When I sat down at my computer today, I fully intended to write a column on the decision of Molson-Coors to drop Colorado as a headquarters and to lay off roughly 500 workers, primarily in the US and Canada. I was going to ask my conservative friends if they are truly tired of winning yet, as the president promised. It’s a good story, and it deals directly with Colorado and Colorado politics (Ed: good choice!). But instead, I’m going to write about some goings on in Washington, and I hope my kindly (and good looking) editor is susceptible to flattery (Ed: hmmm…).
What compels me to drop the Coors story were two recent interactions by military people and the president and his supporters. The first gentleman is widely known in diplomatic circles and the second is a fellow Lieutenant Colonel in a sister service. Both were attacked wrongly, and now that I am free of the speech shackles that being on active duty entails, I can offer a couple of thoughts.
When I went to the US State Department in 2001 to serve as a military adviser on US policies in the former Soviet states, I was introduced to my boss’s boss, Ambassador William Taylor. He told me to call him Bill, and I called him Sir. Taylor is a West Point graduate (top 1% of his class) and a Vietnam vet. He was awarded the Bronze Star, with the “V” device for heroism, among other awards. He has a lifetime of service to country behind him, and when called up from retirement, this time in Ukraine, he showed up to serve yet again.
Through an odd quirk of poor office planning, when I was working at the State Department, the staffers’ offices were at opposite ends of a hall and connected through Taylor’s office. We were instructed to just walk through his office anytime we needed to get to our colleagues at the opposite end. While the Ambassador was always friendly and open, I still walked around the long way, so as not to disturb him. Let me say this as clearly and as emphatically as I can: Bill Taylor is the very model of what we want in a public servant, and his highly honorable service to presidents of both parties is the standard by which others should be judged. Plus, he’s a very nice man.
The second gentleman I rise to defend I don’t know, Lt Col Alexander Vindman, US Army. Vindman is a staffer at the National Security Council, a role I myself fulfilled twice during academic breaks from teaching at the AF Academy. Vindman was awarded the Purple Heart, among other awards, and appears to be, as with Taylor, the very model of a public servant and a military officer.
What do these two great Americans have in common? Well, when both had personal knowledge of the actions of President Trump, which most certainly appear to be highly suspect, if not criminal, the president’s supporters, and the congressional Republicans in particular, attempted to assassinate the character of both men. But unlike their attacks on political rivals like Joe Biden, these GOP attacks sought to undermine and to discredit the military and diplomatic service of two non-political patriots. The irony, of course, is that the Republican Party has oft claimed to be the party that supports the military and has the troops’ backs. The GOP argue that they are the ones who love America and her soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen best.
Yet, when the moment arrived wherein the GOP members could choose honor over partisanship and defense of an honor-less president, far too many (including the president’s minions at Fox) chose to attack Taylor and Vindman, with baseless condemnations of them based on what those attacking thought were salient points, such as Vindman being born in Ukraine. Given that he left that country and moved to the US at age 3, I’m guessing his political views were mostly formed here.
It seems clear that since the president’s defenders cannot argue the facts, largely because Mr. Trump and Mr. Mulvaney confirmed most of them on TV, they have decided to attack the process and the character of those who chose to stand up and tell the truth. I have no idea what Taylor’s politics are — he never once gave me any hint of his personal views. I don’t have any idea what Col Vindman’s political views are. But both men have demonstrated a commitment to honor and honesty.
I find the irony that the supporters of a person whose “bone spurs” are said to have kept him out of the military would attack two honorable gentlemen, who have both been awarded high honors, rather compelling and laughable. Supporters of the President would be well served to pick different targets for their rage. We military folks have an honor code that compels service before self. It is a motto and an ideal I’d encourage those in Mr. Trump’s corner to consider implementing in their own lives. Then, perhaps, the GOP can claim to support the military without so many accompanying eyerolls.
Next column, I promise, on Colorado stuff.
Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.