Vindman is the best known of the three — and the only one who represents the best of America. He is an immigrant from the Soviet Union who was awarded a Purple Heart for service in Iraq. His greatest act of heroism occurred, however, not on a foreign battlefield but in a House committee room where he testified under oath about what he had witnessed while working at the National Security Council: namely, that Trump had tried to blackmail Ukraine’s president into helping his political campaign.
In retaliation for telling the truth, Lt. Col. Vindman was fired from the NSC along with his twin brother, and his well-deserved promotion to colonel was endangered. Last month, he retired prematurely, his 21-year career in ruins. “I made the difficult decision to retire because a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by President Trump and his allies forever limited the progression of my military career,” Vindman wrote in a searing Post op-ed. “Those who choose loyalty to American values and allegiance to the Constitution over devotion to a mendacious president and his enablers are punished.”
Greitens is a former Navy SEAL officer who, like Vindman, was wounded in Iraq. But there the comparison ends, because Greitens has dishonored himself with his conduct since leaving the Navy. Elected governor of Missouri as a Republican in 2016, he had to resign in 2018 as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors, who had charged him with misusing a veterans’ charity he had founded for his own political gain. He had also faced a felony charge, later dropped, after he was accused of tying up a hairdresser with whom he was sexually involved and taking compromising photographs of her to blackmail her into keeping quiet about their affair.
If Greitens had committed such offenses on active duty, he would have been court-martialed. Yet, as the Kansas City Star has just reported, he had the gall to lobby in 2019 for reinstatement to the Navy Reserves. The Navy did not want him back. The commander of Navy Recruiting Command wrote: “The sexual nature of the charges are not in line with our Navy Core Values, and the campaign finance violations not only do not inspire trust and confidence in his integrity but also represent a real risk from a security clearance perspective.”
But documents obtained by the Star show that Vice President Pence intervened on behalf of this Republican politico — something that Pence’s office had previously denied. The Navy was forced to give Greitens a “red carpet” return — the interests of the service be damned.
Tata is another decorated combat veteran who has covered himself in ignominy. A brigadier general, he was forced to retire from the Army after being caught in adulterous affairs and submitting a forged document to win a divorce dispute. Yet Trump chose him as undersecretary of defense for policy — the No. 3 job at the Pentagon — because he was a loudmouth defender of the president on Fox “News.”
After Tata’s nomination, CNN revealed that he had become a super-spreader of racist conspiracy theories. He called President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” and a “manchurian candidate” for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. He accused former CIA director John Brennan of plotting to overthrow Trump because — get this — Brennan quoted Cicero, and suggested that Brennan should either be executed, sentenced to life in prison where he would be raped, or commit suicide. As I wrote, Tata should be running a QAnon bulletin board rather than the Pentagon’s policy shop.
The Republican-dominated Senate Armed Services Committee agreed Tata was unfit, because last week it called off a hearing on his nomination amid opposition from senators on both sides of the aisle. Yet on Sunday night, the administration brazenly announced that Tata would be “performing the duties” of the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. Within 90 days, under the terms of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, he could be “acting” in the very position to which the Senate refuses to confirm him. This maneuver shows contempt for the Senate’s constitutional function of providing “advice and consent” on top-level appointees. As Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) says: “This method of appointment is an insult to our troops, professionals at the Pentagon, the Senate and the American people.”
Tata’s elevation, Greitens’s reinstatement and Vindman’s forced retirement are all disgraceful developments that sully the honor of the military and violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. If Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper had a shred of self-respect, he would resign in protest, because it is obvious that the commander in chief he serves has no respect for the armed forces.
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