Colonel Alexander Vindman doesn't look the part of the lean, dashing Navy SEAL or Delta special operator of popular imagination. Nothing about his physical appearance screams intimidating. He looks like a middle-aged lieutenant colonel, a policy nerd who is a little soft around the middle from too many hours spent behind a desk every week and not enough roadwork.
For all that, the man who appeared before the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment proceedings Tuesday was a warrior carrying a powerful weapon: a reminder of the honor, modesty and integrity that have disappeared in the frothing Trumpian version of American military values. For all of Trump's obsession with the martial trappings of tanks on parade and flyovers and illusory talk of winning, the man testifying before Congress today was more steeped in the military's core values than Trump will ever be.
He came before the committee to testify about Donald Trump's corrupt actions as he witnessed them, and about the consequences of the commander in chief suborning the needs of the nation to those of a re-election campaign. He came as a man who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, not just the presidency, and not just one president.
He came before Congress ready to address the lies this White House has told to cover up this scandal, and he did address them.
Vindman did so knowing that the Trump social media hate machine will focus on him now. The military has moved his family onto an army base for security. Twitter is flooded with threats, insults, and accusations of treason, pedophilia, and espionage. It’s the usual Trumpworld immune system response; anyone, anywhere who opposes this President is to be destroyed.
We knew that was coming. It’s part of the landscape now. What even the pessimists didn’t expect was that the House minority would go as low as it did.
House minority counsel Steven Castor's line of questioning was pathetic, a transparent attempt to accuse Vindman of dual loyalties that even in this low moment shocked America. His sneering insinuation that Vindman was somehow compromised by the Ukrainian government's offer of the job of Minister of Defense, an offer he declined and promptly reported, was a moment where even Republican members of the committee looked uncomfortable, and those shameless motherfuckers would watch Trump eat a live baby and laugh it off. Castor even asked what language the offer was made in (it was English.)
But Vindman—whose hands shook and voice trembled as he told his father in his opening statement “Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth” in America—wasn’t rattled by the reprehensible and low attack, a “fuck you for service” from Trump’s GOP. He had the receipts and produced them, shutting down Castor.
The usual dancing antics of John Lee Ratcliffe, Jim Jordan and of Devin Nunes had an even more desperate than usual made-for-Fox character to them. They needed the distraction because Vindman blew up their “hearsay” argument once and for all, and refused to play ball with their ludicrous whistleblower hunt.
The Republicans smeared and suggested the worst, because what else is there for them to say? The demands by Trump that Ukraine dance to his tune are now so thoroughly established that by the end of the morning’s testimony, Jim Jordan and others were simply recapitulating the same set of exhausted conspiracy loon talking points about the Bidens and the imaginary Ukraine attack on the 2016 election. Listening to them was like listening to the comments section of Breitbart or Infowars read out loud.
The Trumpists will be shifting the goalposts now, and fast, because Vindman and Jennifer Williams heard the phone call and understood precisely what this president was saying. They heard him demand that a desperate ally carry out a political hit job on a 2020 rival and his family. Nice military aid you’ve got there, would be a shame if something happened to it. Matter of fact, there is one favor you could do…
For decades, one of the advantages that my party had in national and state political campaigns was the perception that Republicans were the tough guys, the hard-ass party, the ones who would stack terrorists up like cordwood and get the job done by picking up the dirty, hard work that makes America more secure. The Republican Party cast itself as the party that really cared about veterans, about our military, about spending what it took to give them the tools needed to take care of business.
We called the Democrats cowards, sympathizers with dictators and the worst of the world. In my day, we hit them and hit them hard for being soft on Russia, soft on Cuba, soft on the Warsaw pact, altogether soft.
We worked hard as a party to use the perception that the Democrats were weak and would expose us to risk, compromise, and danger. We were the ones who would never again leave our troops without the tools and the will to do the job.
Now, it's the GOP that is mocking the testimony of a decorated military officer. Now, it's the GOP in bed with the darkest forces in the world. Now, it's the GOP that simpers with pleasure as it bends the knee to Vladimir Putin.
While the professionals like Vindman and Williams knew the consequences of Trump’s ridiculous demand could be politically disastrous, diplomatically catastrophic, and politically radioactive, Trump persisted.
His enablers persisted, with those on the committee putting Ukraine further and further into a no man's land where America's role as an ally is called into question. After all the complaints about America’s sphere of influence shrinking under Obama, it’s happening across the globe now. South Korea just signed a defensive security cooperation agreement with China, fundamentally altering the balance of power in the Pacific, after Trump tried to extort them for $5 billion.
This test isn't just about impeachment. That's a foregone conclusion in the House given the evidence that exists of the president's criminality, wrongdoing and betrayal of America's national interests for political gain. The thin line protecting him is still holding in the Senate, but the evidence is mounting and the burden of Mitch McConnell holding that line is growing heavier
All the party of Trump cares about is Trump. Two more witnesses today of long, decent, and honorable service to this country will be smeared, threatened, and destroyed by sniveling men in service to a cowardly and dishonorable president
The members of the committee know exactly what kind of monster they're feeding with these attacks. They know that in questioning Vindman’s reputation and service that they are putting him and his family in immediate danger. If you think there's not a Cesar Sayoc type out there right now pondering how to kill this guy you're not living in the real world.
What we learned today is it in Donald Trump's Republican party it's not "thank you for your service." It's "fuck you for your service."