I took a shine to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman during the first impeachment hearings. As an immigrant serving our country, he personifies the best of America. The “Trump is perfect” crowd didn’t see it that way and took special pleasure in demonizing him.
Doing the right thing took a toll on Vindman. He was frog marched out of the White House, denied a well-deserved promotion, and obliged to retire from the Army at the age of 45.
The playwright Lillian Hellman wrote a book about the second American Red Scare called Scoundrel Time. She described how some groveled to people in power who were pursuing a destructive and dishonest agenda. I thought of Scoundrel Time during Alexander Vindman’s time in the barrel. Instead of cowering before the likes of Gym Jordan and Devin Nunes, he stood his ground confident that “here, right matters.” It no longer matters to right wing scoundrels but it’s a helluva book title.
I just finished reading an excerpt from Vindman’s book at the Atlantic. Like the author, It’s thoughtful, cogent, and honest. He describes his reaction to Trump’s “perfect phone call” to a Ukrainian president who was desperate to please. One of Trump’s few talents is one he shares with many mob bosses: he can sense fear and desperation. He knows how to exploit it.
Vindman’s riveting description of listening to the “perfect phone call” with his fellow future witnesses Tim Morrison and Jennifer Williams convinced me to order a copy of Here, Right Matters from Barnes & Noble. My sister-in-law always gives me a gift card for my birthday and this time I’m spending it on the odd combination of Alexander Vindman and Los Lobos.
The country was lucky that Alexander Vindman listened to the “perfect phone call.” He knew what he had to do, and he did it regardless of the personal cost. Here’s how the Atlantic excerpt concludes:
Regardless of any impact on the president, or of the domestic- and foreign-policy consequences, or of personal costs, I had no choice but to report what I’d heard. That duty to report is an important component of U.S. Army values and of the oath I’d taken to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. Despite the president’s constitutional role as commander in chief, at the apex of the military chain of command—in fact, because of his role—I had an obligation to report misconduct.
Yevgeny, who had the highest security clearances, was therefore uniquely positioned to advise me on the proper procedures, and I knew that he would support my doing my duty. He would protect, at all costs, my telling the truth. He would never be swayed by any institutional or presidential interest in covering it up.
I made sure to close the door behind me. “If what I just heard becomes public,” I told my brother, “the president will be impeached.”
It’s been a year of turmoil for the country, and for my family and me. I’m no longer at the National Security Council. I’m no longer an officer in the U.S. Army. I’m living in the great unknown, and so, to a great degree, is our country.
But because I’ve never had any doubt about the fitness of my decision, I remain at peace with the consequences that continue to unfold.
Thank you for your service Col. Vindman, that’s not just boilerplate, I mean it. Standing up to the scoundrels isn’t easy but it has to be done.
In the interests of perfecting the oddball combination of Vindman and Los Lobos, the last word goes to the guys from East LA with a song about America:
Viva Los Lobos. Viva Vindman.