The Surprising Rise of the Washington Professional Staff, our Superhero Bureaucrats
Before today, Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia and former National Security Council official, was not a household name. Before yesterday and the day before that, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was largely unknown outside of the upper echelons of the military and the foreign service. Before the last few days, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and David Holmes, staffer at the U.S. Embassy in the Ukraine, could have walked down any street in America without drawing the slightest attention. In recent years, too many Americans have looked to charismatic television personalities to both capture our attention and shape our warped thinking about heroism.
On the opposite end of the human scale from the flashy, loud glittery types that appear before the cameras every day are the everyday workers who make life in this complicated country possible. Americans have long maligned professional bureaucrats (people working behind desks and paying careful attention to the rules of government). Part of the reason for that general disdain for the professional government worker, is that too many of us don’t like following rules and regulations even when those rules are in place are for the greater good.
In surprising fashion over the last weeks of the impeachment investigations into the Trump’s dealings in the Ukraine, Washington, D.C.’s professional staff, those bureaucrats who are in place to keep things running regardless of the political winds of change, have emerged as our new superheroes.
Their dedication to following rules and doing their jobs professionally, rather than politically, has come to the forefront in the Trump/Giuliani/Sondland/GOP bribery of the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a scheme to withhold needed military aid in exchange for attempting to damage a political rival in former Vice President Joe Biden. The particulars of this hair-brained scheme almost do not deserve further mention—with Rudy Giuliani running around the Ukraine with a couple former Russian/Ukrainian criminals trying to create a non-existent scandal on behalf of, or at the direct order of, Donald J. Trump.
Fiona Hill put it straight to the investigative committee in the House and all Americans watching her testimony: “The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.”
Of course, not every American will see these Washington professionals as their heroes. For one thing, they use too many big words. In response to a question, Fiona Hill was direct but answered with the statement that Trump was “not properly prepared” to take full advantage of the opportunity to “make sure there was a fulsome bilateral agenda.” They use big words because they are the most precise. Hill, however, made it clear that Russia sought to create “chaos” and a “partisan divide” in the U.S. through a disinformation campaign, and their efforts were successful. “This is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for,” she said. Putin and Russian efforts pose a serious threat to democracy, she stated.
David Holmes testimony was just as surprising: “And then the security hold came up with no explanation," Holmes said. “And I’d be surprised if any of the Ukrainians …when they received no explanation for why that hold was in place, they would have drawn that conclusion.” Again, Holmes straightforward statements made the Republican defense of Trump appear dishonest and thoroughly partisan.
These career professionals ran afoul of Trump and the Republicans in Congress because they were serving their country, not the ego of Donald J. Trump. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Republicans in the House, at the behest of the Trump, continued to shout already disproven and absurd conspiracies. Apparently, the Republican strategy for defending Trump’s inexcusable actions is, when in quicksand, furiously dig deeper.
Meanwhile, the imposter President in the White House, Donald J. Trump, called these professionals testifying before Congress “human scum” among other names.
Those human scum earned rounds of applause from Congress and the American people, none so loudly as former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch when she finished speaking. She left the House chambers to a standing ovation. Although Trump referred to her as “bad news,” the American people witnessed with their own eyes a brave, honest, and incredibly strong public servant. “The woman,” as Trump referred to her was of the people, by the people, for the people.”
The best lines, however, came from Lt. Col. Vindman. Although verbally attacked by Trump, his GOP allies in Congress, and Fox “News,” Lt. Col. Vindman demonstrated the epitome of grace under pressure. When asked about his assurance to his father that he would be safe after testifying, he said clearly and with quiet conviction, “because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters.”