One man is a refugee-turned-American-soldier, a decorated lieutenant colonel who holds a Purple Heart from his duty in Iraq — where he was injured by a roadside bomb — and a master’s degree from Harvard. After working in US embassies in Kiev and Moscow, he now sits on the National Security Council, and writes eloquently and forcefully about his sense of duty.
The other is a child of privilege — who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars and avoided the Vietnam War draft by claiming bone spurs. He rails against the First Amendment protections the American media enjoys, pillories career civil servants, and has belittled those who have served and suffered, including the Muslim family of a slain soldier, and a former prisoner of war, the late Sen. John McCain.
He hinders investigations into hostile foreign interference in the American elections that are the bedrock of our democracy. Now he stands accused of undermining the integrity of those elections by asking a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his potential opponent — something to which he has admitted.
Who is the real patriot here?
If you said the first man — Alexander S. Vindman, the war hero, the man who literally bled for his country and has dedicated his life to public service — you would be wrong, according to a right-wing media apparatus that has gone all-in on the second man, Donald Trump.
On Fox News, John Yoo (yes, that John Yoo, the former government lawyer who came up with George W. Bush’s “enhanced interrogation” torture policy) opined that perhaps Lt. Col. Vindman was a traitor engaged in “espionage” on behalf of Ukraine. Former Wisconsin Republican Congressman Sean Duffy used his new platform at CNN to similarly smear Vindman, saying “We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from. Like me, I’m sure that Vindman has the same affinity.”
On Fox again, Brian Kilmeade repeated the same allegation, using nearly the same language: Vindman “is from the Soviet Union, he emigrated here, and has an affinity to the Ukrainian people.”
Vindman came to the United States when he was three, brought along by a family fleeing anti-Semitic persecution in the Soviet Union. He knows the dangers of Russian hostility better than any American cable news talking head. He is a citizen of this country, and he has served this country with great valor.
The slanderous suggestions that he’s disloyal because of birthplace and because he speaks Ukrainian are plainly disgusting. And they are profoundly unpatriotic: The United States is, after all, a nation founded on the principle that being an American isn’t about where you had the random luck to be born, but rather whether you swear allegiance to a unique and enduring set of values.
Team Trump’s attacks on Vindman come because Vindman is upholding those values, to the detriment of the President.
Trump’s lackeys in the media are selling out American values in favor of a President they’ve turned into a king. That’s not patriotism — it’s a cult.
Vindman has testified before congressional impeachment investigators that when he learned Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, he was so concerned that the request would threaten US national security interests that he reported it up the chain, to the top lawyer of the National Security Council.
Vindman, in other words, put the interests of the nation ahead of the interests of the President.
And that is what a patriot — a real one — does.