“What planet are we on?” asked the incredulous cable news anchor.
It’s a planet, or at least a country, where in a span of three minutes this week, Americans got to see Donald Trump’s Republican Party stoop, yet again, lower than anyone could have imagined it would go.
For three gut wrenching and shameful minutes, Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan – one of Trump’s staunchest defenders – without a shred of evidence raised the specter at Tuesday’s impeachment hearings that Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman might be a traitor.
I wanted to throw up. I’ve felt that way a lot lately.
In short, Jordan’s contemptible allegation, which one observer described as being “cloaked in a Brooks Brothers suit,” is that Vindman, a Jewish émigré brought to the U.S. by his parents as a toddler to escape the former Soviet Union, might be disloyal to America because a corrupt official in Ukraine offered him a job as that country’s defense minister.
There are two important things to understand about the context of this unfounded attack on Vindman.
First, Vindman, a combat veteran who was wounded in action and now serves as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, turned down the so-called job offer and called it “comical.”
Second, it’s President Trump who is facing impeachment based on well-documented allegations that he tried to extort a favor from Ukraine’s president to damage his chief political rival in exchange for nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid and a White House meeting – all at a time when Ukraine, our ally, is at war with our sworn adversary, Russia.
So, the idea that a decorated active-duty officer who has built a career protecting our nation first on the battlefield and now in the diplomatic corps, without a blemish on his record, would accept such an offer from a corrupt foreign government would be laughable if it wasn’t so blatantly insulting.
Why is Vindman suspect? No reason. At least no reason that has any merit. Purportedly, he is suspect because he is sharing evidence that the president may have committed a crime, an impeachable offense. Oh, and because he’s an immigrant.
Welcome to my planet.
Here, the most powerful man in the world has a stranglehold on the Republican Party, and the word “immigrant” has become synonymous with “traitor,” “rapist”, “murderer” and “terrorist.”
The “party of Lincoln” should be ashamed. Instead, it’s thumping its chest and kowtows to Trump’s fascist tendencies.
Yes, fascist. Because this is what fascists do. Fascism requires the identification and repression of an enemy, a scapegoat, a real or perceived threat to the status quo – in this case, Trump’s presidency – and then the demagogic dehumanization of that enemy.
This is what Trump’s sycophants in Congress and his attack dogs on social media are trying to do to Vindman.
Who cares if Trump may have betrayed his nation by trying to bribe a foreign leader to interfere in our next presidential election, suggest Trump loyalists. At least Trump isn’t an immigrant!
The line of attack against Vindman, who has now been assigned 24-hour protection by the Army because of fears he might be harmed, reminds me of our president’s low regard for virtually all immigrants, especially brown immigrants.
It also reminds me of an incident involving former Arizona Gov. Raul H. Castro in 2012. It happened on his 96th birthday.
Castro immigrated from Mexico. He and his wife, Pat, were traveling from Nogales to Tucson when they made what they thought was a routine stop at a Border Patrol checkpoint.
Castro, who died in 2015, had been an educator, lawyer, champion boxer, governor, judge and three-time U.S. ambassador.
Sadly, none of that was enough to keep federal agents from suspecting that he might be a danger to the country to which he had repeatedly sworn his allegiance.
Unfortunately for Castro, at least in the eyes of the Border Patrol that day, he was also an immigrant.
Agents suspected he might be transporting radioactive material – it turned out he was wearing a pacemaker. So, they pulled him out of the car and forced him to wait an hour in Arizona’s June heat while they investigated whether he was a threat to America.
He was not.
What Castro turned out to be was exactly what he was. A former governor. A former U.S. ambassador. An American. An immigrant.
And the behavior of the agents who suspected he might be a threat to the United States of America was as shameful then as the treatment by Republicans of Lt. Col. Vindman is today.