It seems the Resistance has found their latest target in Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn took to Twitter on Thursday questioning Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) labeling of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman as a patriot, accusing the military officer of “badmouth[ing] and ridicul[ing] our great nation in front of Russia, America’s greatest enemy.”
Predictably, many on Twitter expressed outrage at Blackburn’s commentary, but it’s worth noting Vindman’s role in the entire impeachment fiasco has been a far cry from upstanding, dignified, or patriotic. In other words, we can and should harbor gratitude for his military service, yet that should not stop us from recognizing the possibility that his latest maneuvers may have undermined the ability of the Trump administration to perform its job and to maintain a show of strength against our adversaries.
In her criticism of Vindman, Blackburn referenced a lengthy Twitter thread posted in late October by Vindman’s former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jim Hickman, who had alleged that Vindman had behaved inappropriately in his discussions with Russian soldiers: “He was apologetic of American culture, laughed about Americans not being educated or worldly, & really talked up Obama & globalism to the point of uncomfortable.”
Hickman admitted to verbally reprimanding Vindman after allegedly witnessing the behavior: “Do not let the uniform fool you…he is a political activist in uniform.” Regardless of whether one believes these claims, it’s worth acknowledging they exist and may color how someone views Vindman’s role in the impeachment hearings.
Blackburn also pointed out Vindman’s role in leaking information from the July 25 phone call to the whistleblower and thus “break[ing] the chain of command.” As one former Trump National Security Council official expressed to the Washington Examiner back in October, “How is an active-duty military officer allowed to go to a different branch of government to take down the president with scurrilous claims? I think the Army should be very concerned about what this means for discipline in the force. Basically, you have a political disagreement so you vomit mutiny.”
Although some disagree with this argument, it is a perfectly legitimate and reasonable one to make, particularly given widespread concerns over misconduct within various executive branches that seem intent on removing the president (the Carter Page FISA warrant being just one example of how anti-Trump bias has fomented into serious malpractice).
Vindman has not been honest in the process, making the Schiff’s praise an odd fit. In his opening statement during the impeachment inquiry, Vindman claimed to be the “principal advisor to the National Security Advisor and the president on Ukraine and the other countries in my portfolio.” However, when approached by Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio as to the veracity of this claim, Vindman conceded that he had never met, spoken with, or advised the president on anything.
Given the context of the hearings, Schiff’s latest usage of the word “patriot” likely was not in reference to Vindman’s military service generally, but in reference to Vindman’s role in leaking the contents of the July 25 phone call. Whether you agree with Schiff’s statement hinges upon whether you believe Vindman acted dutifully or mutinously. This is a serious debate worth having, for if you believe the latter adverb is more appropriate, then yes, the term “patriot” would be highly ill-fitting.
Many have devoted their lives to this country, who we may or may not find behaved in unseemly ways, thus complicating how we understand their character. Whether you find Blackburn’s statement reprehensible will likely turn on how much faith you have in this entire impeachment process.
Given the circus-like nature of the entire procedure, made more comical by the fact that Rep. Jerry Nadler had discussed going “all-in” on impeachment back in 2018, it’s logical to view this entire debacle as an unpatriotic exercise in reversing the results of the 2016 election. In that case, the latest attacks on Blackburn seem to be another mechanism for silencing this opinion.