the real “conservatives” are, I’m pretty sure Trump, Rush, and Rudy are at like nine or 10 marriages among them. But Trumpers have another “ball and chain” to worry about.
By my count, the following Trump associates and friends have (so far) been convicted: Paul Manafort (Trump’s campaign manager), Michael Cohen (Trump’s lawyer and “fixer”), Rick Gates (former Trump aide), Michael Flynn (Trump’s national security adviser), George Papadopoulos (Trump campaign adviser), and Roger Stone (Trump’s long-time friend and adviser).
Another question to ponder: How many of your friends and close business associates have been convicted?
I would suggest that Trump’s association with so many disreputable people is no accident. There are no lack of clichés. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Birds of a feather flock together. Like the “Axis of Evil” opening scene in The Naked Gun, the bad guys always seem to find each other.
We are, after all, talking about a president who likes dictators better than democratically elected world leaders, and who just pardoned two service members accused of war crimes and restored the rank of another.
Whether you’re a conservative or even just a decent, patriotic American, you have more to admire in the people testifying in the impeachment hearings than in the people defending the president.
Of course, this week may test that theory. The key witness looks to be EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland—a man who gained his ambassadorship by donating a million smackers to Trump’s inaugural committee and who has already had to revise his testimony.
Unlike last week’s witnesses, Sondland has dedicated his life to building wealth, not public service (not that there’s anything wrong with that). More to the point, unlike last week’s witnesses, Sondland (allegedly) has firsthand evidence that Trump ordered the shakedown of Ukraine.
It’s unclear whether he will deliver the coup de grace, but one thing is certain: Sondland wasn’t so forthcoming about Trump before the “career bureaucrats” forced him to revise his testimony (or risk perjury).
You don’t have to squint too hard to see who the real American heroes are.