The Words Of A Wise Man

Thomas Friedman is a weekly columnist for the New York Times, a well-respected author of seven books, numerous documentaries, and the recipient of three Pulitzer prizes.  His forte is foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues.  Yesterday, his latest column crossed my desk and I felt it worthy of sharing.

It’s Not Trump vs. the Dems. It’s Trump vs. the Country’s True Defenders.

Public servants who swore to protect the Constitution also set the impeachment process in motion.


by Thomas L. Friedman

Last Thursday and Friday, two important Americans bore witness to the state of our nation. One was President Trump, addressing political rallies. The other was Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until suddenly told to get “on the next plane” — because Trump wanted her removed — without explanation.

Every American should contemplate their remarks, which I excerpt later, and then ask two questions: Whose speech would you want to read to your children’s civics class and which speaker do you think represents the America you want to see evolve and leave to your kids?

This exercise is vital because this impeachment process was not set in motion by the Democratic Party. It was set in motion by civil servants — whistle-blowers from the intelligence community, now supported by National Security Council staffers and diplomats. These public servants also took an oath to serve the country and protect the Constitution, and they have shown remarkable courage to risk their careers, and maybe more, to call out the president for violating his oath.

They are like antibodies fighting the cancer in our political system. John Bolton spoke for all of them when, while national security adviser, he reportedly instructed Fiona Hill, the N.S.C. Russia expert, to tell White House lawyers that he wanted no part “of whatever drug deal” the president’s cronies were cooking up as part of an off-the-books diplomatic effort being led by Rudy Giuliani to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

It is breathtaking that virtually no Republican lawmakers have manifested similar courage — when all they have to lose is $174,000 in salary and free parking at Reagan Washington National Airport.

This point can’t be stressed enough. Because if Trump is removed from office and the country is healed afterward, it will only be because a majority of Americans understand that this is, at its core, a fight between these noncorrupt, apolitical civil servants — whose norms and institutions make America’s government so envied and respected around the world — and Giuliani and Trump and their pals, who care only about serving themselves and their conspiracy theories.

Trump and his enablers at the state-directed Fox News want to portray this as just another partisan fight — between Trump and his Democratic rivals — in the hope that the public will shrug and say, “There they go again.” They don’t want Americans to understand that this fight is about guarding the most cherished norms and institutions that define us as a nation.

We can’t let that happen. In service of that goal, I repeat some of Trump’s and Yovanovitch’s remarks.

Here’s Trump in Louisiana: “The radical Democrats’ policies are crazy. Their politicians are corrupt. Their candidates are terrible. And they know they can’t win on Election Day, so they’re pursuing an illegal, invalid and unconstitutional bullshit impeachment.”

And here’s Trump in Minneapolis about Joe Biden: “He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

And here’s Yovanovitch in her opening statement to the House impeachment investigators: “For the last 33 years, it has been my great honor to serve the American people as a Foreign Service officer, over six administrations — four Republican, and two Democratic. I have served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts, and was appointed to serve as an ambassador three times — twice by a Republican president and once by a Democrat. Throughout my career, I have stayed true to the oath that Foreign Service officers take and observe every day: ‘that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,’ and ‘that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.’”

She added: “My parents fled Communist and Nazi regimes. Having seen, firsthand, the war, poverty and displacement common to totalitarian regimes, they valued the freedom and democracy the U.S. represents. And they raised me to cherish these values as well.”

She continued: “From August 2016 until May 2019, I served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Our policy, fully embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, was to help Ukraine become a stable and independent democratic state, with a market economy integrated into Europe.”

Then Yovanovitch added: “I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached.’ That allegation is false. I have never said such a thing, to my embassy colleagues or to anyone else. … With respect to Mayor Giuliani, I have had only minimal contacts with him. … I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”YovanovitchAnd then she explained that after being asked in early March “to extend my tour until 2020, I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine ‘on the next plane.’ You will understandably want to ask why my posting ended so suddenly. I wanted to learn that, too, and I tried to find out. I met with the deputy secretary of state, who informed me of the curtailment of my term.

“He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause.”

Alas, Secretary of State Pompeo did nothing to protect her.

Yovanovitch continued: “Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives. …

“I have served this nation honorably for more than 30 years. … Throughout that time, I — like my colleagues at the State Department — have always believed that we enjoyed a sacred trust with our government. … We repeatedly uproot our lives, and we frequently put ourselves in harm’s way to serve this nation. And we do that willingly, because we believe in America and its special role in the world. We also believe that, in return, our government will have our backs and protect us if we come under attack from foreign interests. That basic understanding no longer holds true.”

If this is how our government will now act, great long-term harm will be done to “our nation’s interest, perhaps irreparably,” Yovanovitch concluded. We will lose “many of this nation’s most loyal and talented public servants,” and “bad actors” in countries beyond Ukraine will “see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system. In such circumstances, the only interests that will be served are those of our strategic adversaries, like Russia, that spread chaos and attack the institutions and norms that the U.S. helped create and which we have benefited from for the last 75 years.”

In both Minnesota and Louisiana, Trump supporters chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” at his red-meat lines. Read these two transcripts and then ask yourself, who’s really protecting and honoring “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.”?

30 thoughts on “The Words Of A Wise Man

  1. Pingback: Our Republic is under attack by its president says a retired admiral | musingsofanoldfart

  2. Jill, Thomas Friedman has won three Pulitzer Prizes for a reason. He is a reasoned, well-researched writer. I have read two of his books.

    Simply, Yovanovitch is what a true hero looks like. Her political courage is exemplary, especially knowing her testimony impacts a vindictive president. Since, she was the first, she deserves more credit for leading the way.

    The president has abused his powers. And, he and his staff have tried to cover it up. I heard last night on NPR, some staff are beginning to think of how they will be viewed after this corrupt president leaves.

    Many things bother me about the continuing rationalization of the president’s actions by his party. If this was a Democrat, Fox News would have been calling for impeachment long ago. We must act as a country to save our democracy. It is my belief is Trump will not leave the White House of his own accord, even if he loses the election. He truly believes he is above the law. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

      • It is scary, but so is the fact that his atrocities and bad behaviour is escalating as he feels more pressured as a result of the impeachment inquiry. What might he do, if he feels that impeachment is imminent?

        Liked by 1 person

    • I agree on all counts. Friedman is an intellectual and his work is well-researched and well-thought … I, too, have read several of his books, though they are not my preferred bedtime reading!

      It’s about time some of the staff are beginning to think about what being a part of his administration will do to their future careers … it took them long enough. As we have discussed before, no … he won’t leave without a fight, whether by impeachment or losing the election. Frankly, even if he were to win another term, I don’t think he would leave peacefully at the end of that term, either, for I do believe he sees himself as the ruler rather than elected leader. He has long since forgotten, if he ever understood, that he serves We the People, not Trump Enterprises.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I echo the above sentiments. The stark differences between educated, eloquent, patriotic political advisers such as Ms Yovanovitch and the illiterate, brutish, ineptitude of the sitting president and his fawning mob, are really truly evident outside America.
    You know, while people compare Boris Johnson to Donald Trump, one can at least say that Boris has some education and can speak properly. In all my years on earth, I cannot fathom how someone like Trump walks straight off a low credibility TV entertainment show, straight into the top political job of the United States. The man is unfit on every level. Even my husband does not sing his praises any longer… (he is notebly silent). Trump’s clock of invincibility (invisibility) is shredding, and the glimpses of the immoral slime oozing from beneath it should horrify all of your representatives, regardless of political affiliation.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I agree … I think Boris’ motivations and intentions are as evil as Trump’s, or very nearly so, but I’ve said before that he is far more educated and literate than Trump. Trump appears as street trash compared to most other world leaders. I’m glad that your husband finally ‘saw the light’ about Trump … his silence must be a vast relief! I think that the major events of the past two weeks may be what finally sinks Trump’s boat. What frightens me, though, is his escalating anger and stupid actions … I fear what he will do once it becomes clear that his days in the White House are numbered.

      Liked by 1 person

    • He doesn’t want people who think for themselves … he wants to surround himself with “yes men” who will parrot his own views. His idea of loyalty is to him, the person, not to the country or the people. You’re right, the people of this nation, at least the ones who think and who understand governance, have no faith in him. But, we are being silenced, ridiculed, mocked, and lied about, so that the loudest voices are the minority who see this as an “Us vs Them” competition.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Excellent post by Friedman, Jill. I love the part about the 174k and free parking! He’s so right about that. These guys covet their jobs so much their willing to risk every ounce of decency and integrity to keep it. I’ll never understand it. Power has certainly got to be one of the driving forces. Whatever the reasons, I’ll take one Marie Yovanovitch, over the hole damn Republican Party any day of the week. She epitomizes what it means to be a public servant. I’d love to meet her, shake her hand, and thank her for the decades of service to our country. When kids are in school looking for role models, I’d point to her.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah, I loved that part too. The truth, though, is that for some it’s a power trip, and if you consider their perks, free travel, being wined and dined by the lobbyists and corporations who seek favours, there is a lot more in it for them than their salary. Most are multi-millionaires, and they sure didn’t get there on $174,000 per year. I’m with you re Marie Yovanovitch … and others who have left Trump’s administration either by choice or not, because they had a conscience. I could probably count on one hand the republicans in Congress who put the good of the nation above their own self-interest.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh yeah, it certainly is more than the salary. And let’s also not forget that when they do leave, either by choice or from being defeated, cushy lobbying jobs or sitting on boards of companies await in many circumstances. Again, a revolving door of corruption. It stinks to high heaven!

        Liked by 2 people

        • It does stink. I still think there should be a cap on the net worth of anyone running for public office. We don’t need millionaires who live in their ivory towers and have no idea of the struggles the rest of us have.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Agreed. My neighbor friend, who was a lifelong Republican until Trump, likes Tom Steyer. Although he said he’d vote for whomever the Dems put up, that’s his preference. I told him I didn’t think America would be ready for another Billionaire who had little or no government experience. I like Steyer, but I’m thinking he as a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the nomination. Of course, I think he’d be a zillion times better than you know who.😁

            Liked by 2 people

            • Sigh. Steyer, in my opinion, is just another rich dude. His net worth is in the billions, which says that he keeps more than he gives. You are quite right that he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. The nomination is going to be between Biden and Warren, I’m thinking. Sanders’ recent heart attack will likely finish him off, and he was third in the running anyway, for people associate his name with socialism, which, while I am a staunch advocate of democratic socialism, the rest of the country associates it with some evil concept that they do not understand and thus … it must be evil. Sigh. Can I just go be a wolf now? I’m tired of it all. I want to wash my hands of it, but as long as I still breathe, I cannot. 😥

              Liked by 2 people

              • The next year promises to break us both!!!
                I just saw a recent Iowa poll where Mayor Pete is now solidly in third. If he can pull off an upset there, or maybe a strong second…who knows? Maybe he becomes the third possibility with Warren and Biden. A wild ride ahead! Oh, one more thing. Enough with the 12 people on the debate stage. Can we get it down to 5-7? Geez.

                Liked by 2 people

                • That’s my fear, my friend! Have you considered how you will react around 3:00 a.m. on November 4th 2020 if it is announced that Trump has the requisite 270 electoral votes? Sigh. Not pretty.

                  Of all the candidates, I think Mayor Pete is my favourite … I can’t imagine him pulling a rabbit out of his hat, but if he can do it, he will have my enthusiastic vote! And yeah, I’m with you there. I find the debates rather useless with any more than 5 people involved. So many have no chance at all, they know it and we know it, so why not drop out? Sigh.

                  Liked by 1 person

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