Forget about the specifics of the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman in the Ukraine matter and what it might explain or portend. Let’s talk instead for a minute about the specifics of one particular insinuation about him almost from the minute we learned of his existence. Three different Trump-friendly people—Fox’s Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade and CNN commentator and former Congressman Sean Duffy—went on television and offered variations on the same theme. The theme is: Vindman was born in Ukraine, he’s therefore Ukrainian, and so maybe there’s something untoward going on here. Duffy said it best, or worst. “It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy,” Duffy said. “We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from … he has an affinity for the Ukraine.”
Aside from suggesting for the purposes of deflecting criticism of Donald Trump that a career Army officer might have a dual-loyalty problem, which is one of the lowest things I can imagine any American politician or commentator insinuating, Duffy is committing a category error here. The fact is that Ukraine is not Vindman’s “homeland.” For one thing, he was taken from there by his parents when he was three, and Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. For another, Vindman was born a Jew, and to promote the idea that the land of the USSR ever constituted any kind of “homeland” for any Jewish person is an infamy.
Jews were subjected to unique persecution in the USSR both because of classic Marxist ideas about “the Jewish problem” and the historical anti-Semitism that was a lamentably common feature of life in Ukraine for centuries. The idea that Vindman would have grown up with any sense of fealty to the Ukrainian volk is patently absurd, not only because he and his twin brother are clearly ardent American patriots who have committed their lives to this country’s service but because I have yet to meet a single Jew who came to America from the Soviet Union who feels any kind of personal or historical tie beyond any relatives who might have been left behind.
Duffy sought to revise and extend his remarks later on: “Lt. Col. Vindman is an American war hero. As I said clearly this morning on air ‘I salute Mr. Vindman’s service.’ My point is that Mr. Vindman is an unelected advisor, he gives ADVICE. President Trump sets the policy.”
Really? That didn’t seem to be what you were saying at all.