As the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up its impeachment hearings today one undeniable conclusion is that the impressive witnesses who have testified over the past two weeks made folly of the idea that Washington needs to “drain the swamp” of a bureaucracy secretly engaged in a disruptive, partisan mission.
The witnesses who testified, some in defiance of a White House who told them not to do so, consisted of a lineup of professionals with integrity, especially acting U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Willam Taylor, the ousted ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yavanovitch, National Security Council analyst Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Pool, a former White House adviser on Russia, Ukraine and Europe.
These are among the “Washington insiders” who invoke derision in each election campaign season.
On Capitol Hill, these experts demonstrated honor in a way that sometimes quietly exposed the clownish behavior of the committee members. Some witnesses were decorated war veterans, others have dedicated their lives to the U.S. diplomatic corps through thick and thin. Taylor fits into both categories.
Yet, they each have endured shameful smears from Republican members of Congress, the president and the White House. Stephanie Grisham, the mysterious White House press secretary, surfaced to take a crack at discrediting Taylor, a Trump appointee, by claiming that he belonged to a cabal of “radical unelected bureaucrats.”
Hill, who delivered fearless testimony throughout today’s session, offered her status as a British immigrant when defending Vindman, whose family fled Soviet-controlled Ukraine when he was three years old. GOP diehards had made scurrilous claims that Vindman a “dual loyalty.”
“This is a country of immigrants…Everyone immigrated to the United States at some point in their family history. And this is what, for me, really does make America great,” Pool said.
It should be noted that about two-thirds of Trump’s appointments to the Cabinet and leadership of federal agencies consist of industry lobbyists, some with obvious conflicts of interest.
This is all part of Trump’s effort to shed the bureaucracy of expertise in an ongoing war on professionalism and professionals.
In the current atmosphere of hyper-partisanship, the rabble-rousers out there on both sides of the ideological spectrum cannot fathom that public servants of integrity have engaged in service to Republican and Democratic administrations alike through the years without sliding into partisan sniping.
David Brooks, a moderate Republican columnist for the New York Times, summarized the situation:
Let me tell you a secret. The public buildings of Washington are filled with very good people working hard for low pay and the public good. There are thousands of them and they are very much like the Foreign Service officers that we’ve seen … testifying at the impeachment hearings: William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill.
These public servants tend to be self-effacing and deeply knowledgeable about some small realm of public policy. They’re generally not all that interested in partisan politics but are deeply committed to the process and substance of good government. Whenever I get to sit in on off-the-record meetings at this or that federal agency, I’m impressed by the quality, professionalism and basic goodness of the people there.
We don’t celebrate these people. Trumpian conservatives say that Washington insiders are unelected bureaucrats, denizens of the swamp, the cesspool or a snake pit. Some progressives call Washington insiders the establishment, the power elite, the privileged structures of the status quo.
Everybody who runs for office wants to be seen as an outsider and condemns the insiders. That is, until weeks like this one when we realize how much we need them.