Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Republicans at the House impeachment hearings decided to try to smear Lt. Col. Alex Vindman as a foreigner and perhaps even double agent with dual loyalty on Tuesday. Zack Beauchamp at Vox analyzes this disgraceful performance and quotes a key exchange. Steve Castor, the Republican counsel, badgered Vindman about a report that he had been made an offer to become the Ukrainian minister of defense. (The Ukranian government says this was just a joke).:
- “CASTOR: Ukraine’s a country that’s experienced a war with Russia. Certainly their minister of defense is a pretty key position for the Ukrainians. President Zelensky, Mr. Danylyuk, to bestow that honor — at least asking you — that was a big honor, correct?
VINDMAN: I think it would be a great honor, and frankly I’m aware of service members that have left service to help nurture developing democracies in that part of the world. It was an Air Force officer that became minister of defense, but I’m an American. I came here when I was a toddler. And I immediately dismissed these offers. Did not entertain them.
CASTOR: When he made this offer to you initially, did you leave the door open? Was there a reason he had to come back and ask a second or third time?
VINDMAN: Counselor, you know what, the whole notion is rather comical that I was being asked to consider whether I’d want to be the minister of defense. I did not leave the door open at all.
VINDMAN: But it is pretty funny for a lieutenant colonel of the United States Army, which really isn’t that senior, to be offered that illustrious a position.
CASTOR: When he made this offer to you, was he speaking in English or Ukrainian?
VINDMAN: He is an absolutely flawless English speaker.”
The tack that being foreign-born brings into question an American’s loyalty and patriotism is an abomination and is itself un-American.
As Patrick Young points out there was a substantial foreign-born presence among the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Many heroes who fought in the Revolutionary War were foreign-born, and some, like LaFayette, were crucial to the victory. Nowadays many chickenhawks in the GOP can’t stand a French accent.
Nearly 18% of the signers of the Constitution were foreign-born, he points out (7 out of 39). Moreover, among those most central to its passing were Alexander Hamilton and James Wilson.
Hamilton wasn’t even from Europe. He was born and raised in Charleston, Nevis and then St. Croix, islands in the Caribbean. Moreover, his mother was half-French, and Hamilton was born out of wedlock.
Other great Caribbean-Americans include Nicky Minaj and Rihanna
James Wilson was from Casckerdo, Fife, Scotland and studied at St. Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh and imbibed the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment, though he did not get a degree. After he came to Philadelphia he taught at the predecessor of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1774 he wrote a pamphlet arguing that the British parliament had no right to pass laws for Americans because they had no right to vote for parliament, which violated the principle of popular sovereignty.
That’s a pretty central insight provided by someone not from North America.
George Washington later appointed the immigrant Wilson to the first Supreme Court, along with an Englishman and an Irishman, so that a third of the first court was foreign-born.
None of those Republicans in Congress would have a Congress to sit in if it had not been for immigrants like Hamilton and Wilson.
The other foreign-born signers
Witherspoon was a clergyman who minded the increasing sway of the Anglican Church over the colonies and was an early supporter of the Declaration of Independence. He lost a son at the Battle of Dutchtown in 1777. James Madison studied under Witherspoon at Princeton.
Trump told foreign-born congressional representatives such as Ilhan Omar to go back where they came from, as though being born in the US were a prerequisite for being seated.
But 10% of the members of the first Congress, 8 of 81, were foreign-born. James Smith, George Taylor and Matthew Thorton were from Ireland. At the time, the British elite would have looked down on them the way some Republican Congressmen seem to look down on Ukrainian-Americans today.
Young points out that of the first six Secretaries of the Treasury, fully four were foreign-born, two hailing from the Caribbean, one from Scotland, one from Switzerland. Albert Gallatin, who had a French accent, was born in Geneva and had taught French as a tutor at Harvard College. He served 12 years as Treasury Secretary and established fiscal discipline for the new Republic (something today’s GOP Congressmen, who passed a massive tax cut for the wealthy could learn from). Gallatin also established the House Ways and Means Committee on which some GOP representatives now serve and which is thus an immigratn institution.
Many of the Republican congressmen of today, who owe the whole framework of their politics to immigrant Founding Fathers, are not themselves good enough to shine the shoes of those immigrants.