The impeachment heat on Donald Trump ramped up to another level late last month, when Army officer and National Security Council official Alexander Vindman told House investigators about his concerns regarding the now-infamous call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. When Vindman testified publicly for the first time on Tuesday, Republican counsel Stephen Cantor asked a veiled question about whether Vindman’s loyalties lie with this country or Ukraine. Critics slammed this line of questioning as grossly inappropriate at best, and an anti-Semitic dog whistle at worst.
Vindman, remember, was born in Ukraine and came to this country as a boy. He has spent 20 years defending his adopted country, first as an infantry officer and then as a foreign area specialist. He is a decorated veteran of the Iraq War, having received, among other honors, a Purple Heart and two Defense Meritorious Service Medals.
Any doubt of his devotion to his adopted country should have been put to rest with his opening statement. Watch it here.
Vindman closed his opening statement with a message to his father, saying that the fact he was sitting in the Capitol today proved that “you made the right decision 40 years ago” to leave what was then the Soviet Union and seek a better life in the United States.
No one could listen to that statement and credibly doubt Vindman’s devotion to the United States. And yet, Republicans and right-wing pundits did so anyway. They did in a way that a number of critics claimed was a reprise of one of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes in the book–dual loyalty.
Well, it turns out that we got ample warning that we’d be hearing this dog whistle. On Monday night, right-wing provocateur and so-called intellectual Dinesh D’Souza sat down with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham to mock some of the left’s heroes of the day, such as Vindman, former American ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Watch here.
D’Souza took aim at Vindman, suggesting that his concerns about the appropriateness of Trump insisting that Zelensky investigate former vice president Joe Biden were rooted in policy differences. From where D’Souza was sitting, Vindman’s objections proved that he had a “Ukraine First policy,” in contrast to Trump’s “America First policy.”
It’s hard to get more blatant than that. D’Souza was suggesting that by opposing Trump’s policy objectives, he was putting Ukraine ahead of the United States. Almost as telling, if not more telling, was how Ingraham reacted. She didn’t even try to intervene. Then again, it may have been too much to expect Ingraham to do anything. Soon after Vindman’s secret deposition, she sat there and watched former Bush 43 Justice Department official John Yoo blow a similar dog whistle. Yoo mused, without evidence, that Vindman might have been engaging in espionage for Kiev.
When Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept saw D’Souza’s swipe at Vindman, he was dumbfounded.
It’s hard to blame him. It’s bad enough that D’Souza would dare to question the patriotism of a 20-year career Army officer and a decorated war veteran who has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. But to do so by blowing an anti-Semitic dog whistle is a new low, even for a man who has long been one of the most loathsome figures on the right. This is a man who has no qualms about uncorking cheap shots at school shooting victims, claimed black slaves were “treated pretty well,” and likened Greta Thunberg to Nazis, among other lowlights.
Julia Ioffe of GQ, who like Vindman is a Soviet-born Jew, noted in an October column that there is “a particularly insidious history” behind questioning the patriotism of Jewish immigrants. She noted that Stalin targeted Soviet Jews with vicious anti-Semitic attacks from 1948 onward, suggesting that they were “rootless cosmopolitans” who were more loyal to Israel than the Soviet Union.
This continued for the better part of three decades, and forced Jews to flee the Soviet Union by the thousands. Ioffe and Vindman’s parents were among them. To Ioffe’s mind, Trump’s rise brought back painful memories of how her parents and Vindman’s parents had their loyalties questioned by Stalin and his successors.
It’s hard to believe that D’Souza didn’t hear about this during his college days at Dartmouth. If he did, and still blew this dog whistle, it’s even more outrageous. Vindman has more honor and integrity in his pinkie than D’Souza has in his whole body.
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