Conservative columnist explains how Sean Duffy’s knee-jerk attack on Alexander Vindman exposed Trumpism’s moral bankruptcy
A clickbait headline in The Bulwark reads, “In Praise of Sean Duffy.” Because the publication is The Bulwark — which anti-Trump conservatives Bill Kristol and Charles Sykes founded in December 2018 — and former Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy is stridently pro-Trump, one naturally assumes that the headline is being used ironically. And sure enough, it is: although the article, written by Sykes, chastises Duffy for shamelessly smearing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, it also stresses that the far-right Republican and Trump sycophant did the political world a favor by exposing how morally bankrupt Trumpism is.
On Tuesday, Vindman, who served on the National Security Council, testified on Capitol Hill at a closed-door hearing held in connection with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Duffy, a former reality television star and CNN contributor, followed the lead of Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and reflexively smeared Vindman.
This week on CNN, Duffy said of Vindman, “it seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy…. We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from…. He has an affinity for the Ukraine.”
Duffy, Sykes writes, “thought he was doing his master’s bidding, following a trail already marked by Fox News the night before.” Trump had tweeted that he considered Vindman a “Never Trumper,” and he has described Never Trumpers as “human scum.”
Sykes asserts, “Even before he resigned from Congress to assume his duties as a private-sector Trumpian mouthpiece, Duffy had burrowed deep into a political culture primed to denounce the smallest signs of anything perceived as disloyalty to the dear leader. Military service, medals, decades of patriotic duty — none of these things count for anything unless you are down (with) the Trump program, all of it, full-stop, for life.”
And Duffy’s intellectual bankruptcy, Sykes asserts, was very much at work when he attacked Vindman. During his CNN appearances, Sykes writes, Duffy’s mission has been “to advance the Trump line, however stupid, at whatever the cost. So for Duffy, attacking someone of Vindman’s stature was just another Tuesday morning.”
What Duffy and Ingraham might not have counted on, Sykes writes, was a backlash from the right: Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Liz Cheney, both Republicans, were quick to defend Vindman and assert that his detractors were way out of line. And in a sense, Sykes says, Duffy and Ingraham did the U.S. a favor by making Trumpism look so bad and trashing a decorated military veteran.
Sykes stresses, “Ingraham and Duffy exposed the limits of the Trumpian smear reflex. As (Washington Post columnist) Greg Sargent points out, the ‘revealing tell’ of her attack on Vindman was that he was undermining Trump’s personal interests… Thanks to Duffy, though, Vindman may become Trump’s worst nightmare.”