The Atlantic’s resident fabulist, Jeffrey Goldberg, is back hard at work. A week or so ago, the reported that President Trump had deliberately blown off attending a ceremony at the US military cemetery at Belleau Woods, France, commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I. As the story developed, it became patently obvious that Goldberg was either so eaten up with TDS that he fell for an amateurish scam or he was a calculating liar who had done virtually no research on the lie he was telling. As it turned out, the emails documenting the cancellation of the trip were made public in an FOIA request. At last count, there were at least 21 on-site witnesses on the record saying Goldberg was full of sh**; one of them was John Bolton, who can never be mistaken for a Trump fan. To date, no one has come forward on the record to substantiate Goldberg’s claim.
Now Goldberg has given as slow-pitch softball interview with the man who personally kicked off the impeachment of President Trump, that would be former Lieutenant Colonel Alexander “Sweet Cheeks” Vindman.
Vindman is the guy who decided to take it upon himself to tell enough people his twisted version of events concerning a phone call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to give Adam Schiff and Fat Jerry Nadler all the excuse they needed to ram a bill of indictment through the Democrat-controlled House.
I’m just going to touch on some high points, if we can call them that, from the interview.
His first day at the NSC, July 16, 2018, was also the day that President Trump, meeting Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, told a press conference that he trusted Putin no less than he trusted U.S. intelligence agencies. “I have confidence in both parties,” Trump said, to the dismay of the intelligence chiefs who report to him.
I ask Vindman whether he should have taken Helsinki as a warning.
He pushes his glasses back. “This might be a conceit of government officials,” he says, “but there’s the idea that maybe you can make a difference. It’s a conceit. Maybe it’s unhealthy. We all believed we could make a difference. I thought I could potentially communicate with him, maybe speak to his better angels, explain to him that his ideas about Russia were harmful to the United States.”
Two points here. There is no doubt that John Brennan’s CIA was up to its unibrow in the Russia Hoax, and some hints are surfacing that Brennan may have run an off-books operation to investigate the Trump campaign. The IC IG, Michael Atkinson, changed Office of the Director of National Intelligence rules to facilitate the manufacture of a legally disclosable whistleblower report. Dan Coats has ruminated about thinking Putin had “something” on President Trump. If anything, our Intelligence Community has shown itself as a greater threat than Putin because it is obligated to carry out the policy of the President. Secondly, an Army lieutenant colonel doesn’t get to decide what policies are harmful to the United States. The President decides that.
Vindman put it this way: “With previous Democratic and Republican administrations, there have been left and right guardrails that helped define what was acceptable in terms of Russia policy. I thought we were operating within those boundaries. With Democrats, it might have been more engagement; with Republicans, it could have been more hard power.” He tells me that he especially admires the policies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, but also recognizes that Democratic presidents have credibly contained Soviet and post-Soviet Russian expansionism. “I didn’t know precisely what Trump’s boundaries would be, but I did think we would be operating within boundaries.”
Again, not his call. Just because something has been done in a certain way does not make that way wise or useful. See, for instance, the Middle East Peace Process that has yielded nothing at all, other than think tank white papers and a lot of diplomatic expense accounts, over the span of 50-odd years. I’d also challenge the notion that either party has been particularly effective at discouraging Russian adventurism. The Russians invaded the Republic of Georgia when George Bush was President. They kicked off a slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine, including annexing Crimea, under Obama.
“President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,” he says. Useful idiot is a term commonly used to describe dupes of authoritarian regimes; fellow traveler, in Vindman’s description, is a person who shares Putin’s loathing for democratic norms.
But do you think Russia is blackmailing Trump? “They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,” he says. “They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.”
This is just cheap psychobabble. It would be difficult it imagine any president who has had his background more carefully sifted than President Trump. On the merits, Putin has gained nothing under Trump. Trump has withdrawn from the START and INF and “Open Skies” treaties, all of which were one-sided in favor of Russia. Lethal aid has been provided to Ukraine. Trump stacked up the bodies of Russian mercenaries like cordwood in Syria. There is no evidence that Vindman has any more knowledge of the behavior or personality of President Trump than the average Daily Kos reader.
Then there is this bit of “wtf:”
Vindman continues, “In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.”
“Free chicken” sounds more like something you’d find at a gay bar in Dupont Circle than Army slang. I’ve spent a couple of days in uniform, and I’ve never heard anyone refer to anything as “free chicken.”
Vindman says “Four fried chickens and a coke.” pic.twitter.com/9414PWRZCc
— Self taught health expert Col Joe (Parler: gkjoe) (@GKJoe) September 14, 2020
This is the closer:
Ultimately, he says, he wants to put his knowledge of authoritarianism to good use, “before it’s too late.”
“Authoritarianism is able to take hold not because you have a strong set of leaders who are forcing their way,” he says. “It’s more about the fact that we can give away our democracy. In Hungary and Turkey today, in Nazi Germany, those folks gave away their democracy, by being complacent.”
He goes on, “Truth is a victim in this administration, I think it’s Orwellian—the ultimate goal of this president is to get you to disbelieve what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard. My goal now is to remind people of this.”
Here’s my view on Vindman. He’s a disgusting piece of detritus who has brought shame to the Army and the infantry. He used his position not to serve the nation and to assist the President in carrying out his foreign policy but to attempt to establish foreign policy for the United States. When he found he disagreed with President Trump’s views on Russia policy, he had two choices: help carry out those policies to the best of his abilities or resign. He did neither. He signed on with the Resistance to try to sabotage the President. He had objections to a phone call and was told by everyone in his chain-of-command that he was wrong. To get around this, he told the tale to someone who was not cleared to get that information for the sole purpose of creating a “whistleblower” situation within the Intelligence Community. He is a duplicitous and disloyal little man who was treated much more leniently than he deserved.
This interview is sad and at least as pathetic as the interviewer and his subject. And that takes some real doing.