Trump dismissed Vindman as a “Never Trumper,” while some of his allies questioned the patriotism of the Army combat veteran because his family emigrated from the Soviet Union when he was 3.
Trump’s attack on the Purple Heart recipient unnerved Republicans in Congress, with several pushing back, albeit without naming the president. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called the offensive “misplaced and very unfortunate,” and said he had “full confidence” in Vindman “as an individual and his patriotism.”
The response from Trump’s party created an unusual dynamic in which Republicans were defending a man who was simultaneously accusing the president of undermining national security for his own political purposes. Privately, several Republicans found Vindman’s testimony to be damaging and lamented that once again they were forced to defend the president.
The GOP reaction to Vindman comes as the party faces frontal attacks on two of its major talking points in Trump’s defense. Vindman’s account of the phone call deprives Republicans of the complaint that the witnesses called by Democrats have relied on hearsay when discussing the president’s interactions with Zelensky. And as Democrats moved to vote on a resolution to hold open hearings on impeachment, Republicans faced the prospect of losing their complaint that the inquiry is being conducted in secret.
Read that sentence in bold again: “Privately, several Republicans found Vindman’s testimony to be damaging and lamented that once again they were forced to defend the president.”
Ain’t nobody forcing you guys to do anything. You could just speak up and say what you actually think, in front of God and everyone.
We’re watching, in real time, the same dynamic that has allowed far worse things to happen in history: people refuse to speak up because they are scared. It sounds easy to speak up, of course — until you realize that everyone you know who has spoken up … is gone. Gone from the party, gone from Washington D.C., gone from political life and everything they worked a lifetime for.
So, yeah. This takes more than a bit of courage.
Still, all you’re really being asked to do is to say what you think is true. If you can’t remotely begin to think about doing that, why are you even there?
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]