Right-wing attacks on the loyalty and patriotism of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman backfired spectacularly Tuesday, even among Republican lawmakers.

No shrinking violet, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) denounced such tactics. “Their patriotism, their love of country — we’re talking about decorated veterans who have served this nation, who put their lives on the line, and it is shameful to question their patriotism, their loving this nation, and we should not be involved in that process,” she said.

Likewise, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) declared, “It’s absurd, disgusting, and way off the mark. This is a decorated American soldier and he should be given the respect that his service to our country demands.”

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That is all well and good, but where have they been in denouncing President Trump’s equally loathsome tactics? Trump was calling out Vindman as a NeverTrumper (who he says are “human scum”):

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Republicans did not stand up to Trump when he attacked then-Sen. John McCain in 2015 (“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”). They did not call him out when Trump in a meeting with lawmakers argued former defense secretary Jim Mattis is “the world’s most overrated general” and wasn’t “tough enough.” And let’s not forget he repeatedly questioned the ethics of ex-Marine Robert S. Mueller III with specious claims of conflicts of interest and waged a nonstop campaign of vitriol against former director of national intelligence and retired Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr.

It’s not just military men and women that Trump impugns. He has bludgeoned the FBI, persecuted deputy attorney general Andrew McCabe (firing him and depriving him of his pension, while dangling a criminal indictment over his head), sided with Vladimir Putin against the intelligence agencies and launched a criminal investigation of those investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Far from condemning such tactics, Republicans have gleefully joined in these attacks. Where was their concern for these patriots who also devote their lives to our national security?

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The government-wide smear of the “deep state” — that is, those men and women who take seriously their oath to the Constitution and do not confuse that loyalty with loyalty to Trump — is also an attack on the patriotism and loyalty of fellow Americans. This is now an essential aspect of right-wing conspiracy theories and regular nomenclature among Republicans.

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It is not just military service personnel who deserve our respect, but any Foreign Service officer, civilian Pentagon worker, law enforcement officer and, yes, even members of Congress. Trump, however, sees no difference between disloyalty to him (meaning any deviation from the cult and willingness to say anything in Trump’s defense) and disloyalty to the country. He has characterized critical voices (the media being the “enemy of the people”) and adverse witnesses including the whistleblower as traitors. All of this has not weakened his grip on the Republican Party.

They’ve created the monster who exceed the bounds of decency, civility and respectability. They’ve shrugged off his tweets and excused his vindictive language time and again. Through it all, the vast majority of the Republican Party has tolerated if not shared in the nonstop slander of fellow Americans. Only when the “optics” of attacking Lt. Col. Vindman threatened to derail their attacks on the impeachment process did they feel compelled to come forward. Their toleration and enabling of Trump is no less shameful than attacks on Vindman or Trump’s attacks on honorable men and women who dedicate their lives to serving America.

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