Thursday, November 21, 2019

'if you’re attacking the character of a decorated American war hero for having the audacity to tell the truth, you’re losing.'

Here’s the rest of that story.

In Wednesday morning email, Charlie Sykes writing in The Bulwark fingers the GOP for their trashing of Lt. Col. Vindman and Jennifer Williams.

Let’s start this busy Wednesday with a mea culpa. A few weeks back I suggested that my fellow Wisconsinite Sean Duffy’s botched attempt to smear Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman had exposed “(at least for now) the limits of Trumpian indecency.”

CORRECTION: This was wrong. There is no limit.

As Rick Wilson put it so colorfully, the message yesterday to Vindman from TrumpWorld was essentially: “F*ck You For Your Service.”.

Vindman, he writes, came before the committee “carrying a powerful weapon: a reminder of the honor, modesty and integrity that have disappeared in the frothing Trumpian version of American military values.”

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.)

Naturally, all of it came from the top:. The Daily Beast reports that the Trump White House took “the extraordinary step of distributing talking points to allies of the president trashing one of its employees.”

Exit take: there is no bottom.

About that which is coming from the top …

A White House Now ‘Cannibalizing Itself’ reports Peer Baker at the NY Times. Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, this was something new.

WASHINGTON — As Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman sat in a stately chamber testifying on Tuesday, the White House posted on its official Twitter account a message denouncing his judgment. His fellow witness, Jennifer Williams, had barely left the room when the White House issued a statement challenging her credibility.

In President Trump’s Washington, where attacks on his enemies real or perceived have become so routine that they now often pass unnoticed, that might not seem all that remarkable — but for the fact that Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams both still work for the very same White House that was publicly assailing them.

With the president’s allies joining in, the two aides found themselves condemned as nobodies, as plotting bureaucrats, as traitors within and, in Colonel Vindman’s case, as an immigrant with dual loyalties. Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, that represents a new level of bombardment.

Mr. Trump has publicly disparaged cabinet secretaries, former aides and career officials working elsewhere in the government, but now he is taking aim at people still working for him inside the White House complex by name.

"This White House appears to be cannibalizing itself,” said William C. Inboden, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush. “While many previous White House staffs have feuded with each other and leaked against each other, this is the first time in history I am aware of a White House openly attacking its own staff — especially for merely upholding their constitutional duties.”

White House, Republicans take aim at war hero to defend Trump reports Steve Benen at MSNBC/MaddowBlog. Some is complementary to Baker’s report (above).

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council. As part of the ongoing impeachment proceedings, he’s also a witness with tough-to-dismiss credibility: the lieutenant colonel is a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who earned a Purple Heart.

And as the world saw yesterday, Vindman also has devastating insights into Donald Trump’s apparent wrongdoing as part of the Ukraine extortion scheme. For his trouble, as NBC News noted, the war hero “faced repeated character attacks from several House Intelligence Republicans,” including not-so-subtle innuendo about his loyalties.

In one case, Steve Castor, the counsel for committee Republicans, asked a series of questions about whether Vindman had at one point been offered the post of Ukrainian defense minister by a Ukrainian politician.

Vindman, for his part, said such a request occurred three times, but that he dismissed the offers immediately, reported them to his superiors and to counterintelligence authorities, and told Castor it’s no secret where his allegiance is.

“I’m an American,” he said.

That the topic came up at all seemed to be part of a clear effort by Republican to discredit the allegiance of Vindman. Several conservatives have used the same tactic, including Fox News personalities.

By most measures, it was the ugliest thing we’ve seen as part of the public impeachment hearings. Dana Milbank noted, “[F]or pure maliciousness, it is hard to top the gall of Trump partisans who question Vindman’s loyalty.” The columnist characterized it as “sheer McCarthyism.”

As dishonorable as the House Republicans’ conduct appeared, things were no better a mile and a half down Pennsylvania Avenue. The New York Times reported overnight on the White House going after Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a top foreign policy adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, by name.

In President Trump’s Washington, where attacks on his enemies real or perceived have become so routine that they now often pass unnoticed, that might not seem all that remarkable – but for the fact that Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams both still work for the very same White House that was publicly assailing them.

With the president’s allies joining in, the two aides found themselves condemned as nobodies, as plotting bureaucrats, as traitors within and, in Colonel Vindman’s case, as an immigrant with dual loyalties. Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, that represents a new level of bombardment.

Mr. Trump has publicly disparaged cabinet secretaries, former aides and career officials working elsewhere in the government, but now he is taking aim at people still working for him inside the White House complex by name.

The article quoted William Inboden, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush, saying, “While many previous White House staffs have feuded with each other and leaked against each other, this is the first time in history I am aware of a White House openly attacking its own staff – especially for merely upholding their constitutional duties.”

This included the president himself, who took some time at yesterday’s cabinet meeting to take a few rhetorical shots at the lieutenant colonel, even making a snide comment about Vindman appearing on Capitol Hill in uniform.

I realize that Vindman’s testimony was brutally effective and did the White House no favors. But if you’re attacking the character of a decorated American war hero for having the audacity to tell the truth, you’re losing.

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