Editorial: To serve his country, not a conniving president

Contributed File Photo: Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman

Column By John Young

In his book about testifying in Donald Trump’s first impeachment inquiry, Alexander Vindman recounts a heated argument with his Russian immigrant father.

“Support the president,” his father shouted. “Do whatever the president wants.”

But Vindman, a decorated Army lieutenant colonel, knew his obligation was to his country, not to a corrupt and conniving leader.

And so Vindman testified against Trump, his commander in chief. Then he felt the wrath of right-wing barkers and a cast of reality TV players posing as public servants.

In his memoir, “Here, Right Matters,” Vindman writes that the urgings of his father, a Trump supporter, were conditioned by a Soviet system in which acceding to power and to “backroom corruption” was the only way to survive.

In that way the elder was right. Vindman was committing career suicide.

But Vindman voices not a shred of regret.

It was his job to observe the infamous 2019 call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader in which Trump tried to use U.S. tax dollars as a lever toward a politically dirty deed.

Vindman courageously reported Trump’s attempt to extort the struggling nation for petty political purposes.

Agreeing to testify in the hearings about Trump’s actions, he was electronically crucified on cable TV. Then the White House stripped him of his foreign-service duties.

In 2019, with Russia menacing the country, our president was blocking the very sustenance keeping Ukraine from being consumed by Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Trump freed up the aid to Ukraine only after reports about his plot broke in the press and Democrats in Congress demanded answers.

Vindman, the National Security Council point man on Ukraine, watched with horror as assistance to Ukraine hung in the balance over what he calls “sleazy domestic political considerations.”

Any so-called public servant who looked the other way in the face of this wasn’t interested in serving the country but his or her own partisan skin – Soviet-style.

Vindman’s four-word reaction to his treatment by Republican inquisitors in his hearings summed it up: “Truth was their enemy.”

As for the transcript of the notorious “do us a favor” call, Vindman confirms it was doctored so as not to show how explicit Trump was about the anti-Joe Biden claims he wanted to plant in Zelensky’s ear.

What we know now is that apart from an actual investigation of spurious allegations, Trump wanted a statement from Zelensky that his government was investigating Biden, whether it did or not. This was a staggering abuse of presidential power. Trump shouldn’t have served one more day in office.

Even without actions that launched the third impeachment trial in American history – with another to come before Trump was ousted – Vindman writes that he saw enough to consider Trump unfit.

Vindman writes that he observed “inattention to any policy, much less foreign policy.”

Because Trump “never provided any policy guidance,” Vindman writes, “nobody in responsible circles took his remarks seriously on policy direction.”

One direction was clear, however, writes Vindman: an alarming stance of “accommodation and appeasement toward Russia,” paired with an “inexplicable hostility toward Ukraine.”

Americans should cringe when Republican enablers express their concern for the security of the country Trump tried to screw. This includes lawmakers who authorized that aid in 2019 and watched Trump dangle it like a ball of yarn.

To read what Vindman experienced, including his dismissal from his job and his unplanned retirement from the military, is to feel his loneliness in dealing with people who not only excuse but embrace one man’s ruthlessness and criminality.

Rather than the “traitor” Fox News squawkers called him, Vindman is a true patriot who believes in a nation of shared interests and fundamental principles like service over self.

One can be excused, however, in reading his memoir and seeing ours as not one nation indivisible but as dueling tribes that have lost any sense of commonality.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.

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